House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was reform.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as Liberal MP for Windsor—St. Clair (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 1997, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Judges Act June 4th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, as chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I want to comment specifically on Motion No. 2, which is the motion that is before the House at this time. This motion would—

Windsor—St. Clair Constituency June 1st, 1998

Mr. Speaker, at the Reform convention this weekend the name Windsor—St. Clair became synonymous with the ongoing attempt by that party's elite to vest even more power in their leader and his Calgary gang. The so-called Windsor—St. Clair report was the vehicle they used to try to do this.

Let me tell say that the good voters of Windsor—St. Clair should not be associated with internecine Reform power struggles. The real grassroots in Windsor—St. Clair do not even support Reform. They vote for real representation in the House by voting Liberal.

Supply May 26th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I point out to the member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley that in the period September 3, 1996 to December 31, 1997 there were 18,284 conditional sentences imposed. He has given an example of three that have gone awry, all three of which have been appealed. Others have been appealed and the courts of appeal are now stating that it is inappropriate to use conditional sentences in certain circumstances. Those circumstances are the very circumstances these members are complaining about.

It looks to me like conditional sentences are working and our judiciary is working.

Let me also remind the hon. member and his erstwhile colleagues of something that is very important. They are every bit as much a part of the criminal justice system as any judge. They have a responsibility that they abrogate every day not to fearmonger, not to malign people who are—

Supply May 26th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his intervention but also for his motion which I was proud to support yesterday. I think it fits very well with some of the goals the government has and clearly it fits with the goals that some in his party have.

There was an amendment voted on which the hon. member supported and I noticed the members for Nanaimo—Alberni, Prince George—Peace River, Blackstrap, Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Okanagan—Shuswap, Athabasca, West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, Calgary Southeast, and Skeena, all of whom are Reform members of parliament and colleagues of this hon. member, did not support that motion, the intent of which was extend the benefits of the hon. member's initial motion to native Canadians.

I am wondering if he discussed this with them and what could possibly be their reason for not wanting to extend these benefits to our native children.

Supply May 26th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, as chair of the justice committee I have frequently enjoyed having the hon. member for Wild Rose on our committee. I have to say that his appearance in the House is a little misleading because he certainly does not present himself in quite the same way in committee. I say this as a compliment because he is an active contributing member of the committee and I appreciate his participation very much.

He is also very well known for his candour as we can see today. I would like to ask him to candidly express his view on a couple of things.

As a school principal I am wondering if he employed corporal punishment in his school. Once and for all let us finalize it. Are they true, these quotes that have been attributed to him supporting caning?

Canada Labour Code May 15th, 1998

Nobody listens.

Committees Of The House May 15th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. This is on the drafting of a bill to amend those sections of the Criminal Code that deal with impaired driving.

On behalf of the committee we take no great delight in making this report. This report indicates to the House that we were unable to meet a deadline of May 15 in terms of the work on this subject matter.

The committee has placed the subject matter on its agenda for the fall and we will attempt to deal with it in an expeditious manner. The level of work that we have had has been quite incredible during this term.

In addition, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the committee proceeded to review the present DNA provisions of the Criminal Code adopted during the 35th Parliament as Bill C-104. That report is complete.

Dna Identification Act May 4th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out a couple of things. I received these opinions on Friday afternoon.

There are some problems. The chair of my committee was circulating documents. There is a procedural motion in our committee that we not distribute unless documents are in both official languages.

The second problem is that these opinions were not ordered as a result of activity on our committee. In other words, our committee did not ask for these opinions. It was the minister acting on behalf of the government who asked for these opinions.

The three opinions came from lawyers, retired judges, who were in fact retained by the government, by the administration, by the cabinet, by the Minister of Justice, to render those opinions.

I suggest the argument of the House leader for the Conservative Party does not hold because there is no obligation on the government to share legal opinions that it pays for and obtains in the normal course of its business with members of this House.

However, the Minister of Justice elected to do that and she did so commencing on Friday when she undertook to distribute those opinions.

Let us keep in mind that our committee reported on this bill a week or two ago. There was a very strong vote in the committee with respect to this bill. I do not think there was any wavering. There was no backtracking after by the committee, no other concern.

We can still take this up under Standing Order 108(2) which allows us to look at anything within the jurisdiction of those departments for which we have responsibility in our portfolio.

The argument of the justice critic for the Reform Party falls because if the committee decides to undertake that further study, it can do so under Standing Order 108(2).

We are at report stage now but the Senate, whether some of us may like it or not, will also study this. Presumably we will have access to these opinions which have been made public.

The parliamentary process will continue and it will unfold as it should. I submit the government is under absolutely no obligation to provide these opinions to other members of parliament or even to government members of parliament. However, it has done so.

I suggest therefore that this is not a point of privilege and even if it raises a prima facie point of privilege, I suggest it has been answered.

Organized Crime April 22nd, 1998

Mr. Speaker, the media has been reporting infiltration by biker gangs into many areas of legitimate economic activity. They are alleged as well to control substantial drug trafficking networks and to perpetrate crimes of extreme violence.

Last year we passed strong anti-gang legislation which should help. What is the solicitor general doing to fight this kind of organized criminal activity?

Access To Information Act April 21st, 1998

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this bill.

It is interesting that today as chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights I had the pleasure of receiving along with my colleagues, Mr. John Grace, the access to information commissioner. He will be leaving government service after nine years in this position. I know all of my colleagues on the committee and I am sure in parliament join me in wishing him well and thanking him for his many years of service. His service has been exemplary.

The Access to Information Act provides certain basic rights to Canadians. I am proud of the fact that Canada has been considered a world leader in this field since the act was proclaimed in July 1993.

Citizens have an unprecedented right of access to federal government records. Valuable concomitant privacy protection is afforded by the companion legislation, the Privacy Act. Government departments and agencies annually respond to between 12,000 and 13,000 requests under the Access to Information Act and to approximately 40,000 requests under the Privacy Act.

Canada now has about 15 years of experience with and scrutiny of the Access to Information Act. I welcome this opportunity to discuss means by which this legislation can be improved.

This private members' bill proposes to subject all federal crown corporations to the Access to Information Act and would accomplish this by changing the definition of government institution in section 3 of the present act. The present definition refers to “any department or ministry of state of the Government of Canada listed in schedule I or any body or office listed in schedule I”. Bill C-216, which we are debating today, adds to the definition “any crown corporation as defined in the Financial Administration Act”. The passage of this bill would summarily bring more than 20 additional federal institutions and agencies under access legislation.

I am convinced that the intent of this bill is laudable in that its objective is to enhance the accountability of government organizations. I also subscribe, as I know do all of my colleagues in the House, to more openness in government and to the opportunity for us as citizens to have more information. But I believe a negative impact on the commercial interests of crown corporations will result from this bill if it passes. This negative impact would largely outweigh any possible support in my mind.

We must remember that crown corporations have been created as the result of a deliberate choice of the Parliament of Canada to deliver particular programs and to deliver particular services by means of organizations other than the private sector or traditional departments and agencies of government. These corporations have a responsibility to serve the public interest but to do so within a commercial environment. This means that to the greatest extent possible they must be permitted to operate on a level playing field with their competitors, free from administrative burdens associated with other government bureaucracies.

In our previous debates on this matter, several issues have been raised. We have considered various exemptions within the current legislation that might provide adequate protection for the business interests of crown corporations. Section 18 has been cited by the proponents of this private members' bill as a possible means of protection, and I use the term possible advisedly.

I would suggest though that section 18 provides only a discretionary exemption. It allows federal institutions to withhold information, the release of which would be injurious to the commercial interests of those organizations and more importantly to the interests of Canada.

There appears though to be no agreement as to whether the act in its current form or even as amended by this bill offers the necessary protection to the commercial interests of various crown corporations. We therefore have to turn to the obvious questions.

Are we prepared to jeopardize the financial viability of these organizations by subjecting them to this legislation without first consulting to determine what unique factors exist within their market environments? Further, are we prepared to risk injury to the public interests that crown corporations serve by not first ensuring that we have adopted the appropriate protective mechanisms for their operations? I am not certain we should be taking risks like these unnecessarily.

I wish to address the issue of the administrative burden and the concept of the level playing field.

The Access to Information Act imposes a costly administrative burden on institutions. It is one thing for a government department to assume these burdens. It is quite another thing for a venture that is supposed to be commercially viable to do so.

According to recent statistics it costs on average more than $1,000 to complete a request submitted under the current legislation. These same statistics show that federal departments and agencies recoup less than 1% of the cost of providing information to applicants.

In the commercial world this is not good business. In the context of overhead it automatically places crown corporations at a competitive disadvantage with their private sector counterparts.

When I refer to the level playing field, I am referring to the fact that providing a right of access to information held by crown corporations could make them vulnerable to unscrupulous competitors. Some could view this right as an opportunity to submit unreasonable and voluminous requests, as has been the experience of some government agencies, particularly in the provincial sphere. I am thinking now with respect to access to information requests.

Even if the corporation is ultimately able to protect its sensitive information, the processing activities associated with responding to a barrage of requests could be crippling. Processing charges for applicants, which are stipulated within the access to information regulations, are minimal. There are many private sector companies with very deep pockets. They could sustain a very long and costly campaign without fear of retribution.

The same problem would not happen with a private commercial venture. There is no Access to Information Act that would allow someone to harass them or to go after them for a prolonged period of time with voluminous requests.

In summary, I want to emphasize four points concerning crown corporations and the potential impact of Bill C-216.

First, crown corporations were created to serve the public interests in a commercial rather than in a bureaucratic or heavily regulated environment.

Second, at this time the provisions of the Access to Information Act as presently drafted would not guarantee adequate protection for the commercial interests of crown corporations if this amendment were to pass.

Third, subjecting corporations to access legislation could impose an undue and unfair administrative burden on their operations.

Finally, failing to consult crown corporations to determine their market environments in advance of scheduling them under this act would expose them, in my view, to unnecessary competitive risks.

We all appreciate the intent of Bill C-216. Although I favour more openness in government, I cannot accept this bill. I believe it is too simplistic a solution for a complicated problem.

I want to thank the hon. member for bringing this bill forward and giving us the opportunity to debate this issue. It is timely that he did so today because, by coincidence, the justice committee had an opportunity to meet with the commissioner. This bill, while it may be a good start, is too simplistic a solution. I think it was H.L. Mencken who said that for every complicated problem there is a simplistic solution and it usually does not work.