Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, the opposition cannot be a party to this process that began with the election of the new Prime Minister at the Liberal Party convention.
In this context, we have no choice but to oppose this reinstatement motion not only because the bills being presented are bad, but because the procedure is partisan. In November 2003, we could have very well continued the session and passed or rejected not only the bills before us, but the other equally important ones that were on the Order Paper.
Instead, everything was stopped, allegedly, as I mentioned, to allow the current Prime Minister to prepare a Speech from the Throne, in which, as I also mentioned, there is no solution to the true problems of Quebeckers and Canadians. However, there is a multitude of proposals aimed at interfering in provincial jurisdictions.
As I mentioned before, the federal government considers provinces as huge regional boards to whom money is given, very little at a time, when the pressure gets too much. The provinces are told how to spend the money, despite the fact that it was the federal government who created the problem by cutting transfers to the provinces. The cuts were made by the current Prime Minister when he was finance minister.
However, when we examine the specific issues raised in the throne speech, we realize that they all infringe upon the jurisdictions of Quebec and the other provinces. The issue of education is mentioned, probably for partisan purposes. The government is trying to get the support of young voters. Given all the student loans and scholarship programs it has promised, it will be interfering in an area under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces, even if Quebec already has a student loans and scholarships system that has been working very well for the last several decades.
Why is the government trying to infringe upon that jurisdiction? It is not to help students or to support education, because that could be done by restoring transfers to provinces. No, its goal is to reach out and get young votes in the upcoming election.
Where municipalities are concerned, we all agree on one thing: municipalities are creatures of the provinces. However, it is important to know that one of the few specific measures mentioned by the government and the current Prime Minister in the throne speech has to do with transferring funds to municipalities.
I do not have anything against transferring funds to municipalities, but what I find strange is that the government has money for municipalities but not for the provinces. What the government is trying to do here is to create division between the provinces and the municipalities. Again, they are trying to strike an alliance with the municipalities in time for the upcoming election.
Faced with that kind of masquerade, the Bloc Quebecois and all of the opposition parties are left with one choice only. Not only do we need to vote against this reinstatement motion, but we must also expose the partisanship behind this whole tactic.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Reinstatement of Government Bills
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add some comments to this debate on the reinstatement motion.
The aspect that members have taken is broadening the debate somewhat and not sticking strictly to this particular motion. I feel that it is part of a bigger issue that we have been dealing with here in the House in the last number of years. Certainly, it gets into the whole issue of democracy, and the lack of it to some degree, in the House of Commons. That has become a rallying cry of the new Prime Minister, but it is something that we have talked about in our party ever since the first member of the Reform Party came to the House in 1988.
We have talked about the lack of democracy and the way that the entire institution is structured, particularly at the committee level, which is structured so that every committee is weighted in favour of the government. We have seen whole ranks of Liberal Party members at a committee being jerked out and replaced by other members who would toe the party line when the Liberal members got too far away from what the minister or the Prime Minister wanted.
That to me is an absolute disgrace. It stifles proper debate. Members who sit on these committees and listen to the debate day after day, who hear Canadians who come forward to offer their expertise, ideas and views, and who have formulated opinions on those debates, are pulled out and replaced by members who have not sat through one minute of any of the debate and do not know what is going on. Most times they do not even know what they are voting on. They are whipped into these committees to take over and make the wish of the government felt.
If we want to talk about the democratic deficit, we are debating this motion under closure. There was quite a discussion by previous speakers about that issue. They claim that in the past, and they name the years, these motions were introduced and passed unanimously in the House. I used to chair a few meetings back in my municipal politician days, and when anything was unanimous one had to start to worry that maybe we were getting into a groupthink type of situation where we needed a naysayer somewhere among the group just to keep everybody honest and to open up people's minds and eyes on other issues.
We are in a situation today where the House was prorogued so that the governing party could elect a new leader and put him in as Prime Minister under the guise that there was going to be this great change, this empowerment of members of Parliament, this great democratic deficit fighter. However, the first thing we find out after the Prime Minister was put in place is that there will not be any free vote on an issue that is of concern to many Canadians. I am talking about funding for the gun registry system.
The first issue that will be brought into the House that would require a free vote, so that a lot of the members on the government side could vote the wishes of their constituents, is going to be a whipped vote. The government can come up with all the reasoning it wants about why it has to be a whipped vote. It does not, and it would be nice to see that somebody who campaigned and talked a lot about restoring democracy to the House of Commons would not let that happen; however, it looks like we are going to let that happen.
Another issue, which ties both democratic reform into western alienation and into a whole lot of other areas, is the reform of the Senate. Quite a while ago now, we elected two senators-in-waiting in Alberta. Bert Brown won that election. He got more votes in that election than all the Liberals in Alberta put together. He is the choice of the people of Alberta. There have been Alberta vacancies in the Senate. The first step to reforming the Senate, or to reforming how this institution works, is to get some elected people in the Senate. This would be one way to do it. We now have other provinces that are talking about electing their senators and putting up a slate from which the Prime Minister could pick.
That is a small step to a Triple-E Senate, but it is the first step. The people who would be in the Senate would be the choice of the people that they are representing. Does that not sound familiar? Is that not what democracy is supposed to be about? We do not have it in the upper house. It can overrule the elected body. This all ties back into this whole democratic deficit issue and gets us back to the fact that we are debating this bill under closure.
I was alluding to the fact that in the past, there were unanimous votes on motions similar to this; however, I do not believe that those situations were the same as this one. We have a new Prime Minister who has worked very hard to distance himself from what he has done in the House for the last 10 years. He campaigned on the fact that he is a new man, this is a new party and that things were going to be different. Well, things are not different and things will not be different.
This whole city, Parliament Hill, the media and the government side, are being briefed by the Auditor General. We are just waiting for this bomb to go off, another scandal exposed, and I can predict what will happen. The Prime Minister will bury this some way so that the truth will never be known to Canadians. A public inquiry has been called into the Maher Arar issue. It has been taken off the table so we cannot talk about it. We have had the definition of marriage, one of the biggest issues to face this country that engaged almost everybody in this country in one way or the other. That was put to the justice committee. They travelled across this country, heard from thousands of Canadians on how they felt, and before the report could be tabled in the House, the government made its own legislation and sent it to the Supreme Court to be vetted.
All of those contributions by Canadians and all of the hundreds of thousands of letters and e-mails and petitions we received are no good. We are going to develop our own legislation. We are going to send it to the Supreme Court to be vetted before the voices of Canadians have a right to be heard. If we want to talk about democracy and changing things here, we are off to a rocky start with the new Prime Minister. It looks like we are going down the same road as the last Prime Minister.
We cannot have it both ways. He wants to distance himself from what has happened around here for the last 10 years and what he did as the finance minister--I certainly do not want to distance myself from my record here or the record of my party--but that cannot be done. He cannot then reintroduce a bunch of bills that the former Prime Minister introduced.
If bills are going to be reintroduced, if he is going to pick and choose which bills should be brought back, if he wants to introduce one, he should reintroduce them all. That is the only fair way to give all Canadians a say on all the issues.
What the government is doing through this motion is saying that it will bring back some bills, and others that are not going the way it wants, it will not bring it back. If one bill is going to be brought back, all of them should be brought back. That would be the fair way to do it.
If he truly wants to distance himself from what has transpired around him for the last 10 years--which he has been a big part of, has been the eye of the needle, and that is the quote from the new Finance Minister, that the Finance Minister is the eye of the needle through which everything else flows in government--then he should scrap those bills and start over again. Certainly it would be a big issue. Certainly it would cause a lot of work for committees, but he would be able to honestly stand up and say that he has tried to distance himself, but he only distances himself when he wants to and he goes back to the old ways when it is convenient.
One of the issues that I find particularly appalling is the fact that last week we saw a statistic that the agricultural industry in this country as a whole is $13 million in the red. Let us just think about what that means to Canada, a country that was created on the back of agriculture. When it is all added up, the amount of product and food that is produced for the world by that entire industry cannot break even. That in itself is a testament to failed government policies, failed government programs and a government that cannot go to the negotiating table when it is dealing with international treaties and get a fair deal for our producers.
Since the BSE issue hit Canada on May 20 last year, some 260-odd days have passed by. The House of Commons, where desperate people are turning to for help, has sat for 55 out of 260 days.
Why was that? We had an extended summer break. The House was prorogued so that the government could get on with the internal issues of the Liberal Party. Now it seems to me that in the middle of this crisis, when our entire agriculture industry cannot make enough money to get into the black, the Prime Minister is going to call an election. That is absolutely irresponsible.
When there are problems of this magnitude in the country, the government should stay here, keep us here until something is resolved. It is turning its tail and going to the people, claiming the government needs a mandate to do its job. Well, the government's job is here. There are some problems that need to be addressed. It should damn well do them and find some solutions. It should go south of the border and get forceful with our American neighbours if that is what is needed, but do not turn tail and go to the people.
I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister does do that, drops the writ on April 4 as everyone is speculating he will do. We do not know in Canada because it is up to the whim of the Prime Minister, but Canadians will hold him responsible for turning tail, for only sitting for 55 out of 260 days, when one whole industry in the country is suffering.
We do not have to go very far to find a sector of our economy that is hurting badly. There is the steel industry. In the middle of all of this, does the Prime Minister still have enough gall to call an election? I hope Canadians remember. I hope they hold him to task and they boot that government out of power, and put one in that will listen to people and will bring some serious democratic reform to the House.
I have talked about a number of issues that have come forward and that tie everything in with this reinstatement motion, where members are trying to distance themselves from what has transpired.
It is interesting that all the ex-ministers and ex-parliamentary secretaries are convened in a few rows near the back door. There is quite a bit of chatter that goes on over there. I was wondering the other day if that was a wise move by the House leader to put them all together.
Another item that was brought up by the House leader from the previous government was that we wanted private members' bills reinstated. He felt that there was some kind of a contradiction here that we would want private members' bills reinstated, but we did not want government bills reinstated.
Most of us who have brought private members' bills forward have not tried to distance ourselves from what we did in the last few years. This is unlike the Prime Minister across the way. When we put a private member's bill forward, we believe in it. We will back it up no matter how many times the government prorogues or how many times it adjourns. It is because it is the right thing to do. We will bring it back. I found it a little offensive to draw that comparison, the fact that we would want private members' bills reintroduced and not support this motion.
The government has the ability to pick and choose. I have talked about that to some degree. The government has put forward a motion and expects it to pass. It then moves closure so it will come to a vote and then its members vote for it and it passes of course. However, when there is a motion that allows a government to pick and choose the bills that it wants returned, think about that for a minute. That means that a lot of the work that has gone on is worthless and means nothing. It means that some of the things that are a priority for the government mean more. It means the government will bring those bills back. It is an interesting issue.
There is a bill that I have concern about that will be brought back. It is one that is causing some controversy. I believe it needs a lot of discussion and work to make it ready for the Canadian people. It is the bill decriminalizing marijuana. There are people on both sides of this issue. My party has a concern and I personally have a concern with this issue.
I spoke to some law enforcement people about this and they have a grave concern that if this thing is not handled right it will feed right into the hands of organized crime. The fact that one aspect of organized crime will be partially legalized or decriminalized which will allow it to get its hooks into that aspect and funnel money to support some of its other illegal functions is something we need to be absolutely clear on. If the government chooses to bring back that particular bill we must ensure that it does not play into the hands of the criminal element in this country. It is of grave concern to the police forces across Canada that it will.
One of the issues in the bill, that young people would be segregated out and treated less harshly if they are caught with marijuana, sends the wrong message. The issue of the amount is a huge concern to our party because the amount that was suggested is too much and is not relative to what could be considered to be personal use. If that amount is put in, it would create a whole problem there.
There is also the issue of driving under the influence of drugs. How do we control that? What do we do at the roadside when someone is stopped and is obviously under the influence of drugs? What does one do with them? How does one test for that? Is there such a thing? That whole debate goes on.
The one issue that really gets my goat is what the government did with the definition of marriage. It even brought in a couple of weeks ago another clause or another statement that it wanted the Supreme Court to vet.
A lot of what the government is doing is taking controversial issues that need to be debated in a campaign and by Canadians and taking them off the table by either shovelling them off to the courts or creating inquiries to have them put aside until after the election. I truly hope that if we go to the polls and are out campaigning during April and part of May that Canadians will remember the history and record of the government on a lot of these issues and hold it to task. I hope Canadians put the blame where it belongs, right there with that party.
I will wrap up by saying that I appreciate the opportunity to do this. The fact is that this debate is going on under closure under a Prime Minister who promised to come back and make a difference. He promised that when he got that chair he would make such a difference in this country that we would not even recognize it.
I suggest to the House and to Canadians that nothing has changed. I think as time goes on it will become more and more evident that it is the same old, same old. It is time for a new and fresh look at how to run this country and we will be reminding Canadians of that in the few months to come.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Reinstatement of Government Bills
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to address the motion tabled by the government to reinstate bills that have already been passed.
Earlier, I had the opportunity to question the parliamentary leader on the real motives behind this motion. We on this side of the House could not help but come to the conclusion that there is no valid reason to put forward such a motion today, a motion that more or less seeks to gag the opposition and avoid debates on issues that we feel are fundamental.
This strategy is essentially a stalling tactic and a partisan ploy, and the opposition can only condemn it today.
I will read the reinstatement motion for the benefit of those who are listening to us today and who may be trying to understand why, a few days after the beginning of a new parliamentary session in the House of Commons, the government is resorting to such tactics to prevent the opposition from expressing its views on three bills, among others.
The motion reads as follows:
That during the first thirty sitting days of the present session of Parliament, whenever a Minister of the Crown, when proposing a motion for first reading of a public bill, states that the said bill is in the same form as a Government bill in the previous session, if the Speaker is satisfied that the said bill is in the same form as the House of Commons had agreed to at prorogation, notwithstanding Standing Order 71, the said bill shall be deemed in the current session to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation of the previous session.
In our opinion, this motion tabled by the government is nothing more than a tactic to prevent, as I said earlier, the opposition from expressing its views.
Over 80 motions of this type have been tabled by the Liberals since they were elected. One would have thought that, with the coming into office of a new government, the methods and strategies used would change. I should point out that this motion would not have been necessary if the government had not decided, in November 2003, to prorogue the House. If the government had let parliamentarians fulfill their role and carry on with the parliamentary business, as scheduled in the parliamentary calendar, today we would not be debating a motion to reinstate three bills.
As a result, it was possible for the government to avoid this motion, this gag order on three bills. How so? By continuing Parliament in keeping with the parliamentary calendar, not proroguing as they did last year.
On the one hand, the public would have preferred to see their MPs sitting. What can be more fundamental, when people have given a democratic mandate to their elected representatives, than to see them sit in the House and debate? No, here we are again today in a situation where we are debating a motion on bills which would very likely could have already been passed.
Let us review the political motives behind the government's decision to prorogue the House at the end of 2003. It wanted to show clearly to the public that there was now, in Canada, a new government with a new and different vision. That vision was expressed in the Speech from the Throne read on February 2.
When we see what is going on, in the light of our first few days experience of this session, can we honestly conclude that what we have before us is a new government, both in form, tactics and parliamentary strategy, and in its vision as set out in the throne speech? The answer to that is not long in coming.
On the one hand, as far as tactics are concerned, we have a government like the other. It is making use of what I have seen only rarely since I was first elected here in 1997: a fast way to gag parliamentarians on bills which of course, in actual form, are the same as before, but which are much changed in partisan terms.
Taking Bill C-49 on electoral boundaries, for example, when the former government introduced it, it was certainly not in the mind of the former government, that is the Chrétien government, to launch itself quickly into an election campaign. Today, why do they want to step up the process of implementing Bill C-49? Precisely because now the government wants to have an election soon.
Bill C-49 postpones the implementation of the new electoral map to August 26, 2004. That is the date that has been set. Why does the government want to hasten the adoption of this bill? Because it wants to call an early election in the spring, which was not what the previous government, the Chrétien government, intended to do. The political context and perspective in which we would have had to study these bills are different from the situation that exists today.
In terms of parliamentary strategy, we are basically seeing the continuation of the same type of policies from the old government to the new one.
Let us not forget that the prorogation of the House last November was supposed to give the government an opportunity to propose a new vision. However, what can we say about this Speech from the Throne, which is supposed to reflect the spirit and the policies of a self-proclaimed new government? A closer look at the throne speech shows that it is silent on many issues of primary importance to Canadians in their daily lives. There is nothing about what used to be called unemployment insurance and is now called employment insurance, even though everybody agrees that the EI plan and its management are nothing but highway robbery.
There is nothing in the throne speech to look at the integrity of the plan and to see to it that those who pay into the EI fund—whether they are young people, women or seasonal workers—are eligible for benefits.
There is nothing either for the workers affected by the crisis in the softwood lumber industry, for whom the Prime Minister is taking the trouble of travelling to the United States to try to improve their situation. The throne speech contains no vision with regard to solving the softwood lumber crisis in Canada, which is affecting various regions of Quebec particularly hard.
There is nothing for the farmers of Canada and Quebec with regard to the sad situation of the mad cow. In terms of these three priorities—employment insurance, softwood lumber and the mad cow crisis—there is nothing, no vision for the future, no partial or short-term solution to improve the lot of the people.
Neither is there anything to recognize the existence of the Quebec nation, even though this government took pains to prorogue the House and have a throne speech. While the new Prime Minister thinks he needs to establish partnerships with Quebec, closer collaboration with Quebec, there is nothing to recognize our identity as a collectivity and as Quebeckers in this Speech from the Throne. Of course, some nations have been recognized, and we are happy about that. Still there is no mention of the nation of Quebec, although there is a consensus in Quebec that it does exist.
There is nothing about the existence of the fiscal imbalance, which sees the provinces and Quebec losing $50 million a week. With those millions of dollars, Quebec would be able to provide essential care and services in health and education. There is nothing about that in the throne speech.
There is nothing about current issues. The issue of same sex marriage, in principle, could have been covered in the throne speech. But no, it was decided to send a fourth question to the Supreme Court, as if the government did not want to grant any importance to this matter, nor launch any great debates just before the election.
The government could have avoided presenting this motion to reinstate bills by not proroguing the House and continuing consideration of these bills, some of which were before the Senate. It most certainly could have avoided this motion to reinstate three bills: Bill C-17, an act to amend certain Acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety; Bill C-13, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act; and finally, the infamous Bill C-49, which the government wants to see passed as quickly as possible in order to call an election quickly.
If that is not a partisan tactic, I do not know what it is. Let us not forget that the election process and the electoral boundaries readjustment process are not supposed to be partisan in Canada. That piece of legislation was supposed to come into effect on August 26, 2004. Bringing forward the effective date of a bill which, in principle, is supposed to be non-partisan is making the process a bit too partisan.
And what about Bill C-13? It deals with assisted reproduction and related research. Its main purpose is to protect the health and safety of our citizens who are using assisted reproduction technologies to start a family, and to ban unacceptable activities like human cloning.
As we know, Bill C-13 is currently before the Senate. I must remind the House that the Bloc Quebecois is against this bill although we support the principle behind it.
What would we have liked to do with Bill C-13, that this motion would reinstate? We would have liked to split it. We believe that Bill C-13 is an example of blatant interference in areas under provincial jurisdiction.
We are, of course, against some unacceptable technologies, especially human cloning; that is very clear in our mind. However, by setting up the assisted human production agency of Canada, the government is clearly interfering in provincial areas of jurisdiction.
At least a dozen acts passed by the National Assembly of Quebec are not in sync with Bill C-13. Sovereignists and Bloc members are not the only ones believing that this bill interferes in our jurisdictions. The new health minister in Quebec, Mr. Philippe Couillard, clearly said that he considers this bill as an encroachment on Quebec's jurisdiction and, on October 7, he added:
We have sent a clear message to the federal government that we are very cned about certain asoncerpects of the bill, which we see as a clear encroachment on provincial jurisdictions.
This statement was made by Quebec's minister of health, not a member of the Parti Quebecois, the Bloc Quebecois, nor a sovereignist. It is a statement by a Liberal minister in Quebec City, a federalist, who is judging a situation and assessing federal legislation, Canadian legislation.
If the government had been more generous and more logical, in order to respect the jurisdictions and establish this cooperation and partnership the new Prime Minister wishes to establish in Quebec, it could have given us an opportunity to split this bill. We could have voted in favour of it, based on its principle alone. The government could also have avoided encroaching on provincial jurisdictions.
Since I have two minutes left, I will come back to Bill C-49, an act respecting the effective date of the representation order of 2003. While the electoral process and representation orders have to be initiated in accordance with the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, it was always believed this entailed the implementation of the new electoral boundaries order, scheduled to take effect on August 26, 2004. It was set out in the order. There is a degree of independence in the electoral process that has been established.
Today, the government is going against this principle of independence and non-partisanship, which was agreed to by parliamentarians, whereby political parties and the government are not to interfere in this process.
What will the government achieve through Bill C-49? It will move up the effective date of the electoral boundaries legislation. This is totally unacceptable. It is a shameless intrusion in a process that has to be independent.
Today, I repeat that the government had a golden opportunity not to use such a motion and apply closure. It could very well not have prorogued the House in November, which would have prevented the need for putting forward this reinstatement motion, which, in our view, is totally unacceptable.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Reinstatement of Government Bills
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague from Kelowna.
Earlier today, demonstrating the Prime Minister's truly heroic powers of restraint, the government forced closure on government business No. 2, the reinstatement of bills from the previous session. It took all of six days for the new Prime Minister to use the most blunt instruments in the parliamentary arsenal. Closure and time allocation are not standard procedures of the House. They should be our last resort, not our first response.
This chamber was designed as a place to debate the nation's business for all Canadians, a place to discuss current events and public policy. When we limit that debate, we undermine the institution of Parliament and the purposes for which it stands.
For this reason alone, closure and time allocation should not be used just at the whim of the government House leader. They must be exceptions to the rule, not the rule itself. In seeking closure, the government has shown that it will continue to conduct itself as it has for the past 10 years.
In his long career the Prime Minister has personally supported the use of time allocation on 75 different occasions and the use of closure on 10 others. Say what we may, at least he is consistent, I will say that for him.
There is another great irony about the motion for closure the House passed this morning. The purpose of that motion was to limit debate on a motion that would itself limit the debate on bills before the House. By limiting the debate on government business No. 2, the government has limited debate on a series of bills on a wide range of important issues. This motion is one which deserves significant debate. Its only function is to bring back from the dead legislation of the Chrétien government. Its only purpose is to turn back the clock and continue the work the Prime Minister began as minister of finance and the member for LaSalle—Émard.
There are those, perhaps even the Prime Minister himself, who would have us believe that we are in the midst of a new era. They would tell us that there is a new government with a new vision and a new agenda. They would stand here in this great place and say that what has just passed is passed. Yet many of those who would say this and undoubtedly much more, stood today to resurrect the legislation of the last session. Their new vision looks strangely like the old vision.
I think all members of the House will recall the election campaign run by the Prime Minister and his predecessor. I think we all recall with some fondness the television commercial in which Prime Minister Chrétien walked arm in arm with his then minister of finance, our current Prime Minister.
Their joint exploits go back much further. My colleagues will certainly recall that it was the current Prime Minister who was the principal architect of the Liberal red book in 1993. He was then named the second most powerful person in cabinet and was instrumental in putting that policy in place.
When the Sea King replacement was cancelled, this Prime Minister was there. When the funding for health care was slashed, this Prime Minister was there. When the billion dollar boondoggle took place at HRDC, and we are going to hear a whole lot more about that, this Prime Minister was there. When the gun registry went over budget by about a billion dollars, this Prime Minister was there.
The Prime Minister is not just a product of the previous administration, he was the previous administration. He was and clearly remains a loyal servant of the Chrétien government. That record is his record.
With the Liberal legacy left lifeless, the Prime Minister is using every tool he has to bring it back. He is fighting to bring back--and I cannot believe this--a bill that would decriminalize marijuana and put our children at risk. I worked for many years with children to whom a man gave marijuana when they were in high school. I worked to take them out of the alleyway. I got them into the church in which I was working. I bought them hot dogs and pop. I told them not to fight with their moms and dads for money to pay that man in the alleyway, which is what they were doing. In the end, there were 23 children.
Just five years ago on Christmas eve my doorbell rang. A young gentleman standing at the door said, “Hi, Mrs. Wayne, do you remember me?” I said that he looked familiar and asked him if he was Tony. It was Tony. His mom and dad were out in the car. They wanted Tony to thank me that night for taking him out of the alleyway. When I asked him what he was doing he told me he was a draftsman in Toronto and he said that if I had not taken him out of the alleyway, he would still be there, on cocaine.
I have done research in Berkeley University with regard to marijuana. We should not decriminalize marijuana. We should not tell young people it is all right to have five grams. We should not do any of that, because when we do, we are telling them it is all right to use it, and it is not all right to use it.
The Prime Minister is fighting to bring back a bill that would allow embryonic stem cell research. Once again let me say that we have discussed this. It is wrong.
He is fighting to bring back a bill that does not stop the threat of child pornography. I cannot believe we are doing that in Canada.
He is fighting to force changes to our riding boundaries so that he can call another early election. I want to say that we looked into this. There should not be an election until next fall. Those boundaries are not supposed to come into effect until August. Let me say to every member of the Liberal government that when this goes through, every Canadian will be looking at them and asking why they forced this through at this time. They will be saying, “What are the Liberals afraid of in the next election if they wait until the fall?”
In just over 10 years we will have had four elections: in 1993, 1997, 2000 and 2004. On average that is every two and a half years. Look at the cost of it to the taxpayers of this country. In the decade before the 1993 election, there were two elections, in 1984 and in 1988. There were four years between them. The only excuse for having so many elections in such a short period of time would be if we had a series of minority governments.
I am sharing my time with my colleague from Kelowna, Mr. Speaker, but I want to say that when I look at what is happening today, having been here since 1993, I am really shocked and disappointed. I, like many others, was looking for positive change. Positive change is not what we have received. It is not positive change. Bringing back and adopting these bills is not positive change. It is the same bloody thing all over again, which we have had to put up with since 1993. I do not see us doing anything positive for the people of Canada.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Reinstatement of Government Bills
Mr. Speaker, I wish I could say that I rise with pleasure to debate this motion but I cannot. It is true that I rise with anticipation, but I would far rather not be in this debate because I think it is the wrong subject to debate.
I noticed that the hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River called this a procedural debate. He referred to some of the remarks that have been made in opposition to the motion as crocodile tears. He suggested that there were a lot of those in the House. I wonder sometimes whether there is an authenticity of belief on the other side of the House that would in fact commit those members to true democracy in the House. Crocodile tears are usually feigned sorrow about something, being sort of despondent about something sad that has happened but not really feeling that way.
The new Prime Minister, and I put the word “new” into quotation marks, has botched the very thing that he set out to do. I was thrilled when he said that he wanted to take care of the democratic deficit. The illusion was that the previous government had not been as democratic as it ought to have been in the House. The new Prime Minister was going to change all that. I thought, “Good for him”. I also thought that maybe a new wind was blowing. There was a wind blowing all right, but that wind was that he did not really believe in changing the democratic deficit.
One of the first things that happened very shortly after he took the reins as Prime Minister was the whipping into order of the voting pattern of all the members in his government. They had to vote the way he wanted them to vote on the gun registry to get more money into that fund.
There are two insults in that particular behaviour pattern. First, he denied the very thing that he said he was going to make a primary issue and, second, it was already known that an excessive amount of money had been poured into this registry, which really does not work.
We have to be very clear about something else. The motion we are debating today states that bills may be brought forward on the condition that a minister rises and says to the Speaker that they are in exactly the same form as they were at the time of prorogation. The minister has absolute and complete authority to decide which bills are brought forward. So what we have here is absolute power on the part of those people. The government is asking the House of Commons to bring all of those bills back, but the Prime Minister decides, through the minister, what bills will actually be brought forward. If there was ever a concentration of power in the Prime Minister's Office, that has to be it.
What we have here is a denial of the very thing that the new Prime Minister was talking about when he was vying for the leadership of the Liberal Party. He said there was too much concentration of power in the Prime Minister's Office. He said he would take some of that power and give it to some of the backbenchers. Lo and behold, one of the first acts in which he is involved is to take that power back into his office and make sure that everybody abides by the wishes that he is going to perpetrate on his members. That is some position to be in.
The new Prime Minister had the opportunity to create for the world and for Canadians an example of how democracy could really be made to work, how he could change the old tradition, and how he could make sure that backbenchers had a real voice. What did he do instead? He appointed a new leader of the House and one of the first things he did was to say that the government has three categories of votes: one-line, two-line and three-line votes. It does not matter whether it is called a one-line vote, a two-line vote, or a three-line vote if in the final analysis the issue becomes one of “the way I want you to vote is the way you shall vote”. That is an empty shell that he has perpetrated on us and on the people on that side of the House.
What I cannot figure out is how intelligent people who have earned the respect of some of their constituents in fact will go for this kind of stuff. They would not do it in their own households, but they will do it here. Why?
The Prime Minister said there was going to be a brand new government, with new bills and new ways of doing things, and guess what? Here we are, not yet at 10 days of sitting in the House, and the motion we are debating is to bring back not new legislation but legislation of the previous government.
What is new about the old? Old is old. I do not want to use the quote that Mr. Mulroney used some time ago about a particular ambassador. We will leave that to another day. Those reading Quorum today will find that it reveals only too accurately what I am referring to. Old is old. I think the House needs to recognize that.
Then we go to the Speech from the Throne. Here was an opportunity to really create something new. What did we find? Did we find a complete statement of how to reform the Senate? We had a complete statement of what we were going to do to make sure that that place would indeed become the place of elected people, that it would be equal and would represent the regions of this country. Did we see a word on reform of the Senate? No.
Did we find anything about the rights of victims of crimes perpetrated upon themselves or their families, victims who are suffering pain and the deprivation of the use of their property, victims who have had their property damaged? Was there any talk in the Speech from the Throne about recognizing their rights and giving them some rights at least equal to those of the criminals? No.
There was a golden opportunity to create a whole new vision for Canada. It did not happen.
One of the bills that is probably going to be brought forward--we do not know but we know that it could be--is the bill on the possibility of the decriminalization of marijuana. I know that there are a lot of people who have smoked marijuana, indeed, who have inhaled marijuana, and who say to this day that it was a wonderful thing to have been involved with. Does that make it true that it is a good thing to decriminalize marijuana?
The debate will rage for a long time, but ultimately we have to make a decision about what is right and what is wrong and we also need to decide how we want our society to live. What kinds of values do we want our young people to have? What kinds of habits should they form? Is marijuana an addictive kind of a drug? I think members will discover that indeed it is, but there are other drugs that are also addictive and that perhaps are even worse and more debilitating, drugs that destroy the body and the brain more effectively than does marijuana. To suggest that these things are totally and completely unrelated is false.
However, one thing that is true in this whole gamut of the consumption of drugs is this business that Canada does not have a national drug strategy. Was there any kind of statement in the Speech from the Throne to give some direction to the people of Canada, to our educators, to our parents, to our young people, as to what constitutes a good life and what constitutes the use of those kinds of medicines and things of entertainment that are useful, rather than the imbibing of drugs?
Virtually every member of the House knows, and if they do not know they ought to, that one of the greatest beneficiaries of the drug trade is organized crime. Do we really want this Parliament to be known as the one that created laws which made it easier for organized crime to have a stronger foothold in our society? I do not think so.
We come to another area, and that is the definition of marriage. Instead of coming to grips with this highly controversial issue, what did the Minister of Justice do? Another question has been referred to the Supreme Court of Canada.
That raises another question. I talked earlier about the democratic deficit, but there is something else going on here. We have a Prime Minister who would give backbenchers more authority, more power and more activity to do the things that matter. By implication, I suppose, although we have not heard him say it, I would draw the conclusion that the Prime Minister actually would like to think that Parliament is making the laws of this land and is indeed determining the direction that legislation should take in this country.
What is the one thing the Prime Minister does in terms of the definition of marriage? We have three reference questions, which were referred to the court by the previous minister of justice, and now a fourth question has been referred to that particular court. It kind of begs the question: Does the Prime Minister really want Parliament to make the laws of this land or is he giving increasing power to the Supreme Court and other judges by telling them that they will be the ones to tell us how the law should go, and that when they have vetted it properly then we will pass the legislation.
The question becomes: Who is really in charge here? Is it Parliament that decides what will happen or is it the courts that will decide what happens?
That raises the immediate next question. During the run up to the leadership of the Prime Minister, he gave clear indication that he would create some kind of mechanism to permit the vetting of possible candidates who should be considered for appointment to the judiciary. What did he do? Shortly after he became the leader and appointed his new cabinet, the Minister of Justice made it very clear that they were not quite ready to do that. They were not quite sure whether a mechanism would ever be put together so that the vetting of candidates for appointment to the judiciary would take place. Where is the sincerity in all of this?
He goes on. The appointment of a new ethics commissioner will take place. Yes, a new ethics commissioner. Indeed, we are going to have an independent ethics commissioner. The one word that has changed here is commissioner. It used to be an ethics counsellor. It probably means the person will be paid more money.
How would the new commissioner actually work? We know that particular commissioner will be appointed by the Prime Minister and report to Parliament. However, who decides what will really happen? I think that becomes the issue here. That may be different ethics but what is new about it? Nothing is new about this at all. We want to be sure that we recognize not only the new ethics in terms of that appointment, but also the new Challenger jets; $100 million.
Mr. Speaker, you are giving me the signal that I should stop talking but we should talk for a long time about this. This is not a new government.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Reinstatement of Government Bills
Mr. Speaker, according to Statistics Canada's report “Human Activity in the Environment”, released in 2003, Canada's 1,300 glaciers have lost between 25% and 75% of their mass since 1850.
Glacial stream flow, which peaks in the summer months, provides moisture during dry times, an essential role for the ecological and economic functioning of the prairie provinces.
Along the eastern slope of the Rockies, glacier cover is decreasing rapidly and total cover is now close to its lowest level in 10,000 years. Most of this reduction has taken place over the last 50 years, resulting in a decrease in glacial stream flow during the summer.
These statistics tell us that we have to take strong action in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, otherwise we can expect more droughts, forest fires and negative economic consequences for prairie farmers and western Canadians.
I urge the government to give this excellent report by Statistics Canada attention and priority for policy development.
Topic: Statements By Members
Subtopic: The Environment
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister of Canada says that he is going to cure what he calls a democratic deficit. He tells us that he is going to give a voice to his Liberal backbenchers and allow them to vote on behalf of the wishes, desires and direction of their constituents.
Kootenay--Columbia residents know that as their member of Parliament for three terms I have constantly worked to represent their views in this chamber. I have been encouraged and directed by our party policy to give my constituents a voice. I am free to vote according to the wishes of the constituents of Kootenay--Columbia.
Let us contrast that with the Liberals. Last Wednesday the Prime Minister made a big deal about free votes for the Liberal backbenchers. Less than 24 hours later he flipped again and said no free vote on the gun registry. The appearance of the Prime Minister's promise is like a puff of gun smoke. Now we see it, now we don't.
The Prime Minister has extinguished the freedom of Liberal backbenchers and their ability to truly represent their constituents. So much for the PM's cure for the democratic deficit.
Topic: Statements By Members
Subtopic: Democratic Deficit
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Monday February 9, we had the honour of welcoming to my riding the honourable Minister of State for Financial Institutions, and some of his team.
A round table of prebudget discussions was organized, and about a dozen regional spokespersons took part.
My sincere thanks to the minister for taking the trouble to come and hear what the local people had to say. He listened with a receptive and open mind.
I also wish to extend particular thanks to the participants, who were so quick to cooperate in this venture and so interested in it. Thanks to the quality and appropriateness of their comments, the meeting was an unqualified success.
Topic: Statements By Members
Subtopic: Prebudget consultations
Mr. Guy St-Julien (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, Senator Prud'homme is one of the most senior members of this Parliament and a former Liberal member of the House of Commons, elected nine times in a row by those whom he still terms “my people”. Some may hate him, some adore him, but all respect him.
Having been the Liberal member for a Quebec riding such as Saint-Denis for 30 years has given him a depth of experience, the experience of a man who is totally connected with the people.
Right from the time he was first elected on February 10, 1964, he quickly became a speaker in demand all over Canada. For the 10 years that he has been in the other place, he has been regularly able to stir up that upper chamber with his well thought out and often provocative arguments.
Forty uninterrupted years in political life. Good for you, Senator Marcel Prud'homme.
Topic: Statements By Members
Subtopic: Senator Marcel Prud'homme
Mr. Speaker, Claude Ryan is one of those major figures in our contemporary history who leave a deep imprint, both in Quebec and across Canada.
I entered politics at the Quebec national assembly because the Quebec Liberal Party had gained extraordinary momentum and vitality under Mr. Ryan's leadership. His strong belief in individual rights and his call for a Quebec that would include everyone galvanized in a remarkable way the enthusiasm and energy of Quebeckers from all regions and all origins.
Having served under his leadership, both as an opposition member and as a colleague in the cabinet of the Bourassa government, I was able to get a firsthand look at his unique intellectual rigour and at his exceptional power of thinking and reflection.
Claude Ryan was a towering figure who, through his writings, his leadership of the no forces in the 1980 referendum and the inspiration of his integrity and formidable intellect, will leave an enduring historical legacy. We salute his memory.
Topic: Statements By Members
Subtopic: Claude Ryan
Mr. Speaker, when the government was elected in 1993, Delta, a community of 100,000 people, had a fully operational community hospital with 65 acute care beds.
Today the Delta hospital has no acute care beds at all. All patients with acute care needs must be loaded back into ambulances and driven to a hospital with available acute care beds. Often there is nowhere to send them.
The closure of acute care beds in the Delta hospital followed the unilateral cuts to hospital funding instituted by the Prime Minister when he was finance minister. His attack on medical care has put the Delta hospital and community hospitals like it across the country on life support.
Every Canadian living outside the largest urban areas have been adversely affected by the Prime Minister's cuts to their community hospital and the medical services they provide.
When will the Prime Minister fully reinstate the hospital funding that he took away so that the Delta hospital and community hospitals like it throughout the country can reopen their acute care beds?
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to 15 outstanding women entrepreneurs in the Niagara region who were honoured at a dinner in my riding of Niagara Centre on January 29.
The women honourees were Suzanne Rochon Burnett, Helen Durley, Rose Smith, Elena Turroni, Stella Blanchard, Rita Talosi, Cindy Cameron, Yvette Ward, Nora Reid, Julia Kamula, Debbie Zimmerman, Heather Fazulo, Donna Moody, Robin Davidson and Pamela Minns. All of these women have dedicated their time, effort and expertise in order to make their communities better places in which to live.
It was a pleasure for me to be part of this event that recognized the contributions that they have made and will continue to make in the future.
I congratulate all of them. I also wish to thank all the members of the Welland/Pelham Liberal Ladies Association for organizing this event.
Topic: Statements By Members
Subtopic: Women Entrepreneurs
Mr. Speaker, this morning the Auditor General tabled a very disturbing report on the state of our Canadian heritage, which includes buildings, archives and publications.
According to the Auditor General, there are three main reasons that explain this situation, namely the existing protection system, the weakness of the control mechanisms and the combined effect of a decrease in the money spent on protection and of an increase in heritage assets.
In the case of heritage buildings, several historic sites are in a poor state and may become closed to the public. As for our archives, the problem is the negligence of the departments, because they fail to give to the National Archives instructions that would allow them to protect documents that are of historic value. As for publications, the Auditor General pointed out that the National Library does not meet the physical standards relating to space, temperature and humidity to ensure the protection of its collections.
The fact is that this is a federal responsibility. Why then does this government find the time and money to interfere in provincial jurisdictions, while jeopardizing the heritage of Canadians and Quebeckers?
Topic: Statements By Members
Subtopic: Cultural Heritage
Mr. Speaker, today I would like to reiterate the pride I felt in presenting my constituents with a throne speech that truly recognizes the priorities of the people of Portneuf.
More precisely, I am convinced that such measures as establishing a new partnership with municipalities, with a GST rebate, will enable them to better meet the needs of the people of Portneuf.
Since a large part of Portneuf is located in a rural area, I am very happy that the throne speech commits our government to defining a renewed and modern direction for economic and rural development.
I cannot help but support the commitments made regarding increased efforts to reduce the delays in health care, clean up contaminated sites such as Shannon, create new, good-quality day care spaces, modernize the student loan programs and create the position of independent ethics commissioner.
Finally, I am particularly pleased with the Prime Minister's determination to improve the role of members of Parliament through democratic reform. That will enable me to defend the interests of the people of Portneuf and make their voices heard in the Parliament of Canada.
Topic: Statements By Members
Subtopic: Speech from the Throne
Mrs. Carol Skelton (Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, across Canada there are many cases of seniors abuse. This must stop.
Society's cowards take advantage of seniors' trusting nature, frail health and often lonely circumstances.
The government, in conjunction with its provincial counterparts, has failed to protect our elderly citizens. There must be more of an effort to root out those who abuse seniors. Too often they operate knowing their victims are too scared to speak up.
We must increase penalties for those who target the elderly. Bullies just do not hurt school children.
We must as a society send the government a message that our older generations need better protection.
Canada's seniors have built the nation we have today. We are indebted to them. Let us ensure they can live out their lives in the safe and friendly Canada they worked so hard for and put an end to seniors abuse.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to Nicholas Goldschmidt, an extraordinary musical impresario and cultural entrepreneur who died in Toronto at the age of 95.
Niki, and anybody who knew him for more than 10 minutes called him Niki, was a conductor, an administrator, a teacher, a baritone and a pianist.
He came to Canada in the mid-1940s to become the first director of the Royal Conservatory Opera School which later became the Canadian Opera Company. He also met and married his wife, Shelagh Fraser, who has continued over these many years to be his greatest supporter and helpmate.
After going to the Edinburgh Festival in 1948, he asked why we could not do it in Canada, and he did, again and again. He founded the Vancouver festival. He founded the Guelph Spring Festival. He founded choirs and international choral celebrations, including the Bach international piano competition and Festival Canada at the National Arts Centre. Even last November he put on a month-long Benjamin Britten festival. He was planning festivals well into the future.
Topic: Statements By Members
Subtopic: Nicholas Goldschmidt