Ms. Gudie Hutchings (Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business and Tourism, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today with many of my colleagues from the Atlantic caucus, all 32 of us. Many of us have been here this morning, and those of us who were not were busy doing work for their constituents and parliamentary affairs throughout Parliament, and so they were working hard for their constituents.
I am pleased to be rising in the House to speak on the opposition motion moved by the member for Niagara Falls, which does deal with regional representation on the Supreme Court and in particular Atlantic Canada.
The Supreme Court of Canada affects all Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Thus, a rigorous appointment process is of the utmost importance to ensure that Canadians of all walks of life can be represented in this important institution.
Our government has committed to an open, transparent, accountable process to appoint jurists of the highest calibre who are functionally bilingual and representative of the diversity of our great country. I would like to take a moment to discuss what exactly this will mean for the constituents of my riding of the Long Range Mountains in Newfoundland and Labrador.
My constituents voted for change, clearly. That change means a functional, effective, and representative government that respects the institutions of our country and our regional diversity. Atlantic Canada's representation on the Supreme Court bench is just one example of the new tone that Newfoundland and Labrador can expect from this government. Our position on the motion, presented by the Minister of Justice, is one that I am proud to take to my constituents and Canadians everywhere.
When appointing Supreme Court justices, the former Conservative government used an opaque, outdated process that desperately needed overhaul. Canadians had limited information about the nominees, and the criteria for their selection was unclear. We heard the frustration that Canadians felt with the way the former government operated.
We listened to Canadians, we heard their concerns, and we campaigned on a platform of open and transparent government. In this case, that means when we are selecting justices for the Supreme Court, our government will make public the members of the independent advisory board, the assessment criteria, the questionnaire that all applicants must answer, and certain answers provided to the questionnaire by the Prime Minister's eventual nominee.
Not only that, but the Minister of Justice and the chair of the advisory board will appear before Parliament to discuss the selection process. A number of members of Parliament and senators from all parties will also have the opportunity to take part in a question and answer session with the eventual nominee before he or she joins the bench. That means members of Parliament can truly represent their constituents in this process of utmost importance to our region.
My home town in Newfoundland and Labrador has its own unique issues, as does all of Atlantic Canada. I have one of the largest ridings in the country. My riding of the Long Range Mountains starts at the southwest coast of the island, taking in the little communities of Grey River and Channel-Port aux Basques. It then runs along the Great Northern Peninsula to St. Lunaire-Griquet.
When I mention the size of my riding, it is not just as a geography lesson for the members across the aisle about a region of the country they forgot in their time in power, but it is also to give folks a sense of the scale of the region.
It takes about nine hours to drive the 700 kilometres to Channel-Port aux Basques, and if I go to the areas on the south, it is a six-hour boat ride. With all due respect, some members from other parts of the country may not realize the sheer size of Atlantic Canada. While this is only an example, it highlights the desire and importance of having somebody on the bench who can understand the unique challenges and issues that come up when dealing with court cases at the Supreme Court.
The regional perspective is crucial and so important when it comes to future members of the bench. As I said earlier, the Supreme Court has a direct effect on every part of the country, but there are very few areas of the country where federal government decisions can have such an impact on people's daily lives. People from Atlantic Canada understand that reality.
One of the largest industries is the fishery in my riding. Because of that, when I speak with my constituents, as I did on wharves all summer, one thing is always clear to them, the decisions made by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
I raise this because I find it interesting that the members opposite have suddenly developed an interest in Atlantic Canada. They suddenly decided that Atlantic Canada is important to them. I find it ironic that this recognition was missing for 10 years while they were in government. It was clear that they did not understand or recognize the importance of the Long Range Mountains.
I look forward to concluding my remarks after question period.
Subtopic: Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic: Opposition Motion--Appointments to the Supreme Court