June 5, 2003

?

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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PC

Joe Clark

Progressive Conservative

Right Hon. Joe Clark

I now understand why that caucus is so difficult to lead.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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?

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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?

The Deputy Speaker

I cannot deal with the question if I cannot hear it. The right hon. member for Calgary Centre.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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PC

Joe Clark

Progressive Conservative

Right Hon. Joe Clark

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief, given a chance. The practices of the House have been quite clear, that after the whips of both sides take their places, people who come in to take their seats afterward to vote should not be allowed to vote. That should be applied equally to both sides of the House. There may well be some members here who would have to absent themselves from the vote but there are at least seven members on the government side who came in after the whips had taken their places. There may be as many as 12. That could have a material impact on the result of the vote and if there is allowed to be too much flexibility with these rules then these rules become a joke, the House of Commons becomes a joke , and the votes become a joke.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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LIB

Don Boudria

Liberal

Hon. Don Boudria

Mr. Speaker, I can understand why the right hon. member has such a thing about counting votes but that is not the rule of the House. The rule of the House has to do with when the Speaker reads and puts the question now, not when the whips come into the House. That has been the process from time immemorial, and the most recent invention by the right hon. member, had he used it in 1979, probably would not have changed a thing.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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?

The Deputy Speaker

I draw members' attention to Marleau and Montpetit on page 493 under the heading “Decorum During the Taking of a Vote”. I will go to the second paragraph, which states:

Members must be in their assigned seat in the Chamber and have heard the motion read in order for their votes to be recorded. Any Member entering the Chamber while the question is being put or after it has been put cannot have his or her vote counted.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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?

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion defeated.

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt, Employment Insurance.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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BQ

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on Bill C-15, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act. The purpose of this bill was to more clearly define lobbying, to reinforce various provisions in the Lobbyists Registration Act and also to simplify registration requirements.

The bill makes no substantial amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act, despite the amendment currently before the House. This amendment originates in the Senate and is in keeping with what the Bloc Quebecois had proposed. The Bloc Quebecois filibustered for quite some time in order to get this amendment included in the bill.

I pay tribute to the senators, whose amendment reads as follows:

Page 4, clause 4: Add immediately after line 15 the following:

“(h.1) if the individual is a former public office holder, a description of the offices held;”

This Senate amendment respects what the Bloc Quebecois has been saying since this bill was first introduced. Where we particularly fault the Lobbyists Registration Act is that the concept of intensity of lobbying has been dropped from it.

The amendment does not give us any idea of the intensity of the lobbying of the Government of Canada, such as the amount lobbyists receive in fees, or the positions of the people they lobby.

In reality, what we wanted from this bill—when we talk about improving control of lobbying activities on Parliament Hill and in departments—is to know how intense the lobbying is and anything related to this intensity; in other words, the lobbyists' ability to influence major decision-makers whether it be senior officials or ministers themselves.

Who are the lobbyists? I think they have become an urban legend. People still wonder what a lobbyist is. In this bill we would have liked to see a clear definition of what a lobbyist is and what ability they have to influence decisions. We would have liked these definitions to be included in the bill and presented to the House of Commons.

That is the most important thing. What is the relationship between this lobbyist and the government, certain government representatives, MPs, ministers or deputy ministers? That is what is important. Let us not forget that this is a bill on lobbyists. I would have liked to see a clear and unambiguous definition of the term lobbyist.

However, we are left unsatisfied, as with most bills the government introduces. We, the opposition parties, go to committees to try to improve the bills that are proposed to us. When we attend committee to discuss a bill, we try to give the government a sense of how the average citizen feels about such a bill and determine what impact this bill will have on people's daily life. That is the opposition's role. That is what all Bloc Quebecois members set out to do in committee. We do not see members of the governing party in committee very often.

Most of the time, we have quorum because of the opposition members. They are the best attenders; they are the ones who raise questions along the lines of “What does he mean by that? Why this provision in this bill? What does this mean for the average person?”

This bill, with a clear definition of lobbyist, would have reassured a lot of people. All of a sudden, when the topic of lobbyists comes up,—you know how it is—people wonder what the term means. They imagine something dark and shadowy, something done behind the scenes, in darkened rooms. People do not know what lobbyists do, and what their connection is with the decision makers. These are the sorts of things people wonder about.

That is where the public should have been given some reassurance, so that they could look forward to some transparency in government. One wonders whether this government even knows the definition of transparency.

When we were young, we used transparent tracing paper in order to practice good writing, and in order to keep a copy of what we had done. Today, however, with this government, I would certainly hesitate to say that transparency is the order of the day.

In June 2000, the Bloc Quebecois tabled a dissenting report on the Lobbyists Registration Act. This report set out the principles that should be respected when amending the act. These were very clear principles, and aimed at ensuring transparency. Unfortunately, there are times people need to have the mirror turned back on themselves so they can see their true nature. When we see our definition reflected in the mirror, we see what others see in it, which we cannot if the mirror is directed elsewhere.

With these amendments, the Bloc Quebecois would have liked to have seen included in this bill a provision for lobbyists to disclose their meetings with a minister or senior official, and specify the department concerned. This is important.

When I came to Parliament Hill six years ago, I was surprised to see how many lobbyists there were. Most of the time I ran into them just by chance. I wondered whether they were also MPs, or just what they were. Everyone was after me, asking questions, approaching me to discuss this or that issue. You know, where I come from, in Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, we all know each other. Here, however, I could not tell who was who.

But I have learned that here on Parliament Hill, there are all kinds of lobbyists in all areas. I often see them going to eat with members. You do not talk about the weather when you dine with a lobbyist who specializes in a certain area; you may talk about gas pricing if the lobbyist works for an oil company, or he or she may represent pharmaceutical companies. They all do lobbying for big corporations.

I have seen a lot of them. I thought it would be good if I knew who they were. If they had been listed in a registry, I would have liked that.

In June 2000—three years ago now—the Bloc Quebecois also recommended that lobbyists disclose how much money was spent on their lobbying campaigns. It is still a very grey area. Certainly this bill would improve matters, but I would have liked it to be even more transparent.

The Bloc Quebecois also recommended that consultant lobbyists and in-house lobbyists disclose their fees. This is important. I heard witnesses before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology tell us, “How do you expect us to do that? We do not know exactly how much time we spend on a given file. It would involve far too many calculations”. That is part of transparency.

Perhaps they enjoy what they do and they work to further a cause. I do not think that all the work they do is bad, quite the opposite. As parliamentarians, we cannot specialize in every area. It is legitimate that they meet with us.

They share their vision with us and we can discuss with them. I have nothing against that. I have no problem with that, unlike what goes on behind closed doors.

Also, the Bloc Quebecois recommended that a provision explicitly prohibiting any sort of conditional fee, regardless of the activity performed, be included in the bill. That is another major element.

The Bloc Quebecois recommended that consultant lobbyists as well as in-house lobbyists be required to disclose the positions they have held and corresponding periods of employment in a federal administration or political party; unpaid executive positions with political parties; the number of hours of volunteer work done for a party, a leadership candidate or riding association, when in excess of 40 hours per year; terms served as elected representatives at the federal level; election campaigns in which they ran unsuccessfully; and contributions to the various parties and candidates.

In this respect, it would be extremely important to know how much they are contributing to political parties. We know that, at the federal level, there are such things as slush funds. I look forward to the political financing bill being passed, as imperfect as it may be. It is modeled after the legislation passed by the Government of Quebec under the late René Lévesque. It ensures transparency and provides a legislative framework allowing elected representatives not to be bound by the power of the purse.

When I was young, my mother would tell me, “Money is good as long as it is used in a constructive manner. It can be as dirty as it can be good”. I would have liked these lobbyists to include in their reports the amounts donated to political parties, or to individuals for running in a leadership race or an election, or campaigning in their ridings.

We in the Bloc Quebecois are committed to the legislative framework put in place by René Lévesque, which provided that any source of money must be disclosed, because such is our will as a political party. Still, we cannot receive more than $3,000 from businesses, and there is also a cap on donations by individuals.

That is what we ought to have seen in this bill on lobbyists; the obligation to disclose the amounts of money they give to politicians' election campaigns.

Today, I was surprised to find that my popularity rating is lower than that of a used car salesman. Finding that out is quite a blow to our egos. Nevertheless, I think that we could have used this bill to improve our popularity with the public. I think that this is what the public wanted. I think it is terrible that government did not agree to include this amendment in the bill.

In addition, the Bloc recommended in June 2001—two years later—that the conflict of interest code for public office holders should become a statutory instrument, and that it should be reviewed by a committee of the House of Commons, so as to avoid any abuses. In that way, the post-employment restrictions on holders of public office, if discussed in committee, would be subject to sanctions in cases of violation.

The issue was to know whether this legislation would really help us attain our objectives. This is not just about allowing the House of Commons to appoint an independent ethics commissioner. It is also about giving that commissioner regulations with some teeth to enforce.

It is all very well to have beautiful icing on a wonderful cake, but when the icing is removed, there are sometimes some big surprises. This should have been in the legislation so that the ethics commissioner had regulations with some teeth to enforce.

Sometimes, people are granted powers, but they are not provided with the means to be transparent. We would have liked this to be included in the bill too.

Quebec has legislation regulating lobbyists, and this government would have done well to look to it as an example, particularly with regard to various points that the Bloc Quebecois has also mentioned.

Quebec's legislation on lobbyists is very specific with regard to transparency and ethics. It does not require disclosure of each meeting with public servants and ministers but, in their return, lobbyists must disclose the nature of the duties of the person they have communicated with or intend to communicate with, as well as the institution where this individual works.

The current federal legislation requires only the disclosure of the name of the government department or agency. Why does this legislation not go further? The names and duties of all those individuals met should be included in the registry.

Quebec's legislation states that consultant lobbyists must disclose the value intervals, less than $10,000, $10,000 to $50,000 and so forth, to indicate what they receive for lobbying. There is nothing about this in the bill currently before us. It is a legislative framework that imposes guide posts.

In terms of prohibiting any form of conditional fees, Quebec's legislation states that no consultant lobbyist or enterprise lobbyist may act in return for compensation that is contingent on the achievement of a result or the lobbyist's degree of success. This legislation is very specific with regard to a number of very sensitive issues related to lobbying. But in the government's proposed bill, no such specifics are provided.

In terms of the disclosure by consultant lobbyists or in-house lobbyists of the positions held or corresponding employment periods, indicated in Quebec's legislation, no such mention is made in the federal legislation.

In Quebec, consultant lobbyists have to indicate in their initial return the nature and term of any public office they held in the two years preceding the date on which they were engaged by the client. As for organization lobbyists and enterprise lobbyists—referring to electoral agencies—they must disclose the nature and term of any public office they held in the two years preceding the date on which they were engaged by the enterprise or group of any public office they held. This bill contains no such provisions.

To conclude, it must also be said that this bill is an improvement. Yes, it must be acknowledged. However, I often tell my constituents in the riding of Jonquière that the process for passing legislation is very long. It is excessively long at times. Often, when we pass legislation we are already behind in terms of meeting society's needs.

I would have liked this bill to be proactive and open-minded. There is so much new technology and what is new today is obsolete tomorrow. I would have liked to see more foresight in this bill because it will a long time before new lobbyist legislation is drafted again. We will always be behind the times and that is why legislation to ensure transparency must be passed to protect people.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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LIB

John Bryden

Liberal

Mr. John Bryden (Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the member for her insights into Bill C-15, the Lobbyists Registration Act.

I think many of us on all sides of the House feel that Bill C-15 does not go far enough. We would like to see it go even further. I appreciate some of the suggestions she made.

I would like to take this opportunity to comment on the amendment before the House and remind the House that it is an improvement on an amendment that was put forward at report stage by a government member. It was an unfriendly amendment. It was subsequently found by the Senate to have merit. The Senate improved upon it and that is why we have this debate before the House.

In saying all of that, I would like to acknowledge to the House the contribution of the member for Edmonton Southwest. I must say that at the time this member put forward the original amendment he alerted me to the fact that there was a flaw in what I was doing. In fact, I had put forward two amendments. He walked across the aisle and advised me, with courtesy, that I needed to make this change.

I then sought unanimous consent for the change. It enabled the final amendment that was put before the House to succeed among the members on this side and the members on that side.

While the House has to be partisan--and we have to have an opposition and a government side, and sometimes we have to clash in debate--the important thing to remember for all Canadians and all who are watching is that often, and it is not seen, we can cooperate in the public interest. And this was a fine example of that. I would like to acknowledge and thank the member for Edmonton Southwest for his contribution on this particular occasion.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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BQ

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold

Mr. Speaker, yes, that is true. I will admit that government members can make improvements. However, I would also like it if government members could return the favour. Often, opposition members move amendments in committee, but because the amendment comes from the opposition, the government rejects any improvements.

Yes, I agree with him and I, too, would like to thank the member for Edmonton Southwest. It is true and I said so at the beginning of my comments.

However, I would like it—and I am happy that you raised this issue—if you could also be open to what we propose in order to ensure that legislation remains grounded in the reality of the constituents that we are here to defend.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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BQ

Marcel Gagnon

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Marcel Gagnon (Champlain, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to the excellent comments made by my colleague, the member for Jonquière, who explained the problem of lobbying and our wish to regulate this important work.

However, people often have the impression that lobbyists have more power than members. I think that she explained that this may be more than simply an impression; it is often true.

We ask questions here in the House about issues that are important to the public. Take the issue of gasoline pricing, for example. We know, everyone knows, but the public is convinced—and rightly so—that there is an agreement and collusion between the oil companies. It is not possible that they all decide to increase the price of gas at the same time, at the same hour, without there being an agreement between the companies. The government tells us that there is no agreement and that investigations show that everything is above board.

I would like it if the member for Jonquière could tell me if there is not a danger in how lobbying is carried out and the government's lax attitude in tolerating things that should not be tolerated and that certainly do not benefit consumers. I would like to hear her thoughts on this and on gas pricing.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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BQ

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Champlain. What he is describing is a case in point; it has led to a parliamentary committee being set up to hear witnesses.

Someone in my riding, namely Claude Girard, who used to be a retailer, the director of the Corporation des camionneurs en vrac de la région 02 affiliated with the Association nationale des camionneurs artisans, testified before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology that there is a lot of collusion. He said he received calls, saying ,“All of you will be increasing your prices at the same time”.

That is what he told us parliamentarians. The Minister of Industry, who has responsibility for the Competition Bureau, has said repeatedly that gasoline is a provincial jurisdiction. As far as I know, he is the one responsible for the administration of the Competition Act. I maintain that their commissioner of competition does not have all the tools he needs to enforce the Competition Act.

Under section 10 of the Competition Act, the Minister of Industry could tell the commissioner he is giving him the necessary powers, and the commissioner could initiate a study. This study must not be conducted by anyone sitting on a committee looking into fuel prices. It should be handled by an independent committee which would look at what the fuel prices issue is all about. The minister will not have it.

That is what has got people talking. It is true that we are not supposed to say this, but I say it: there is collusion in this whole business. The Minister of Industry must take his responsibilities and allow an independent study into what is going on with fuel prices.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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CA

James Rajotte

Canadian Alliance

Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton Southwest, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, it is a bit of segue from Bill C-15, the Lobbyists Registration Act to be talking about the influence of lobbyists and the notion of gas prices. I would counsel my hon. colleague to be very cautious about using words like collusion. I think that is a very serious charge.

I would also like to point out to the House and ask the member to respond to the fact that there have been 17 investigations done into the gas price issue and into the oil industry that have found no collusion.

Recently the parliamentary committee of which I am a member heard from the competition commissioner, who is certainly a very independent authority, who stated very strongly that there has been no evidence whatsoever of collusion. We heard from M. J. Ervin and Associates, the recognized expert on gas prices who said as well there is no evidence of collusion. The people who came forward and said there was evidence that there was frankly had no statistics. When they responded to me they said “We talked to people in the industry. We cannot tell you who they are but we sure know it is there”.

I would counsel my colleague to be very cautious. As hesitant as I am to actually agree with the industry minister, on this issue I think he is correct to not take action and to follow the advice of the competition commissioner, the Conference Board of Canada and the 15 other studies to date that have said that there is absolutely no evidence of any collusion within the industry.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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BQ

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold

Mr. Speaker, I sit on the same committee and I complained to the commissioner of competition that there has been collusion. Do you know how the commissioner answered? He told me that according to the law, there had to be oral or written evidence for him to be able to launch an investigation. That is an old-fashioned notion. The hon. members know that today things can be done through the Internet and in many other ways.

This bill has to be updated. The concept of oral and written evidence has to be updated. This legislation has got to have more teeth. Moreover, it is based on a report from the Conference Board, and we know that the oil companies sit on that board, that they are judge and jury. There are many more things to say on this subject and I think we will have another chance to debate it.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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NDP

Bev Desjarlais

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to follow the type of questioning that has just taken place. As I was listening to our colleague from the Alliance speak in response to my colleague from the Bloc, I could not help but think that if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a duck. It might just be a duck.

When literally millions of Canadians notice from coast to coast to coast that on certain holiday weekends the price of gas spikes right up because people are travelling, we do not need to be rocket scientists to think that maybe the companies got together and raised the prices to make some extra money. It is not because they went out there and got a more expensive little barrel of gas or oil, or whatever.

The bottom line is Canadians are tired of this kind of an attitude. They are tired of the attitude that because organizations like the Conference Board of Canada are run by business people, they absolutely have to be trusted and that other Canadians who are saying that this is a problem cannot really be trusted because they do not know anything, because they are not business people. We listened to that with Enron and WorldCom. People now realize that sometimes business people are not really up front and honest. Those are the ones we need to target, just like the lobbyists who are out there putting little pressures here and there along the way to get things working on their behalf, instead of on behalf of Canadians as a whole. That is the issue here.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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?

An hon. member

Whose side are they on?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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NDP

Bev Desjarlais

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Bev Desjarlais

Exactly. Whose side are they on? Throughout the course of today as a number of things have come up, I have been led to think along this line. There have been comments that we are here in Parliament and to make sure that businesses can operate. Well, we are here in Parliament not just to represent business. We are here in Parliament to represent individual Canadians.

Ultimately, what we all should be doing is not putting in place rules and regulations or plans so that business has a marketplace to deal with, we should be making sure that we have a consideration of humanity, of civil rights, civil liberties and of improving conditions for individuals. That is what we should be here for. If that means we have to put some rules in place so that people are not just looked at as being a marketplace, then it is important that we do that. It is not a business, contrary to what people in some parties believe. It should not be the businesses with the big dollars and the lobbying behind the big dollars electing governments. It should be individual Canadians.

On the Lobbyists Registration Act, I was actually the industry critic for a period of time and had firsthand knowledge of what was coming before us. I heard the concerns about how lobbyists come in and only certain people are registered. There was concern that maybe high level public servants who get lobbied should also be noted and kept track of because it has an indication as to what kind of policy government departments may come up with. That made absolute sense to me. If people from corporations or other interests are coming in and talking to the head of a business or department and they are trying to direct the way public policy or a certain bill goes so that it benefits certain people or companies, then we need to look at that. It is a very serious issue.

We heard numerous comments today about the pharmaceutical companies that put big dollars behind certain political parties. I have to say that Canadians I talk to believe that the drug companies' giving dollars to certain political parties is the reason that the drug patent legislation was extended. I wonder why they think that. Back to the old saying that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it must be a duck. I am not talking about 5, 10 or 100 Canadians; millions of Canadians believe that they were sold out by a government that took the benefit of large drug corporations before the benefit of Canadians being able to operate a health care system and obtain their medications at a reasonable price.

I am not, nor is anyone in my party, saying that business should never make a profit. That is not the case at all. It never has been. What we do say is when business puts in place laws or does things in such a way that it wants huge profits, and I am talking sometimes 1,000% profit, that is not acceptable, not at the expense of individual Canadians. That is not acceptable.

Let us face it, at one time there were loan sharks who did that kind of thing. We brought in rules saying that only certain types of institutions could loan money and they would not be allowed to get too out of hand. The other ones were illegal, the loan sharks. It was similar to an underworld criminal activity. Right now it seems that we almost have legalized loan sharking because there are no rules to rein them in. They have gone totally overboard with pricing and in some cases the lobbying has made a big difference.

I know it drives some of our colleagues crazy because they want to say that the NDP does not want business to make a profit. They want to say that these pharmaceutical companies will not survive, that they are honest, up front and would never mislead. That is not the case.

I want to tell the House what five major pharmaceutical companies did by collusion on a certain additive to medications. They did this for a number of years. The only reason one of them got off the hook was it squealed on the other ones so it would not get the fines. I will not bother naming the names of those pharmaceutical companies, but I certainly can make them available to those who do not believe it is true.

It is not a matter of having to believe them just because they say they need that extra money to make a dollar. Greed at any level is not acceptable. Profit beyond a reasonable amount is not okay. One of the things we have to do with the Lobbyists Registration Act is ensure that it has some teeth so that kind of meandering cannot happen with politicians. There cannot be that kind of forcefulness in the way of “You scratch my back, I will scratch yours and everything will run fine”. That is not acceptable.

The Lobbyists Registration Act probably highlights to a number of people the Prime Minister's election financing act. I have to admit that people have some issues with parts of it. It is being touted as the Prime Minister's legacy before he leaves.

As much as some people might not like bits and pieces of that legislation because it might benefit someone else in the next election or whatever, the bottom line is that it is getting support out there from Canadians. It is responding to an issue where people have felt that there is too much money swaying people to get into politics and swaying their decisions once they get here. It is having an effect on the legislation that comes out of Parliament. It is having an effect on the way money is spent within our system and wasting taxpayers' dollars. We have heard of numerous instances like that.

My colleagues from the Alliance have commented on numerous occasions about how much money Bombardier gets, how much money it gives to the Liberal Party and that kind of lobbying that happens. That is happening not just with Bombardier. It is happening with others as well. It is happening with individuals. There are individuals out there who like power as well.

The lobbyist registration act falls right along the line with the Prime Minister's legacy act, the elections finance act. Although it may not be perfect, quite frankly there are Canadians out there who want to see some rules put in place so we do not have that kind of unlimited resources manipulating politicians when they get into office. Canadians want to see that.

I admit I get funding from individuals and unions. It will make my job tougher when I go out fundraising. However I am not afraid to say that without that funding I will not be able to make a go of it because I will make a go of it. If it is the same for all of us, we can do it. It is important that the same rules are in place, that we follow them and we accept that the perception of politicians among Canadians is not a good one and we need to improve that.

As I said, I kind of tie the two acts together and I am glad I have had the opportunity to make a few comments on the lobbyist registration act, and I look forward to the continued debate.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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CA

Brian Fitzpatrick

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick (Prince Albert, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I was on the industry committee that studied gas prices too. One of my observations was that some of the highest priced provinces in Canada were in the NDP socialist provinces. Saskatchewan was one of them. Close to 40% to 50% of the costs of gasoline in some provinces is taxes so governments are part of this problem as well.

However one thing I do recall was a report that was filed at the industry committee which said that Canadian gas prices were the second lowest prices in the whole world. If high federal and provincial taxes were eliminated and they were on par with the United States, we might even have the lowest gas prices in the world.

Now that seems to me to be pretty strong evidence that things are working reasonably well in Canada, to have the second lowest gas price in the world. I know a lot of European socialist countries have gas prices that are four and five times as high as we have in Canada. France probably has prices four and five times as high as Canada.

How can the member say we have collusion in the country when we have the second lowest gas prices in the world?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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NDP

Bev Desjarlais

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Bev Desjarlais

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that they could probably be the lowest if we did not have collusion at any given time when the prices of gas seem to change, without any change in the bulk price or bulk sale.

As far as the tax goes, I am not going to stand up here and apologize for Saskatchewan or Manitoba if they have higher gas prices because I also know that some 90% of those gas taxes go back into the infrastructure in those two provinces. Saskatchewan is probably the province with the greatest number of kilometres of roads within the province to maintain as the result of cuts to railways in Canada.

Farmers are the people we so much want to support, yet numerous Alliance policies have had detrimental effects on farmers in western Canada and throughout the whole country. Cuts to grain subsidies and cuts to the rail lines have had an extremely drastic effect on farmers in western Canada.

The provinces have had to pick up and support those farmers, their people and the infrastructure for which the federal government does not do a darn bit. I am not going to apologize for NDP governments. They use their taxes and put them back into services for the people of their provinces. The election in Manitoba showed that Manitobans do not mind paying those taxes if it is going back to infrastructure in their province and if it is going back to provide services. It is when we do not get the services that we make an issue about it.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Lobbyists Registration Act
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June 5, 2003