September 26, 1997

LIB

Christine Stewart

Liberal

Hon. Christine Stewart (Minister of the Environment, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague and those other colleagues in the Windsor, Essex and Sarnia areas for the work they have done with the communities in their areas. It is of concern to my department that citizens in those areas that are prone to severe weather events have timely and accurate weather forecasting information.

My department, besides having improved phone access and having worked with the media, will be launching a public participation process to help the communities get the kind of information they require. We are also having an independent consultant work with that public participation group to this end.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Environment
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis

New Democratic Party

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, the response today in the House by the Minister of Health regarding the serious issue of this government accessing the personal and confidential files of Dr. Michèle Brill-Edwards is unbelievably irresponsible and speaks to his own decision this summer to cut the drug and food labs in the health protection branch.

I want to ask the Minister of Health, if he cannot even protect the confidentiality of an individual's files, how can we be assured he is protecting the health and safety of Canadians?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Health
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LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the hon. member to the House. I want to work constructively with her in what I know is a shared objective of ensuring the health of Canadians but she is making it very difficult from the beginning.

I told the House earlier that I have asked officials to look into the news reports this morning. When the facts are known we will be in a position to discuss it.

As far as the health protection branch is concerned, this is the minister who put a freeze on those cuts, this is the minister who is going to appoint a science advisory board to give us independent advice on what scientists we need. And this is the minister who is going to involve the public and the health protection branch in an open and full discussion of its future.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Health
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis

New Democratic Party

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, that is the minister who this summer eliminated the drug research lab and gutted the food research lab.

How does the Minister of Health intend to fulfil his legal duties under the food protection act if he has already eliminated the scientists who carry out those duties on his behalf?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Health
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LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have already made it clear that we are going to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the health protection branch, which is an important service of government, is there to safeguard the health and safety of Canadians.

I encourage the hon. member to take part in the public consultation process we are going to go through over the coming months. We have frozen cuts. We are going to appoint people who know science to give us advice. I encourage the hon. member to contribute constructively to the process. I hope her involvement will go beyond wagging her finger in this House.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Health
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PC

Scott Brison

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, PC)

Mr. Speaker, the Canada pension plan disability program has an appeal process. Currently there are over 4,000 people in Canada waiting for their appeal to be heard. Once pension benefits are granted by the review tribunal, the government officials have instructed to appeal every single case to the pension appeal board. There are just 20 federal appeal board judges to handle this huge backlog and a waiting period of up to four years for Canadians who need this pension.

Will the Prime Minister or the government tell us what their plan is to address this injustice to thousands of disabled Canadians who are waiting for an answer on this very critical issue?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Pensions
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LIB

Ethel Blondin-Andrew

Liberal

Hon. Ethel Blondin-Andrew (Secretary of State (Children and Youth), Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, this is a major concern. Anything that involves individuals with disabilities particularly when it comes to the benefits that are due to them is of major concern to the government. We are working very hard on this. We will get back to the member with detailed information.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Pensions
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PC

Mark Muise

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Mark Muise (West Nova, PC)

Mr. Speaker, will the minister begin showing compassion by telling the House today what specific measures and time lines the government plans to implement to streamline the appeals process. How soon will the wait be over for the thousands of Canadians who need an answer now?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Pensions
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LIB

Ethel Blondin-Andrew

Liberal

Hon. Ethel Blondin-Andrew (Secretary of State (Children and Youth), Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is a difficult process and it is something which deserves more time and attention. I do not have the information for the member right now, but we will get back to him very soon.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Pensions
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?

The Speaker

I have received a notice of a point of order from the member for Winnipeg North Centre.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Points Of Order
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis

New Democratic Party

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Today during question period questions were raised concerning the access of the personal and confidential files of Dr. Michelle Brill Edwards. For the benefit of the Minister of Health I would like to table the document indicating her files were accessed by Mr. Joe Losos, Assistant Deputy Minister of the Department of Health.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Points Of Order
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?

The Speaker

My dear colleague, two things. First, I know that you have a piece of paper which I would ask you not to use as a prop. Second, individual members cannot table documents such as these. I guess it could be tabled if the hon. member had unanimous consent.

I am addressing myself directly now to the member for Winnipeg North Centre. Were you seeking unanimous consent?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Points Of Order
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NDP
?

The Speaker

The answer is yes. Now, is there unanimous consent?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Points Of Order
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?

Some hon. members

No.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Points Of Order
Permalink
?

The Speaker

There is not unanimous consent.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Points Of Order
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LIB

Don Boudria

Liberal

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, those of us who have been around for a number of years, although not actually in the House of Commons, were shocked and saddened earlier this month to hear the news of the passing of an officer emeritus of this House, the former Clerk of the House, Mr. Alistair Fraser.

Mr. Fraser was born into a family that values public service. Both of his grandfathers were distinguished statesmen serving in Parliament and at the provincial and territorial levels. Both his father and one of his grandfathers were lieutenant-governors of Nova Scotia and even today, if someone asks an old-timer in Guysborough the way to the Fraser summer place, one will be directed very clearly to what is referred to as the governor's house.

Immediately upon graduating from McGill University, Mr. Fraser joined the Canadian army, serving until the end of World War II. After serving briefly on the staff of the Hon. Brooke Claxton in Ottawa, he attended the University of British Columbia law school, practising law in Prince Rupert before returning to Ottawa as executive assistant to the Hon. James Sinclair. Subsequently he served in that same position with the Hon. Ross MacDonald and the Hon. Jack Pickersgill.

Mr. Fraser was twice a candidate for the House of Commons: once on the west coast in Esquimalt—Saanich and once on the east coast in Pictou.

Mr. Fraser was appointed deputy clerk in 1966 and clerk, the following year. He performed his duties with dignity, wisdom and an unequalled sense of humour.

Although Mr. Fraser served at the clerks' table through the most tumultuous years in Canada's history, he maintained excellent relations with a number of political personages, including the Right Honourable John Diefenbaker, the Honourable Allan MacEachen, David Lewis, Réal Caouette, and others unnamed.

For myself, I would like to add that Alistair Fraser touched the lives not only of parliamentarians, but of the people working in the House of Commons during his time there. As you know, I was a young employee of the House of Commons at the time and could see firsthand the kindness, the wisdom and the intelligence of my boss, Alistair Fraser.

When he retired in 1979, more than the clerk left the House of Commons. We lost a mentor, an adviser and, I would say, a friend. Following his retirement, Mr. Fraser continued his involvement in the area of parliamentary affairs through the publication of two editions of Beauchesne's parliamentary rules. In his visits to the hill, he always brought along his enthusiasm and his sense of humour.

He will be sorely missed. I offer my condolences to the members of his family, to all his friends and, I would add, to the employees of the House and the table officers, all of whom shared this moment of sadness.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   The Late Alistair Fraser
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REF

John Reynolds

Reform

Mr. John Reynolds (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Reform Party of Canada to pay tribute to a beloved servant of the House of Commons.

Alistair Graeme Fraser was born in Toronto in January of 1923 into a family distinguished for its political service. After graduating from the University of British Columbia in law and practising for a short time in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, he moved to Ottawa and worked for 27 years in this place, serving as executive assistant to several Liberal ministers, after which he was appointed Clerk of the House of Commons for 12 years.

Mr. Fraser presided as Clerk over some revolutionary developments in this House: the creation of the parliamentary interns group, the reorganization of the role of pages in the House and most important, the introduction of this Chamber to all Canadians through live television broadcasts.

He possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of the complex rules and procedures of this place, so much so that he co-authored several editions of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, the commentary on the standing orders of the House that all members consult almost daily. In Beauchesne's we can discover something of the personality of its author. It is the codification of common sense. It tries to strike a balance between the freedom of the member to speak and the member's responsibility to abide by the rules of decorum and procedure intended to benefit all members. It combines firmness with good humour and Mr. Fraser was well known for his keen sense of humour.

Pierre Trudeau, who was leader of the opposition on October 9, 1979, a couple of weeks after Mr. Fraser retired as Clerk said this about him:

When paying homage to someone, one often speaks of “selfless devotion”. That expression has been used so often as to become almost meaningless. Yet I believe it to be an accurate description of the way in which Mr. Fraser served the House of Commons as an institution and its members as individuals— Those who accept the position of Clerk of the House of Commons are not allowed to display the range of opinions and emotions which so delight the heart of a politician—Rather, they are teachers, conciliators and friends. They do not think of self but bend on their will and their stamina to making the House of Commons work.

On a personal note, when I was elected to this House in 1972, Mr. Fraser was in the House. As a 30-year-old member in this Chamber it was very nice to have somebody sitting at that table who could fill me in on the rules that everybody else knew. It was nice to have somebody to assist me in preparing my private member's bills and my questions. I always found that Mr. Fraser and all those he taught, many of whom are here today, had that fairness and respect for all members of Parliament no matter what their politics.

We would like to pass on to Mr. Fraser's family our wishes and comfort for the honourable life and tradition of service that he brought to this House. I would like to tell them that we all remember him very well.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   The Late Alistair Fraser
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BQ

Stéphane Bergeron

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I in turn would like to join my colleagues who have just spoken in paying tribute to Alistair Fraser, who, as has been pointed out in the last few minutes, was Clerk of the House of Commons from 1967 to 1979.

Although many of us here today did not have the good fortune to meet and get to know Mr. Fraser, he served the Canadian public and this venerable institution in which we sit for many years, and his memory will not soon disappear from its hallowed walls. He first came to the House in 1951 as an assistant to the then fisheries minister, the Hon. James Sinclair, moving on to take up the position of Clerk Assistant, as the Government House Leader pointed out, and then Clerk.

On September 1 of this year, he passed away, leaving us all saddened. A lawyer by training, Mr. Fraser came from a Liberal family of long standing in his province of birth. His father and his grandfather were lieutenant-governors of Nova Scotia and his grandfather was even a member of Parliament.

It was through his efforts and those of the present Clerk of the House of Commons that the Parliamentary Internship Programme was set up, providing an opportunity for numerous Canadians and Quebecers to work in this place for the representatives of the public, to achieve a better knowledge and understanding of this universally admired democratic institution, and to pass that knowledge and understanding on to others.

On behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I would like to express deepest condolences to his family and friends and, as I said at the beginning of my speech, to assure them that his memory will remain very much alive in this House for many years to come, because the volume to which he contributed is something we consult on a daily basis. He left his stamp on two editions of Beauchesne, which is something of a bible in the work of the House.

Once again, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I offer heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   The Late Alistair Fraser
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NDP

Lorne Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Hon. Lorne Nystrom (Qu'Appelle, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I too wish to join on behalf of our party in expressing our condolences to Mr. Fraser's family.

I felt particularly moved when I heard about his passing. Mr. Fraser swore me in as a member of Parliament on four separate occasions: in 1968, 1972, 1974 and 1979.

He was extremely well liked and highly respected by all members of the House, on all sides of the House, during the time he was clerk of this Chamber.

He was also known as the Mr. Rules of this place, along with the former member for Winnipeg North Centre, Stanley Knowles. It is rather ironic that the last time my colleague from Winnipeg—Transcona encountered Mr. Fraser was at Mr. Knowles' funeral back in June. The two of them were friends and colleagues. The two of them were experts in the rules. They made an immense contribution toward the evolution of this place through a fairly revolutionary time. The rules were changed, which radically changed the operation of the institution. There was the introduction of television, which again changed the way this place operates.

He was also a great parliamentarian in terms of the real love of this place. He was a great advisor to those of us who were members in those days, particularly when we were new members of Parliament. He was always available to give friendly advice as to how we should conduct ourselves as members. He was fair. He was above the partisan battle of the House of Commons.

Best of all, he was a friend. Because of that, on behalf of my party, I want to extend to his family and to his friends our very sincere condolences on his passing.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   The Late Alistair Fraser
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September 26, 1997