House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was grandparents.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Reform MP for Mission—Coquitlam (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 1993, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Points Of Order March 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, today I made reference to a letter in my Standing Order 31 statement. I would like you to seek unanimous consent of the House for me to table the letter.

Canadian Bar Association March 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, it is essential that members of the House of Commons be free to attend their duties and represent their constituents without influence from any outside body or group.

It has been my experience while appearing before the justice committee to witness a letter sent to the chair of the committee and copies distributed to members, apparently for their information, immediately prior to the calling of witnesses speaking in favour of the bill.

This letter bore the letterhead of the Canadian Bar Association and the signature of a lawyer who was the chair of the national family law section.

This letter gave misleading information to the committee members and strongly urged the members to defeat the bill. I know that this was not an isolated circumstance.

My concern is the influence the Canadian Bar Association appears to have on legislation in this House. In this case, for example, I believe that since most of the justice committee members were also members of the Canadian Bar Association, they were placed in a questionable position, maybe even conflict of interest.

Who is in charge of this country, elected members of Parliament or the Canadian Bar Association?

Food And Drugs Act March 19th, 1997

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-390, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (labelling for prepackaged foods).

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to propose this private member's bill which would amend the Food and Drugs Act to prohibit the retail sale of a prepackaged food containing an ingredient that has been genetically altered through a prescribed biotechnological process unless a label is attached stating that the prepackaged product has been genetically altered or contains an ingredient that has been genetically altered.

Since genetics engineering is racing full speed ahead with no checks and balances in place, the purpose of this bill is to protect the consumer so that the consumer knows what he or she is buying.

I am pleased to propose this bill today and I look forward to engaging in debate when the time comes.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Motion No. 267 March 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to remind the House that my Motion No. 267 will be debated on Friday for its second hour.

I put forward the motion to bring accountability to the House for Private Members' Business which is referred to standing committees.

The need for this legislation became obvious to me from my personal experience with my grandparent-grandchildren bill, Bill C-232, which asked that grandparents be given standing in the courts at the time of divorce.

Although unanimously passed by the House at second reading, the grandparents bill was buried in committee, like many others sent to committee by the House, with no apparent reasons given.

It is this lack of accountability to the House, the arrogance of simply dropping an issue raised by the House that Motion No. 267 seeks to rectify by simply requiring committees to report their conclusions to the House.

I want to acknowledge the recognition given to my motion in a subcommittee report to the procedure and House affairs committee this week which recommends just such accountability be established. I hope we will be practising these new changes soon.

The Budget March 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his questions.

There is a lot of deceit-and I hate to use that word-in the way the government has manipulated its figures. It is true that it has cut the deficit in half, but that has been done through increased taxes. As I pointed out in my speech, we have had 35 to 36 tax increases. Those increases cannot be denied.

What are the results of those tax increases? We have an unhealthy economy in the marketplace. We have fewer jobs and we have higher unemployment. We cannot get away from those facts.

The Budget March 18th, 1997

"Spinning a myth" as my colleague says. Absolutely.

On failing to hold the line on taxes, I should point that the Liberals have hiked taxes 35 times since taking office. Some examples include forcing employees to pay tax on employer provided life insurance benefits and eliminating the capital gains exemption that benefited hundreds of thousands of middle class taxpayers. It is awful. Who gets hurt again? It is always the middle class.

Tax revenues will be $24.5 billion higher in 1997-98 than they were in 1993-94, an average of $6 billion a year. Of this$24.5 billion about 30 per cent is due to the combined effects of Liberal tax hikes and Liberal inflation tax.

Canadians paid an average of 23.3 per cent of their personal income in direct taxes and other payments to governments in the 1990-96 period, up from 20 per cent in the 1980s and up from12.3 per cent in the 1960s. Americans by comparison paid 17.5 per cent.

A full 7.3 million Canadians earning less than $30,000 owed $10.7 billion in federal tax in the 1994 taxation year. It makes no sense for the Liberals to talk about child poverty-we keep hearing that word-when they are forcing low income parents to pay taxes.

The Liberals have been milking the employment insurance system to meet their deficit reduction goals. The real disposable income of the average family of four has fallen by $3,000 since 1993.

I see my time is almost up. The budget does not bode well for the future. The Prime Minister has already stated that he will increase spending if the Liberals manage to balance the budget. He claims that across the board tax cuts are not the right thing to do in a society like Canada.

If Canadians trust the Liberals again it will not be long before another deficit crisis rears its ugly head. This is a slippery slope, I hope Canadians will say they will not put up with it any longer at the next election.

The Budget March 18th, 1997

"Tax increases" as my colleague says. In other words the deficit is the symptom of a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

What about protecting health care? By the time the Liberals leave office they will have slashed health and education spending by $75 billion or 39 per cent. Is this protecting health care? The government has cut $7 billion in health transfers to the provinces and then let the provinces take the fall for the reduced services. This is not protected health care. We are facing a government which is lacking in accountability, integrity and responsibility.

The Liberal vision is a country where the average taxpayer pays $10,200 to the federal government each and every year, and $3,400 a year is to service the debt alone. As well the Liberal vision is a country where 7.3 million Canadians earning less than $30,000 pay 27 per cent of their incomes to the federal government.

With regard to creating jobs, doubling the CPP premiums does not bode well for the 1.1 million unemployed Canadians who will now become more expensive to hire. Payroll taxes are job killers. On top of all this the Liberals have done nothing to address the waste and inefficiencies in government.

This year we can again expect unemployment and not tax relief, bankruptcy, personal insecurity, more contract work, layoffs, shrinking income, increasing taxes and another year of record high tax burdens.

Spending borrowed money is living on borrowed time. We have mortgaged the futures of our children and grandchildren and it must stop. Today I have some of my grandchildren sitting in the gallery. It is their futures I am concerned with as well as those of others.

Let us take a look at that part of the fresh start plan to make government smaller and more effective. I am sure the members

opposite would agree with that. It would provide tax relief to stimulate job creation, end overspending and attack debt. I am sure all of us in the House would like to see that happen.

A balanced budget is a means to an end with the end being a smaller, leaner and more focused federal government. A balanced budget is not an end in itself. Attempting to balance the budget by waiting for tax revenues to catch up to spending simply ignores the fact that the current size of the federal government is unsustainable.

Let us look at our unemployment figures. In 1993 the government was elected on the promise of jobs, jobs, jobs. Three years later Canada still suffered from a jobless rate of 10 per cent. Since the Prime Minister took office the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has averaged 9.96 per cent. High taxes go along with high unemployment.

I would like to use a chart to emphasize some of these items. Some points have been made on it. There are a few facts regarding the government's failure on jobs. Since January 1995, some 25 months ago, only 153,000 full time jobs have been created or about 6,000 jobs per month. There were far less than the 312,000 new entrants the labour force needed. In the same period 121,000 part time jobs have been created or about 4,800 a month. Also over the 25 months since January 1995 the economy has added only 274,000 jobs or 10,960 per month. At the same time the labour force has grown by about 12,500 per month.

We are getting the picture here. The need is not being supplied. The result has been a 37,200-person increase in unemployment since January 1995. Since taking office the Liberals have presided over a level of unemployment that has averaged 1,490,000.

We must stress that unemployment now is not a global problem. The Prime Minister likes to say his record is the best in the G-7 group. but I would like to clarify this. The Prime Minister likes to compare our job creation performance with that of European countries. I draw to the attention of the House that the comparison is irrelevant since the economies are so different.

Better comparisons might be found with the United States, with Australia and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom where performance has been much better than in Canada. In Canada it is 9.7 per cent on this chart whereas in the United States it is 5.3 per cent. In the United Kingdom it is 6.7 per cent. In Australia it is8.6 per cent. In Japan it is 3.3 per cent. In Austria it is 7 per cent. In Sweden it is 8.7 per cent. In Switzerland it is 5.3 per cent. Those are all lower than Canada's unemployment rate. We have to take a look at that.

The Budget March 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, in rising to speak on the 1997 budget I want to look at some of the facts.

The Liberals announced a deficit target of $19 billion. However hitting the deficit reduction target still leaves us $17 billion to$19 billion short of what we are spending this year. It is not really a success story.

The national debt will reach over $600 billion this year, an increase of $111 billion since the Liberals took office. By April it is expected to hit the $600 billion mark but there is no plan to reduce it.

Since the Liberals took office tax revenues have increased by $30.4 billion or $2,250 per taxpayer. Yet we hear constantly that there are no tax increases. Surely the Liberal government's most outrageous statement regarding our nation's finances must be that the government has not raised taxes during its mandate.

As we saw in this year's budget speech the Minister of Finance went a step further and made the claim that in last year's budget and in this year's budget they had not raised taxes at all. Regardless of whichever way we look at it, taxes have risen in each and every year of Liberal rule. In fact there has not been a single year when the overall tax burden was reduced.

What about personal income taxes, the most odious of all taxes? They are on their way to reaching record highs when measured in dollar terms, relative terms or comparative terms. An example of such tax hikes is the 1.5-cent increase in excise tax on gasoline which is worth about $500 million a year. The elimination of the $100,000 lifetime capital gains exemption is worth about$340 million a year. The clawback of age credit on seniors is worth about $300 million per year. Reducing RRSP limits and overcontribution allowances is worth about $125 million a year. Forcing part time workers to pay employment insurance premiums is worth as much as $1 billion per year. The tax on employer paid insurance premiums is worth about $210 million a year. Increasing the air transportation tax is worth about $40 million per year. Increasing the corporate surtax is worth $120 million a year.

Since the deficit will have fallen by $33 billion, a full 92 per cent of that reduction in the deficit is due to higher revenues, not reduced spending.

Standing Orders Of The House February 11th, 1997

I think I am being hassled a bit, Mr. Speaker. But at least we have moved in the area of freer voting in this Chamber if only with reference to Private Members' Business.

The problem which this motion seeks to address is that while freer voting may be in the Chamber, the whips are still on the committee. They are on the committee with startling evidence. What this motion seeks to accomplish is to require a committee to give reasons in a report to the Chamber as to why it had decided not to report the bill back to the Chamber.

I will use my own private member's bill, an act to amend the Divorce Act to facilitate access of grandparents to their grandchildren, as the example which shows the need for passage of this motion and subsequently a change in the standing orders of this House.

Bill C-245, previously known as Bill C-232, was subjected as a votable bill to three hours of debate in the House of Commons. During that period a number of opinions were expressed but in the main there was positive support from all sides. I must say to be fair, the member for Nepean, the member for Ottawa West and the Deputy Prime Minister were all supportive of this bill.

It received unanimous approval from the Chamber at second reading and was sent for study to the justice committee. Again at that committee opinions were expressed both in support of the bill and in opposition to it, but at least to my mind no overwhelming reason was presented as to why this bill should not become law. In fact, the three family law lawyers at that time in committee as witnesses spoke strongly of the need for such a bill.

However, when it came to clause by clause review of the bill in committee the clauses were defeated and it was decided not to report the bill back to the Chamber. The government had decided the bill was not going to pass into law.

Quite frankly, that is the government's decision to make. If the government does not want a law passed which makes it easier for grandparents to gain access to their grandchildren and for grandchildren to see their grandparents, then it is its right. The government has a majority and we have not yet reached the stage in the evolution of our parliamentary process whereby free votes can take place in committees.

The consequence is that the bill gets mired in committee. This is what is so distressful. It is also very destructive. It is destructive to the democratic process.

The House is in favour of the committee process and yet in spite of the rules and regulations of this House when a bill is sent to the committee and not returned, we really have no recourse. We can make a motion in the House whether the members would support the bill's being returned, but if it is voted down there is no recourse apart from that.

I think it is important to point out to the members of the House right now that in this situation House members were unanimous in their consent of this bill. We are talking about my bill, but it could be any bill that gets unanimous consent. The committee members completely ignored the good witnesses on this bill in the committee proceedings.

This all took place in front of grandparents who could not believe what they were hearing. They were in the gallery the day it passed. They had just seen full support from the House of Commons. They could not understand why it was buried in committee.

More than that, I then had to go out across the country and speak to grandparents groups. I had to try to explain to them why this bill was not returned to the House. Really I had nothing to say. I was at a loss. Nobody had given any reasons. In the clause by clause nobody discussed the information that witnesses had given them in support of the bill. I really could not do my job as a member of Parliament. I was stymied.

If we do nothing else we have to be able to do our jobs as members of Parliament. We have to be able to report the business of the House back to the House so the House can then hear it and we have to know the answers.

Through the adoption of Motion No. 267 I believe the people of Canada would be able to find out why this particular bill got stopped in committee.

In preparing these remarks I took a look at the rules in effect in Great Britain, Australia and the United States to see if anything similar to what I was proposing was in effect in those jurisdictions. I can report that nothing similar exists but I would argue that it does not need to exist.

In the United States, because of the loose party allegiances, a great many bills are reported out of committee by votes which cross party lines. A great deal of brokering must take place before a bill is reported back to the floor of the Senate or the House of Representatives. These loose coalitions which can form are composed of Democrats and Republicans, both supporting the same

cause. So there is not really a need for this legislation because they already have something that is working in their area.

In Great Britain it has become common to vote against the party line even on matters of government business. This tradition began during the Heath administration and it continues to this day. This willingness among MPs to disregard the wishes of the party whips is also manifest in committees.

The present committee system in use at Westminster in England was introduced in 1979. One important feature for our purposes was that membership selection was taken out of the hands of the party whip. Members are chosen by a group of backbench MPs. Members are also free to elect their own chairpersons. We find this quite different from what we have. It is not unusual in Westminister to have a significant number of committees chaired by opposition members. I remind members that in this House we have problems even getting opposition members as vice-chairs.

In Australia and New Zealand voting against the party line is tolerated but the influence of the backbencher is at its greatest when there is a labour government. It sounds most unique certainly to any of us in Canada that in Australia the caucus elects members to sit in cabinet and the Prime Minister assigns the portfolios. This leads to constant interaction and communication between members and cabinet. Therefore there is little fear of sanctions being imposed if one votes against the party line in committees.

This international comparison illustrates that we are not near the point where the influence of the party whip will be lessened in committee. Having said this, what do we do with bills that pass through second reading, that are approved in principle in the House of Commons and then are virtually killed in committee?

It is my suggestion that our rules should be changed to require the committee to report its actions and to give reasons. We owe this as members of this place to those who sponsor bills and we owe it to the people of Canada.

I am aware that I have some good speakers on this motion and I would certainly like to give them a chance to speak.

Standing Orders Of The House February 11th, 1997


That the Standing Orders of the House be amended by adding the following:

"97.1 A standing, special or legislative committee to which a Private Member's public bill has been referred shall in every case either report the bill to the House with or without amendment or present to the House a report containing a recommendation not to proceed further with the bill and giving the reasons therefor."

Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to lead off debate on Motion No. 267. This motion is designed to continue parliamentary reform, a matter that began shortly after we came to this House in 1994 and has continued to the present day.

I want to begin by thanking the subcommittee on private members' business for deciding that Motion No. 267 should be votable. I also want to thank the member from Peace River who appeared before the subcommittee on my behalf and spoke so successfully that my motion should become votable.

As I said before, the motion is designed to continue the parliamentary reform, which has taken place already in this House of Commons. At the beginning of this Parliament, I argued in favour of freer voting by members of this House. I argued that the whips should not always be on government and opposition members, that there is nothing inherently wrong with members' voting occasionally against the party line.

Freedom of the private member had occupied a great amount of space in the seminal report on House of Commons reform. That report of the committee was chaired by the former member for St. John's east, Jim McGrath. He tabled it in this Chamber in June 1985.

In the ensuing years, little has been done to implement this part of the report. However, with a new Parliament with a decidedly new look it might be possible to introduce some freer voting.

After some debate, a motion was passed unanimously in this Chamber calling for freer votes, some bills to be sent to committee before second reading and other changes designed to give the private member some influence over the policy making process.

I am very pleased to say that we have made progress. I have never hesitated to give the government credit when it is due, and I must say that I have been pleasantly surprised that the government members have been freed up by the whips to vote as they like during Private Members' Business.

We have not yet reached the point where government members are free to vote against the party line with reference to government legislation. Unfortunately we are still faced with the scene of the Prime Minister disciplining members of caucus who have dared to vote contrary to the whip's orders.