November 27, 2006

LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period.

I invite the hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise, thereby giving the Speaker an idea of how many members wish to participate in this question period.

The first question will be asked by the hon. member for Davenport.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
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LIB

Mario Silva

Liberal

Mr. Mario Silva (Davenport, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the government would like to move on this motion. All of us would like to have a debate and be able to speak to the motion. Given that this issue is very important for all members and given that many members wish to express their views in support or against it, I think it would be wise if the government did not bring closure so that we could have a full debate.

That is all I am going to say at this time. I would certainly like to hear what other members in the House have to say.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
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CPC

Rob Nicholson

Conservative

Hon. Rob Nicholson

Mr. Speaker, there certainly will be a full debate on this particular topic and it is an important one, and that debate will take place at the end of this question and answer session.

With respect to the comments made by the hon. member, it seems to me that the Bloc motion, which will also be voted on tonight, in effect does get closure. On the opposition day the Bloc had about the same amount of debate as the government is proposing today and at the end of that period of time there is a vote. In a sense the Bloc has had closure on its motion in the sense that it is guaranteed a vote after a certain period of time and the Bloc has had that period of time. It is appropriate for the government and all those who believe in the federalist cause, who believe in this country, to be able to participate in the debate. That is certainly what we will have at the conclusion of the question and answer session.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
BQ

Michel Gauthier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, this motion would limit the rights of Parliament and parliamentarians. Typically, such motions are used only when absolutely necessary.

I would like to ask the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons if, before tabling this motion, he conducted the usual consultations to find out how many members wished to speak and whether it was necessary to limit their time, to limit the members' right to speak, as well as whether there was good reason to believe that the debate would not be concluded within the usual time.

I would really like to know because the government did not consult me, and no member of the Bloc will be speaking to this motion, although I have not had the opportunity to say this to the leader.

Did one party decide to filibuster on this motion? If so, which one? If not, we are voting on this motion for no reason.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
CPC

Rob Nicholson

Conservative

Hon. Rob Nicholson

Mr. Speaker, we take a very different view from the House leader of the Bloc Québécois with respect to this debate. We think it is very important that members of Parliament be given the opportunity to speak to this motion. At the same time, we are not trying to prolong the debate and, quite frankly, there has been no suggestion that we might be.

In as much as the Bloc had its motion, which I believe had about six and a half hours of debate, it seems reasonable to me that the government motion should have approximately the same amount of time.

All we are suggesting is that we give members of Parliament an opportunity to pronounce themselves on this important issue and hence the reason for getting this before Parliament. The hon. member will know that we do not have much time in this session before we break for Christmas. Although we have a heavy agenda and important issues to discuss, this issue is certainly one of them and I look forward to the debate this afternoon.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
NDP

Peter Stoffer

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Eastern Shore, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, it is amazing. We cannot even get the Conservatives to say that they are sorry or that maybe things they said in the past should not have been said. They could at least blush or show some sense of humility.

In the early 1980s and late 1990s under Mulroney, the Tories invoked closure many times and the Liberals went absolutely ballistic asking how the Conservatives dared to shut down democracy. When the Liberals formed power, they did the same thing 50 or 60 times and every time they invoked closure the Conservatives went absolutely ballistic. In fact, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister said that it was an outrage. He had utter disdain for the way the government treated Canadians.

Now we have the same Conservatives invoking closure. If they can reverse themselves on floor crossing, on appointed Senates and on income trusts, they should at least have the courage to say that they are sorry.

Since the Conservatives are completely reversing themselves on the closure aspect, I want to give the government House leader the opportunity to tell Canadians that he is sorry. That would be suffice for us.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
CPC

Rob Nicholson

Conservative

Hon. Rob Nicholson

Mr. Speaker, I am almost tempted to ask a question of the hon. member. If I did do as he suggests, does that mean they would support this motion? I am not so sure about that.

The hon. member described how the Conservatives acted when they were in power and the reaction of the Liberals. He went on to say what the Liberals did when they were in power and the reaction of the Conservatives.

I think there is one thing we can all agree upon and that is that we will never find out what the NDP will do in power because that will not happen. We will always be left with the mystery of how the NDP would manage the House business.

However, just as a point of interest, do members remember what the NDP members did back in May 2005 when the same sex marriage bill came forward? They were jumping up and down to shut down the debate on that one. They were just delighted. They wanted to get that one over. It was a national crisis. They did not want to have a lot of debate going on that one. There was certainly unanimity among the other three political parties in the House of Commons to get that one clamped down.

I guess it depends on the issue as to what people view as important. We believe this is very important and I think most Canadians would agree that this debate should take place this afternoon.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
CPC

Tom Lukiwski

Conservative

Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to hear the minister's comments on a situation that has developed over the past number of days with respect to this motion.

It seems that we have unanimity within this House and that all parties will be voting in favour of this motion put forward by the government. I find that to be somewhat of a juxtaposition in respect to the Bloc's position because it seems to me that the Bloc has had three distinct and entirely different positions on the whole question about the Québécois forming a nation within a united Canada.

Since we seem to have unanimity and members of all parties will be voting in favour of an excellent motion presented by the government, is it not reasonable to expect that we should get to this question as quickly as possible, and hence the reason for this closure motion?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
CPC

Rob Nicholson

Conservative

Hon. Rob Nicholson

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for all the work he does to facilitate the agenda in the House of Commons on behalf of the government. He has my thanks and I think the thanks of all Canadians.

The hon. member pointed out that there is now consensus. This is what we strive for. It is a great thing when consensus is arrived at in the House of Commons. Regardless of how many positions some parties had prior to arriving at that consensus, it is wonderful that we have all come together. Quite frankly, that is what this country is all about. When people from different backgrounds and from different parts of the country come together and work together, the House of Commons works well and Canada works well.

From my point of view and on behalf of this government, we could not be happier that this consensus has developed. I appreciate that.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
NDP

Peter Julian

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, before I ask my question, I will just respond to the House leader's question about what the NDP would do. We already know what the NDP would do because the Department of Finance has actually done a study on the NDP in power compared to the Conservatives and the Liberals. We know that in terms of financial management, the NDP comes out on top. The Conservatives and the Liberals have to admit that.

We are not perfect by any means but we do a far better job of managing the fiscal and financial house for Canadians than the Conservatives and the Liberals do. Most of the time we are in surplus when we run government. Most of the time, with Conservatives and Liberals, we see deficits. We already know that the NDP does a better job. Certainly in terms of parliamentary procedure and parliamentary respect, we know that right here in this corner of the House we have the most experience in the House of Commons. We would be respecting Parliament.

Given that track record, given the fact that we have a greater foundation of knowledge here in terms of parliamentary procedure, we know that closure is not something that can be just thrown out arbitrarily. We certainly saw that with the softwood sellout. At the committee stage, the Conservatives and Liberals worked together to impose closure. We now have a badly flawed bill coming before this House that will cause and wreak more havoc in the softwood lumber industry which saw 4,000 jobs lost in the last few weeks and yet the Conservatives and Liberals are not responding to it.

Here we have a question of responsibility. Closure is not something that we take lightly. Closure is a huge sledgehammer used to avoid any type of profound debate. Why do the Conservatives take closure so lightly? Why are they betraying all the commitments they made in January of this year when they went to the Canadian people and said that they would have a more transparent and responsible government? Why are they throwing all that out and betraying yet another election promise?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
CPC

Rob Nicholson

Conservative

Hon. Rob Nicholson

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member made a very interesting comment about what it would be like to live under an NDP government.

I have only lived in the province of Ontario and we did have one NDP government. The five years of the Rae administration are actually still very vivid in my memory. While the memories of some administrations have faded, we remember very clearly what it was like under an NDP government. It seems to me that the first thing I always remember was despite good advice that it received from the then federal Conservative government, it immediately went into debt by $10 billion in its very first budget. Unfortunately, it dug a hole that it was never able to get out of.

As the hon. Bob Rae has said on occasion, at one point one of his advisers was telling him that he should declare the province of Ontario bankrupt. This great province of Ontario, which has huge natural resources and had a record, spanning most of the 20th century, of good government by the Conservative Party, and we had those five years of socialist rule.

In any event, I am sure we will have the opportunity in the coming months to discuss that administration in more detail. I certainly do not have to do it today.

With respect to the NDP members' support for shutting off debate back in May 2005, that is a question only they can answer. I guess, from their point of view, they pick and choose when they want to shut down debate.

This afternoon there will be a healthy debate and I think there will be an opportunity for all members of the House to express themselves, which is as it should be.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
CPC

Scott Reid

Conservative

Mr. Scott Reid (Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that must be coming to the attention of every member of the House as we approach the Christmas break is the large number of important items on the government's agenda and, indeed, on the agenda of all Canadians that need to get through the House of Commons in order that the nation's business can be carried on.

The primary reason that I am supportive of this motion is that it allows us to move on to these important items and not see the nation's business held up. I am hoping the House leader can explain to us some of the items that need to be dealt with prior to the time that the House rises for Christmas.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
CPC

Rob Nicholson

Conservative

Hon. Rob Nicholson

Mr. Speaker, I want to say how pleased and proud I am to serve in the House with a dedicated public servant like the deputy House leader. When we talk about a consensus, I am sure there is a consensus on how valuable he has been to this Chamber and what an outstanding job he has done on behalf of the people of this country and his constituency. Again, a consensus develops on these things and that is what is very important.

The hon. member makes a very good point. We are adjourning a couple of days early. Wednesday will be our last day of business. Tomorrow is an opposition day so we really do not have much time to discuss other aspects of the nation's business. There are a number of bills that we would like to see passed, one of them being Bill S-5 on tax conventions with Mexico, South Korea and Finland. I think there is a certain urgency in that particular piece of legislation that I think all hon. members would want to see passed by the end of the year.

I would like to see the clean air act get sent to a legislative committee. This is important. This is part of the government's agenda. The softwood lumber agreement is another one that we would like to see concluded.

The government, in maintaining its campaign commitments and acting on the promises that we talked to Canadians about in the last election, provides a full agenda and to the extent that we can build consensus and get the cooperation from hon. members in the House, it is most appreciated.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
BQ

Michel Gauthier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, naturally, I am a little surprised by the type of answer given by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and here is why. First of all, it is the first time in living memory that a closure motion has been moved regarding a motion that is supposed to have the unanimous support of the House. Also, it is the first time that a closure motion has been moved regarding a motion without the government House leader having consulted the House leaders of the other parties to verify whether they were hoping to extend the debate or to find out how many members still wanted to address the House. This is rather surprising.

Furthermore, it is the first time that a closure motion has been moved under the pretext that the recess for the holiday season is approaching, even though it is not even December and we have not yet used the days for extended sitting. Moreover, there is no indication that there will be a problem in the legislation, except that this Leader of the Government cannot seem to plan his work properly.

I hope this will be entered into the record and that, in the future, people who study parliamentary conduct will talk about the surprising case of November 2006, when the government moved a closure motion regarding a motion that had the unanimous support of the House, without consulting anyone, under the pretext that the holiday season was approaching, although it was not even December. I hope this will be carefully recorded.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
CPC

Rob Nicholson

Conservative

Hon. Rob Nicholson

Mr. Speaker, to be fair with respect to the various positions, it is difficult to guess sometimes where these things are going to land. In the case of the hon. member's party, the motion that was tabled for an opposition day was perhaps a surprise to some and that party was certainly entitled to do that.

In terms of the various positions, the hon. member will agree with me that there have been a number of positions by the Bloc Québécois. It supported the original motion that it tabled and was against the motion that the government tabled the next day. The Bloc amended its own motion, supporting that one but disagreeing with the government, and then toward the end of last week it switched and now supports the government motion. It seems to me that there are a number of different positions.

I understand that Bloc members are entitled to do that and they are not consulting with me or any other member of the government. They have to make up their minds on their own. There is no attempt to surprise anyone. We want to have a full debate on this. In the case of his own political party, how many changes have we seen over the last three days?

It seems to us reasonable that we would want to have some parameters on the debate and that is all we are trying to do. Let us have the debate today. It is an important debate. We want members of Parliament who represent Canadians across this country to have that opportunity. That is all we are trying to do. Certainly, I am looking forward to it and welcome the debate this afternoon.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
LIB

Rodger Cuzner

Liberal

Mr. Rodger Cuzner (Cape Breton—Canso, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, far be it for a member from this side to throw some support behind the comments of a member on the other side, but I am drawn to the member's Cape Breton roots as a matter of fact.

I find it far too cute. I am sort of blown away with the sanctimony coming from the NDP corner today. My experience in the House is not as vast as some of the members in that corner, but I recall going through the Kyoto ratification and each day in the House the then leader of the NDP, the member for Halifax, stood and pounded the table asking when the Liberals were going to get on with ratifying Kyoto, when were they going to do something about Kyoto. Everyday NDP members pounded the table.

The opposition at the time filibustered and the debate went on. Everyday the NDP pounded the table and so the government called for closure. What did NDP members do? Half of them did not show up for the vote and the other half voted against closure. They love to talk and they love to rail, but do they want to do anything? I do not think so.

Does the leader of the government agree that this is just another opportunity for the NDP to stall and do nothing?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
CPC

Rob Nicholson

Conservative

Hon. Rob Nicholson

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me there were two parts to that question. The hon. member asked me about the sanctimony of the NDP and whether the NDP is going to stall this, or any other issue.

I am sure there are better experts on the sanctimony of the NDP than myself, though I have been a witness to it in my public life. However, I want to thank the hon. member for his comments and his offer of support.

He alluded to my Cape Breton roots. I can tell him that I think perhaps most of the people in his constituency are probably related to me in one way or the other. So, when he returns there, I would ask that he please say hello to them on my behalf if he gets to them before I do.

In any case, I think this is an important debate for Canadians. Any time we talk about this country, it is worth taking time. I think that is a healthy exercise.

Most of us would agree that this is the greatest country in the world. I tell people again and again that we created it ourselves. We took the British system of government in the 19th century and we adapted it with federalism. We adapted it to our unique circumstances. What we have today is, in my opinion, the finest form of government and the best country in the world.

In my other capacity, I am the Minister for Democratic Reform. I make the point whenever we introduce legislation in this area that we are not condemning the system that we have. We are saying that we can continue to make improvements, however, keeping in mind that we have created a wonderful country.

I am very honoured and very pleased, and privileged to be in the House of Commons, as are other members of Parliament. I welcome the support and the comments of the hon. member.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
NDP

Dennis Bevington

New Democratic Party

Mr. Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, sanctimony is one thing, but as a member of the New Democratic Party on this particular issue, I have a resolution from our last convention that drives our support for it. We have taken that debate back to our constituents and they have heard it, at a convention, in a public place.

Judging by the emails that I have received and the correspondence that has come on this issue, Canadians want to know what we are talking about here. They want to know what the parties in this Parliament are talking about when they speak about nationhood, when they speak about Québécois as a nation. They want to know that. So, what better way than through active debate in this House?

The Prime Minister has brought forward this motion in a rather quick and, some people feel, unseemly fashion. But, really, we all want to speak to it because we all agree it is important.

So, let us have the debate, let us discuss it, and let us get everyone's position out on the floor in a good fashion where we can work with that discussion to assure Canadians that we are all thinking of the better interests of this country in the long term and not just simply short term political gain.

Does the hon. member not agree that debate will bring Canadians onside on this motion and will help this motion become part of the beautiful lexicon of Canadian politics as it develops?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
CPC

Rob Nicholson

Conservative

Hon. Rob Nicholson

Mr. Speaker, I would certainly agree with the hon. member in part that he wants to have a healthy and extended debate on this. Certainly, we have had that. This whole question was debated on Thursday during an opposition day and it became government orders on Friday. We debated it all day Friday, and I am proposing that we debate it again all day today. So, I think there will be a healthy debate.

The member indicated that the Prime Minister tabled a motion very quickly last week. That is called leadership. That is what we have in this country.

The Prime Minister stepped forward and indicated immediately where this government stood and what he believed was in the best interests of this country. I think the hon. member will find that people who believe in federalism in this country will support that kind of leadership. He will not get me apologizing for having strong, decisive leadership in this country because this is exactly what this country needs and this is exactly what the Prime Minister demonstrates on every occasion. I am very proud to be associated with him and with this government.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink
CPC

Garth Turner

Conservative

Hon. Garth Turner (Halton, Ind.)

Mr. Speaker, I had the occasion to have a town hall meeting in my riding on Thursday evening. The meeting was packed with people and we did discuss the Québécois nation motion at length during this town hall meeting.

At the end of that we actually had a vote. I tried to explain as best I could why the government had brought in this motion. I tried to explain as best I could what it meant, what the concept of nation meant in this particular context. We had a vote at the end of the meeting and the vote was 33 to 1 urging me to vote against the motion.

Then I decided that I would launch an online poll, which I did on Sunday morning, asking Canadians across Canada if they would actually come online and vote yes or no as to whether I as an individual member of Parliament should be supporting this particular motion or not.

So far there have been quite a number of people come online. The number of people who want me to vote against the motion is roughly 68% as opposed to 32%. I have also been deluged with emails, as I am sure many members in the House.

There are a few questions I would like to pose to the minister opposite, particularly in his capacity as Minister for Democratic Reform. These are questions I have been asked since I went home on Thursday night and had that meeting and it has not stopped since. People in my riding really want to know what is a nation. I think there is a fundamental element of debate here, a fundamental question that has not yet been answered.

When I opened the newspaper this morning and read that the Premier of British Columbia thinks that aboriginal people ought to be considered a nation, it made me think. It made me think about the uniqueness of many places in this country.

I have no problem with the particular notion of “les Québécois” constituting a distinct society, a distinct community or a “nation,” but there is the question as to what exactly the definition of that is. I have not heard it yet and I am looking forward to that because my constituents have asked me that. Second,--

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Québécois
Sub-subtopic:   Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Permalink

November 27, 2006