July 25, 1969 (28th Parliament, 1st Session)


John Edward Broadbent

New Democratic Party

Mr. J. Edward Broadbent (Oshawa-Whil-by):

Mr. Speaker, being a mere backbencher of a minority party, after hearing the Prime Minister's (Mr. Trudeau) harangue today, I hesitate to get to my feet. The only consolation I have is that for some peculiar reason the Prime Minister gives more status to a mere nullity in the House of Commons than a member once he is outside this house. Once I leave this place and I am 50 yards down the street I am according to the Prime Minister a nonentity. Perhaps there is something in favour of being a nullity rather than a nonentity, at least by the Prime Minister's reasoning.
I found the entire speech of the Prime Minister extremely distasteful in tone, even if it contained a series of arguments which have to be taken seriously. Let me refer to one or two of the statements the Prime Minister made. He referred to the period of time we should adjourn for the summer. The tone of his argument in this respect was extremely, intellectually arrogant. His was the kind of argument one should not make during the normal discourse or conversation between civilized adults. Certainly, it should not have been made by the Prime Minister of a democratic country.
The attitude the Prime Minister took in respect of the leader of the Ralliement Credi-tiste (Mr. Caouette) was very reprehensible. It is one thing to disagree with an individual's ideas and say that in your judgment he is mistaken, but it is quite another thing to call that person a fool. I suggest that is exactly what the Prime Minister did today. This attitude, considering the whole history of democracy even back to the times of Athenian Greece, is extremely unpleasant. I hoped that the attitude of the right hon. gentleman
July 25, 1969 COMMONS
would change when he became Prime Minister. I hoped he would display a little more modesty and a little less of the assumption that he knows all the answers and other people are not likely to know them, especially the backbenchers of his party on mere members of the opposition. I believe that by his speech today he did a disservice to himself, both as an intellectual and as Prime Minister of this country. I shall not say anything more about his attitude because I want to deal with the substance of his speech before making my own comments.
[DOT] (3:30 p.m.)
As I understood it, the substance of the Prime Minister's argument was that the government needs a recess of three months in order to prepare legislation for next session. He cited other legislative bodies, namely, those of the provinces of Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, which have in the past had extremely short sessions presumably, he argued, so that their cabinets would have time to prepare legislation. In one sense this is a good argument and should be considered seriously. My answer to it is twofold. One is that, as everyone knows, the sessions of provincial legislatures are becoming longer each year as the responsibilities of those governments become greater. The duration of the sessions of provincial legislatures is not becoming less but is in fact increasing. Therefore, one has to make a practical judgment about the length of time necessary to prepare legislation. The general trend is that the sessions of provincial legislatures are becoming longer.
The Prime Minister is entitled to make a judgment about the length of time this house is required to sit. On the other hand, we are entitled to make a judgment about the length of time required in this respect. Reference to the legislative experience of the provinces or other national governments is not directly relevant to the question. We have to consider the kind of legislation we want introduced in this country, and how much time should be allowed during the summer for its preparation.
The Prime Minister's argument seems to be that only during the summer months can the cabinet get together and work out its legislative program. I think this is ridiculous. Cabinet officials and civil servants work all year. What is true is that during a recess members of parliament are not in the House of Commons to raise serious questions and carry out
Motion to Adjourn House serious work on legislative committees. That argument was explicitly put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Stanfield), the leader of my party and the leader of the Ralliement Creditiste. Their argument was that the government should be introducing legislation now. It has had, God knows, enough time to prepare legislation. It has had more than a year since the election in which to prepare meaningful legislation. We on this side of the house suggest that rather than taking another three months to dawdle and fiddle around, undertaking more studies, the government should be introducing legislation now. Members on both sides of the house should be dealing with meaningful legislation in our legislative committees.
Before I deal with what has not been done and what could be done if we returned to the house earlier than October 22, I wish to give a small amount of credit to the government for what it has done. During the past ten months we have passed two significant pieces of legislation, and two only. One was the languages bill and the other was the omnibus Criminal Code bill. In the main, both these bills were supported by all members of the house. They were old pieces of legislation in the sense that they were part of the Pearson program. I do not say that in criticism of the present government. The fact is that this is the only significant legislation with which we have dealt during the past ten months.
We have been dealing with legislation covering the kind of things in which the Prime Minister is interested. It is bound up with an area that I believe he takes seriously as a politician and as an intellectual. I refer to legislation dealing with civil liberties. The languages bill and the omnibus Criminal Code bill are very important because they bestow important rights on individual citizens. This is a subject to which the Prime Minister is committed because of his civil liberties orientation.
Since the 18th century all civilized people have had a commitment to civil liberties; there is nothing new about these principles. To some extent such legislation is new to this country, but it has been in existence in other countries for the last 200 years. The languages bill and the omnibus Criminal Code bill were necessary pieces of legislation, but I suggest they will benefit relatively few people. I do not say this to denigrate the legislation, but there are not millions of Canadians who are homosexuals; nor are there millions of Canadians who will be directly affected by
July 25, 1969

Motion to Adjourn House the official languages bill. Those pieces of legislation are important, but they do not affect very many people.
What does profoundly affect the citizens of this country and people all over the world is socio-economic legislation, that is, legislation aimed directly at improving the material well-being of the average income and poor people in society. We have not done a damned thing in that regard. There have been tentative approaches to serious legislation in this area. We all recognize that there is a housing crisis. Every serious Canadian has known that for the past five years there has been a housing problem. What has this so-called progressive Liberal government done about the housing crisis? It has introduced a little tidbit of legislation which will benefit only those people earning more than $8,000 a year. It has not done anything to assist the poor people in our cities. It has not done anything about slum clearance. It has done nothing to assist the average working man who lives, for example, in a city such as mine who although being a prosperous Canadian, relatively speaking, cannot buy a house because of the high interest rates that are in effect. The government has done nothing for housing except effect a marginal improvement for middle class people. So much for the progressive Liberal party and what it has done to solve the housing problem.
What about taxation? The great reformer, Prime Minister Trudeau, introduced one piece of legislation dealing with taxation. He instituted the 2 per cent social development tax which is one of the most reactionary pieces of legislation presented to the House of Commons. We have no capital gains tax. There has been no revision of the tax structure to assist those people with families and earning $4,000 a year or less. So much for what the government has done to assist the poor and the average income man in this country.
The government introduced a good bill dealing with regional poverty. But what happened? The government allocated a pittance of funds for the program, enough to buy a newspaper for every poor Canadian but not much more. So we have a good bill but no meaningful action in terms of allocation of money. Then, there is the wheat situation. I shall not spend any time discussing that problem because in the last few months hon. members of my party and those of the Conservative party have demonstrated what a
disastrous year farmers in the prairie provinces have had. Again, we have witnessed a very callous attitude on the part of the Prime Minister to the problem. No one is denying that the problem calls for a serious, long-range program. Statements have been made to wheat farmers, such as, "Look fellow; you will have to change your growing practices. It's too bad, but we don't sell your wheat". This is a callous attitude and should not be adopted towards any citizen of this country. It is one thing to say, "We must work out long-range programs", but quite another to say to a man, "You made a mistake; why don't you do something else, fellow?"
[DOT] (3:40 p.m.)
It is foolish and irresponsible to say to such a man: "You have $100,000 in capital equipment so you are not poor". It is absurd, when everyone knows that he can do nothing with that capital equipment. Who is going to buy it? Are there many people in my city or a city in the east likely to move west to buy one of those farms? Of course not! These statements seem to me to suggest an absence of constructive policies on the part of the government as well as a callous attitude.
One other item about which something should be done within the next couple of months is an increase in the pensions of the thousands of veterans in this country. The Woods report has been waiting around for many months now, a report upon which the government has decided not to act. Even some backbenchers in the Liberal party have said that this report should have been sent to an appropriate committee a long time ago and that action should have been taken on it. But this has not happened.
These are the five areas in which the government has either done nothing or has done something to benefit only those who are already well off. It seems to me inconceivable that people on the other side of the house should not see their government for what it is. It is the most conservative government we have had in Canada in 15 years. Any serious political scientist or economist describing the regime we now have would reach that conclusion, I am sure.
It seems to me that we are adjourning much too soon or, if we are to adjourn now we should come back in two months time. If the government is interested in something
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other than civil liberties, which are important, if it is interested in dealing with regional poverty, not only in the maritime provinces but also in the heart of our major cities in the so-called prosperous provinces of Ontario and British Columbia, if it wants to redistribute income, if it wants to help pensioners, whether they be veterans or simply our elderly citizens, then why do they not wish to come back here sooner, by the middle of September? This course would enable us to get on with some serious social and economic legislation which would provide substantial benefits for the average and poor Canadians?

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