- MPlibMar 13, 2015 8:40 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, since 2011, 70% of funding under the enabling accessibility fund has been spent in Conservative ridings. Conservatives have been using a program designed to help those with disabilities as a political slush fund to reward their friends.
If that is not bad enough, now the Prime Minister himself ensured that a failed application was put on top of the pile, fast-tracked, and given over $1 million. It is like Duffy all over again.
There is one word for this bad behaviour; it is called corruption. How can he defend it?
- MPlibMar 12, 2015 11:35 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, I think she is missing the point. A failed funding application was fast-tracked and approved for over $1 million only after the Prime Minister had told chief of staff Nigel Wright to “sort it out”. Why? We know, because it benefited the Conservative Party.
Just a reminder that out of 167 applications, this project came in 163rd. The common thread, just like with Duffy, is the involvement of the Prime Minister's closest adviser acting on the explicit instructions of the Prime Minister.
How can the Prime Minister defend this corruption?
- MPlibMar 10, 2015 12:00 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. Earlier in this question period, she said that there was some degree of innocence that was given to her by the report.
However, I would like to quote from the report by Mary Dawson. She refers to the Prime Minister's guideline, “Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and Ministers of State”. She says, referring to the minister, “It appears that some of these guiding principles were not top of mind in the handling of the Markham proposal”. She also says, “I therefore concluded that [the minister] contravened subsection 6(1) of the Act”. She finally says, “The funding decision may have been influenced by political considerations, but the reasons why this proposal was given preferential treatment remain unclear”.
Why is Mary Dawson so wrong?
- MPlibFeb 24, 2015 1:55 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, I relied heavily on the Canadian Medical Association for its opinion, which I value greatly. There are other institutions out there that want to do the same. Whether they are on side with the idea of physician-assisted dying or not, the mechanism by which they report back a string of recommendations to Parliament and to government is a good one, and the member is right on that issue.
The CMA released this morning its support for this and this goes to what Chris Simpson said. The CMA has held town hall meetings across Canada to canvass the feelings of the general public. He said:
We'd like to bring that expertise and reflect what we heard to the table, so that [the feelings of the general public can be heard and] we can come up with a system that meticulously protects vulnerable people but one that provides access to medical aid in dying for those who need it.
Although he is at the service of the physicians across this country through the body known as the Canadian Medical Association, still he has something to say about this issue about people who are in palliative care or people who request physician-assisted dying and more information. The fact that he says he wants to report back to a body to do this, this is now a golden opportunity for the House to support the motion.
- MPlibFeb 24, 2015 1:40 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, it is in indeed an honour to stand here in this specific debate as proposed by our party, the Liberal Party of Canada, and our caucus. As we have had many discussions about this in the past, I want to talk about this.
I have some experience with palliative care in my riding in central Newfoundland. It is always a painful experience for a lot of people here, and more so for others in the House who have spoken so powerfully about it, such as the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay did earlier, and has done so in the past.
For the record, I want to read the text of the motion to the House. For great part, it is mostly about the text of the motion, which talks about the Supreme Court ruling and how we have to deal with that. However, it is also a question of process and how we as members can deal with this situation.
I neglected to mention earlier, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.
The text of the motion is, in part:
That (a) the House recognize that (i) the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the prohibition on physician-assisted dying violates Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice”, (ii) the Supreme Court has suspended the implementation of its ruling for 12 months, (iii) the expected federal election and summer recess limit the remaining sitting days in 2015, (iv) Canadians expect Parliamentarians to take a leadership role on this issue and engage with it in an informed and respectful way, (v) a nonpartisan, deliberate and effective discussion took place on this issue in the Quebec National Assembly, (vi) Parliament has a responsibility to respond to the Supreme Court ruling...
Let me get to that for a moment, and talk about the special committee and the history behind this.
The unanimous decision by all nine Supreme Court justices, which took place on February 6, upheld an earlier ruling by a British Columbia judge who determined that laws outlawing physician-assisted dying contravened the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In particular, the prohibitions unjustifiably violated section 7 of the charter. It states, “the life, liberty and security of the person”, and it does that in three specific ways: first, by forcing some people to commit suicide early out of fear of incapacity, such as the case in life; second, by denying those people decisions on their bodily integrity and medical care, and that goes to liberty; and three, by leaving people to endure intolerable suffering, which goes to security of the person.
Constitutionally, the court found that the prohibitions went disproportionately beyond their purpose, by capturing people who were not vulnerable to coercion in times of weakness. That has been a large part of the debate, which I will touch on a bit later. Many groups, interest groups and citizens, have already openly discussed this, not in an official forum, which we would like to see here and which is proposed within this motion, but through social media in particular and through many special interest groups and their fora.
The court stated that the prohibition of physician-assisted death was of no force or effect to the extent that two conditions were met. The first was that the person was a competent adult who clearly consented to dying. The second was that the person “...has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition”.
This decision overturned the earlier Supreme Court decision that went back to Rodriguez v. British Columbia, or the Attorney General, in 1993. Everybody remembers the story of Sue Rodriguez and her fight on this issue, a valiant one at that.
The remedy was a declaration of invalidity that was suspended for 12 months. This remedy did not compel physicians to provide assistance in dying. There compels us to act as legislators by first discussing this issue within the parliamentary precinct. That is why we talk about this special committee to be struck in order to discuss this issue at length.
I do not think it specifies that we have to stick specifically to this position. It would be great if the committee could launch into discussions about a legislative framework, as my colleague from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, pointed out. He pointed out that we could talk about a legislative framework for this to discuss the palliative care strategy, which many people have discussed in this House, certainly in the past 10 years I have been here, and it should play a big role in this discussion.
There is a 12-month period into which we have to fit. Time is somewhat limited, of course, as I mentioned earlier. There is a scheduled federal election in the fall, which rules out that period of time, plus of course the summer recess. That gives us the days between now and the end of June. I certainly think this would be a golden opportunity for us.
Just by way of background, the terms euthanasia and physician-assisted death should not be used interchangeably, as euthanasia means terminating someone's life for compassionate reasons with or without consent. Physician-assisted death requires consent.
In a 2014 Ipsos Reid poll, 84% of people surveyed agreed that “[a] doctor should be able to help someone end their life if the person is a competent adult who is terminally ill, suffering unbearably and repeatedly asks for assistance to die”. That is a pretty comprehensive question to be asking the general public, and over 80% returned in favour of it.
However, that does not negate the fact that discussion needs to be had about how this will be implemented across the country; first, how we would adjust the Criminal Code to provide this, if this is what Canadians want, and as we study this.
I would just like to quote from an article. This is from the Canadian Medical Association. It put out a lot of material on this. Its stance, too, has softened over the past many years. I have spoken about this in my riding, to a gentlemen in my riding, Dr. John Haggie, who is a former president of the CMA. The CMA quotes several of the physicians who are close to the subject, whether it be physician-assisted dying or palliative care. For close to two years the association has been studying medical aid to dying as it is regulated in Europe and in five U.S. states.
The CMA has also held town hall meetings across Canada to canvass the feelings of the general public and doctors, and Dr. Chris Simpson, the CMA president, said in an interview:
We'd like to bring that expertise and reflect what we heard to the table, so that we can come up with a system that meticulously protects vulnerable people but one that provides access to medical aid in dying for those who need it.
That is from Dr. Chris Simpson, the CMA president. He talks about the forum that they have at their disposal; so they take this to the public, they have a discussion, and they would like to report back, but to report back to whom? This is a golden opportunity to bring this back to the committee that we are discussing in this motion today, a special legislative committee to look at this. It would be great to hear from the Canadian Medical Association, which has done so much work on this.
Here are just a few more quotes from this. Some doctors welcome the decision, including Dr. James Downar, a palliative care physician at Toronto's University Health Network who wrote a Canadian Medical Association journal commentary on physician-assisted death. That was in 2014.
Downar said it is critical that legislators involve stakeholders in crafting a process to ensure all Canadians have access to physicians who will assist them in dying if they meet prescribed conditions.
This is very important for the Canadian Medical Association:
Any process must also require doctors who have a conscientious objection to refer patients to a colleague who will medically assist them with dying.
Other palliative care physicians, however, are deeply concerned about the Supreme Court decision. It will negatively affect their relationship with their patients. Dr. Jessica Simon is one of them:
Our role is that we don't hasten the end of life, but we allow people to live as fully as they can before they die.
The intentional act of ending someone's life is not part of palliative medicine. She says:
I've never had a case where someone has had to die in order to relieve their suffering, because we have other tools at our disposal, including palliative sedation.
Whether we agree with these specific physicians is one thing, but we are saying today that these particular physicians need to be heard, to report back to our parliamentary system that we have here, and that is what this motion seeks to put in motion over the coming year.
- MPlibFeb 23, 2015 9:55 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, in the past year, I have had many debates about democratic reform regarding the Senate and the judiciary, about how many of the members of the government, primarily the backbench, talk about being less keen on seeing people appointed as opposed to people who are elected as serving as some sort of oversight.
The member talked about judicial review and how he has completely satisfied that. Although I appreciated many parts of his speech, the part of the package I am concerned about is this oversight that gives power to Parliament. Very specifically, why is parliamentary oversight not a good idea for this legislation?
- MPlibFeb 20, 2015 9:10 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, in question period, I spoke of Fogo Island, and now I want to speak of Change Islands, just next door.
The people there are in dire need of a wharf for commercial reasons. They have a commercial opportunity presented to the island in the fisheries sector. Unfortunately, they cannot exercise this because of the dilapidated wharf they have. Therefore, petitioners are calling on the government to invest in this wharf to make sure that their island is sustainable. I have several hundred signatures here from the Change Islands and surrounding communities off-island on the mainland of Newfoundland.
- MPlibFeb 20, 2015 8:55 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, over the coming weeks, there are about to be severe cuts to the shrimp fishery in northeastern Newfoundland and Labrador for the entire province. This coming Monday, there is a large protest scheduled by citizens on Fogo Island. Specifically, they are going after the last-in, first-out policy. Recently the provincial government, their fellow Conservatives, said that if this policy exists, the inshore fishery will be devastated.
Therefore, my question for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is this: Finally, will she eliminate the last-in, first-out policy and save our inshore fishery?
- MPlibFeb 19, 2015 10:50 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, on several occasions I have heard this particular member, as well as other members of the government, talk about how unelected, appointed people have too much power around here.
Would the member agree that the ultimate oversight in the particular instance of this legislation should belong to the people who are elected to this House of Commons?
- MPlibFeb 04, 2015 12:05 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, recently there was a large public protest in the town in the Twillingate in my riding, demanding the removal of oil from the sunken ship known as the Manolis L.
Currently, the Coast Guard has a temporary measure in place called a cofferdam. It is calling it, so far, effective, and that is all it plans to do.
However, in 2013, the Coast Guard removed oil from a sunken ship off the coast of British Columbia, and here is what it said at the time, “paying the lump sum to be rid of the problem was a better solution than paying for multiple temporary fixes over time”.
Would the minister finally, please, pay the lump sum, get rid of that oil and save our shores off the northeast coast of the island of Newfoundland?
- MPlibFeb 03, 2015 4:20 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, I rise to talk about reform. We are talking about reform in many ways today.
I want to thank the mover of this bill again for providing the information he provided and I want to thank everyone involved in this particular debate.
Liberals believe all members of both Houses must uphold the law and that those who violate it cannot be allowed to profit from their misdeeds. In this particular situation, when we started to talk about this bill, we wanted to talk about a public example, as it were. There was a lot of consternation as to whether we were going to look at this and accept in principle what it says about pensions, what people earn, whether people who violate the law should lose their pensions, whether a lot more people will suffer as a result of that individual being caught, so on and so forth.
When the conversation came around to this particular bill, the discussion was about how the situation in the House is different from the real world situation. It is different in the sense that we are parliamentarians, different in the sense that we are representatives, and different in the sense that we have to set an example for the population.
I want to thank many for their opinions on this issue. We have gone back and forth, and it has been spirited debate, for the most part.
We know that the bill would add a clause to the Member of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act to take into account a situation of a senator or a member of Parliament being convicted of an offence that arose out of conduct that occurred while that individual was in office. It would do this by using the same mechanism that is already in place for politicians who become disqualified for their offices. If MPs or senators are kicked out of their chamber, they currently lose their pensions, of course, but if members resign beforehand, they get to keep their pensions. We saw that happen some time ago, in the case of a member of the Senate.
The purpose of the bill is to close this particular loophole. The bill would cancel the pension of any MP or senator convicted of any indictable offence committed in whole or in part while in office. Now amendments have been put forward as well.
Throughout the committee process, we looked at many amendments. There were some deep conversations, certainly, not only with the mover of the bill but with all sides of the House and all parties represented here, or certainly the three in committee.
It was suggested that the bill be amended by limiting the scope of the bill to a conviction of an indictable offence with a maximum sentence of no less than five years. In addition, it would have to be one of the following: bribery of officers, defrauding the government, contractors subscribing to election fraud, breach of trust by a public officer, perjury, contrary evidence with intent to mislead, fabricating evidence, obstructing justice with dissuasion, theft of over $5,000, drawing up documents without authority, obtaining, et cetera, based on forged documents, falsification of books and documents, a false return by public officer, and secret commissions.
What was absent at the time were changes related to Canada Elections Act violations. We talked about that as well, and it was contested around that time regarding a particular member. That is all I will say about that right now, because I do not want to talk about that particular situation and that member, who is no longer here. I knew that person quite well. Despite the offences being talked about, I have a deep respect for that individual and for the work that he has done. He was a hard worker, despite what happened. I will leave it at that.
It would apply future convictions on politicians, including for past malfeasance. The bill includes a section clarifying that the changes contained in the bill would apply with respect to any person who is or was a member of the Senate or the House of Commons who is convicted after the date the bill was introduced, which takes us to June 3, 2013.
The bill would strip the pensions of many people that people watching this broadcast right now would know all too well. Senators or former senators were involved in a lot of this. I am assuming that the genesis of this particular bill dated back to that time when we talked about malfeasance, and so on and so forth. That situation continues, so I will not comment on that at this point.
We are not dealing with the particulars of that situation regarding the senators or former members of Parliament. We have to look at the parameters by which we look at the behaviour of members of Parliament and senators and how in the future punishment must be laid in light of these offences.
Therefore, my understanding of this is that all contributions, plus interest, are to be returned to the particular member and in this situation that means they no longer are vested within our pension system. As I said before, many people made comparisons with the private sector, but the comparison is not one that is just, despite the narrative.
I understand many would like to have a level playing field, but this is the House of Commons. I do not think the level playing field applies here. We set the best example we can put forward as representatives in the House, representatives of each and every riding, currently 308 and after the next election 338. By doing so, we have to be exemplary in all manners of our behaviour and especially for many of the offences cited within the bill.
In the details of some of the offences of what members were indicted on, whether it was the maximum offence out there, there were deep conversations about that. The amendments have the maximum for the offence.
It is not just in the House of Commons, but there are many jurisdictions across the country that are doing much the same. In 2013, the Nova Scotia legislature passed Bill 80, which strips the pensions of any lawmaker convicted of a crime for which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for not less than five years. It is running in the same vein as this legislation. The start date was May 6, 2013, which was when the bill was tabled at the provincial legislature, which is similar again. The result in June 2013 was an independent MLA lost his pension after pleading guilty to fraud and breach of trust charges arising from an expense scandal. The member had collected tax dollars after filing 10 false expense claims in 2008-09. Today he is not eligible to receive that pension. This is very similar. I am sure there are certain differences, but minute I am sure.
Statutes in both Alberta and New Brunswick provide that the government may withhold certain sums payable as retiring allowances to a member of the legislature in cases of indebtedness. These statutes do not however make explicit reference to garnishment or termination of a pension due to a criminal conviction, although the way things are going and if the bill passes, as well as what is happening in Nova Scotia, I am sure other legislatures across the country may follow suit. Maybe the mover of the bill could shed some light on that. It would be interesting.
However, this has been a lively discussion. Some people have said that maybe this is too onerous, but personally, and even as a critic, I do not think it is. As sitting members of the House, we have that responsibility to act in the best interests of the public. If the public wants us to behave as such, then we have to be punished if the offence that is so egregious for the public to accept.
I thank the member for this. After this stage of the bill, I hope further discussion will be had it. However, I will be supporting the bill.
- MPlibFeb 03, 2015 3:50 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, as we have said before, we have spent a long time on this. This has been more than about passing a law. It has been an actual grand national discussion on parliamentary reform, one that I welcome.
Everybody here should welcome it, whether they vote for this or not. It is something that opened our eyes to many things. Many Canadians have asked me about this in my role as critic for democratic reform. They always ask me what brought this on and how bad is it. I said that it was bad when it started in 1970. As the mover of the bill pointed out, in 1970 the signature of a leader was required. That has caused angst in backrooms and front rooms, in all political parties, for quite some time. Former prime minister John Turner made mention of that. It was a very valid point.
In the very beginning, some people said that it may have been overly prescriptive, to the point where it quashed the rights of a political party to decide itself who their leader would be and that its rights were diminished as a result of this legislation.
I thought that was being a little excessive. Some people wanted to amend it so it would be less so, and it has been amended to a great degree. There is that option at the very beginning, once Parliament reconvenes.
I share some of the concerns of my colleague from the NDP about the fact that beyond that one vote after an election, we have the same process where we do, by secret ballot, elect our chairs. There is some concern there, but not too much. The process is that we have a secret ballot to elect the caucus chair. That is a great concept, and I agree with that.
There was not only a movement and discussion here, it was also discussed through social media. Just a short time ago, there was a tweet from TheReformAct. A Twitter account was set up around this, and that fuelled a discussion. I enjoy the comments on this, whether people were talking about the stage the bill was at or what was being debated. It was very illustrative, and I congratulate the authors of this for doing so.
I will go back to some of the comments from my colleague, the mover of this bill, as amended. The amendments remain true to the principles of this bill in many instances, which is why I recommended to the leader from the beginning that we should have a free vote on this.
Although some people might not think this is a dramatic change, if the parties do not elect to do the things that are recommended in this bill, then people will ask what is the point of all this. There is a point to this.
It is not just about the legality. It is not about the written rule on the legislation paper itself. This is a narrative, the spirit of which is parliamentary reform. I am going to quote the mover of the bill once more. He talked about the balance of MPs and leaders. He said that perfection was the enemy of the good.
People watch us on television. A lot of people tell me that they try to watch, but that we get bogged down in details about this and that subamendment, and so on and so forth. I agree.
As one person once noted, and I cannot remember who said this but it is a good quote, that law-making is like sausage-making. People like to eat sausages but they certainly do not want to know how it is made.
In this particular case, despite all the details we have brought out, the fundamental debate was about a balance achieved and the importance of the House that we are in right now. On the prominence of the House of Commons, it is less prominent than it once was among the public. When television was introduced here many years ago, back in the 1970s, it was supposed to shed a light on what went on here, because it is the most powerful institution in the country. Over that time, it has not.
I assume that people back then talked about what happened in the House of Commons a lot more than they do today. One of the reasons is because of the things that this bill is trying to change.
The member earlier mentioned that the cabinet is no longer responsible to our colonial fathers but to the legislators here, and the executive power that resides in here as well is answerable to this institution. We battle over certain bills time and time again over that very issue, but a lot of people in the public are not aware of this right now. What this debate has done is bring it out before the public for them to see how the House operates and, more importantly, how the role of the House has been diminished, as well as see who chooses us to come here, how we behave once we are here, and how a lot of the conventions that we have here are codified as well.
We have the Standing Orders. These are the large books that we have, which we call Standing Orders, but a lot of the other stuff is based on convention. In other words, things that we have done in the past and are now accustomed to are not codified, but we practise them now because we have in the past.
I mentioned the reform of question period in my question to the member, and I hope that it comes up again. This is my own personal opinion, but in the spirit of parliamentarians here, I like to put my personal opinion on the record. Question period desperately needs to be reformed. The rules of question period are not as much codified as they are a tradition.
We have a list, which the whips provide, and we go down the list for 45 minutes. It is the same for statements by members, which precede question period for 15 minutes. Where is the flexibility by which we can rise in the House and ask about our own riding or own area of expertise, or announce something that has happened in our riding based on that?
There was a kerfuffle earlier last year about that, based on the subject matter, but the debate was such that the public started to take notice. They started to take notice by saying that they always thought that in the House of Commons, once someone is elected, they can pretty much stand up at any time and be recognized by the Speaker. Well, that is not always the case. Really, the only time is when they call for questions and comments after a debate. Other than that, it is according to a list that is provided.
In some cases, that is fine. If there is a debate, there is the minister and the critic, and others fall into line, depending on their interests.
Quite frankly, though, sometimes we should consider the fact that we need to be far more flexible in the House. It is the spirit of this motion to do that, so I want to applaud the member for doing this and for the changes that were made, such as replacing the party leader in paragraph 67(4)(c) with a person to be designated by each registered political party. Before, it was problematic. I again congratulate the member, because he listened to some of the concerns, even from our own party, about the fact that we would have a person in the riding, and only that person. Now we could designate a person that we desire. That was accepted, if not by the vast majority of our party, at least by the majority, who said that it would be fine and that we would do that following the election.
There is also the review and removal of the party leader. That is something that we can elect to do after the election. There is the election of the interim leader and the election and removal of the caucus chair, as I mentioned earlier, as well as the expulsion and readmission of a caucus member.
That is more codified than it ever was before, and it is overdue. Hopefully, we can keep changing it—not drastically, but so that when something comes up in the future, what we can do as a Parliament is change certain rules here, maybe even some of the things that were brought up by the member and the critic for the NDP. Some of them were valid.
That is the point of this whole debate. The narrative is that in 1970, they brought in a rule that they felt was necessary, but it was incredibly restrictive. Although some people think that this private member's bill is overly prescriptive, the narrative is one that is sound and just, and I respect the member for bringing this in.
This is a free vote, but I am proud to say that as the member of Parliament for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, I will enthusiastically support it on third reading.
- MPlibFeb 03, 2015 3:35 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for his work on the bill. As my colleague pointed out, the marathon session we have been in about the rules and how we deal with them and what is possible under this legislation has certainly been a worthwhile one.
What is possible to achieve that balance between members of Parliament and leaders of the party? We have a free vote on this. I personally liked the bill before. I could have dealt with small changes, but we have some major changes here, and that is fine too.
This may be an unrelated question. The member has been a champion of reforming question period. Will he continue, in the same spirit, with those changes as well?
- MPlibFeb 03, 2015 8:50 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, the member may have misunderstood the first point, because we actually agree with the first point. I think what she is getting at is the data sharing with immigration. She used the figure 40,000 and I do agree with that. That is a valid point. Information sharing with Citizenship and Immigration Canada is necessary.
With respect to the second part of her question about accumulating votes into one riding based on what is outside, that is news to me. I did not know that existed and I am wondering if the hon. member could rise in the House and let me know what riding that is.
- MPlibFeb 03, 2015 8:40 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Ottawa—Vanier.
To the consternation of my colleagues, I was not attempting a bait and switch there. I apologize, but I am sure that members have the deepest respect for the member for Ottawa—Vanier, as I and his constituents do.
I want to start by saying many of the points have been brought out already, and by way of background I want to say that I am a firm believer in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, where in section 3 it says everyone has a right to vote, providing they are a Canadian citizen and 18 years of age or over. The bill raises a lot of questions as to stifling that ability, and that is why I have questions. As another colleague pointed out, obviously with the majority in the House, this bill will end up going to committee, assuming that all members of the governing party vote in favour of this, and when it goes to committee, serious amendments should be sought. I mean serious.
There is one instance where it is positive. The rest, however, raises many questions, and as my colleague pointed out, may result in some chaos, certainly in the administration of our elections, regarding electors outside of the country temporarily or permanently.
I want to talk about some of the things in Bill C-50. I will get to the Frank decision in just a few moments, but first of all, I want to talk about eliminating the register of electors who temporarily reside outside of Canada and incorporating the information found in it into the register of electors. Basically there is a harmonization process that is going on with the process of special balloting.
When we hear Conservatives and the minister, in particular, talk about the same set of rules for both, a lot is being missed, in the sense that the circumstances are different either way. Remember that what is tantamount or most important is not the administration of this and the efficiency of the administration of this. What is most important is that nobody's rights are violated by denying them the right to vote, which is what people talked about with Bill C-23 and now Bill C-50 regarding the suppression of vote. That is the absence of any accusations of that being the intent.
Nevertheless, there is a level of suppression that is a continuation of what we had last, from vouching now to this, not to mention what the voter information card dismissal brought about in the last round of legislation.
The bill would require Canadian electors who reside abroad to apply for registration and a special ballot after the writs are issued at each federal election, stipulating that electors may only receive a special ballot for the address at which they last resided in Canada.
There are a couple of things here. What made it easier in the past was that people could register to vote living outside the country. Now they could only do it when the writ is dropped, and as pointed out before, the time period is of the essence here. The time period would become so narrow. Again these are special circumstances where voters live outside of the country, so we are making it particularly hard for them to do that, in light of the fact that they do have the right to vote.
The bill would require an external auditor to report on election workers, compliance with special ballot voting, procedure, and requirements for every election, and add the offences of attempting to vote by special ballot while knowing that one is not qualified to vote. It refers to electors temporarily residing outside of Canada, electors residing in Canada improperly attesting to the residence of more than one elector, and attesting to the residence of an elector when one's own residence has been attested to.
What we look at here is that we know the government wants to cut down on election fraud. We have heard all this before. It does not want to send a ballot to an address outside of Canada that could be picked up by a non-Canadian citizen. At the same time, we are reverting to a previous argument. The theme is a solution that is looking for a problem. Once again we find it within Bill C-50.
One thing that was brought about in the bill—and I will get to this right now because we agree with it—is authorizing the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to provide the Chief Electoral Officer with information to help the CEO to delete the names of non-citizens from the register of electors.
We grant that it is a process that should be done and should be looked at. Virtually everyone in the House would agree that this is the type of measure that should be taken for the sharing of information to make sure we can exercise our right to vote.
The history behind people outside of the country being allowed to vote goes back to the First World War. The soldiers who fought valiantly for us while overseas were given the right to vote. That is a natural extension of being a Canadian and living in the country that we do, which is so great and wonderful. That extension still applies. There are extensions for people who work for the Government of Canada, whether they work for the military or several embassies around the world, to be able to vote as they would if they were residing in this country.
The question I have, and it has yet to be answered, is with respect to the families, particularly spouses or partners, who are eligible to vote but face different rules than do the people who are employed by the Government of Canada. That is problematic because they have to go through the process of re-registering every five years and the others do not. Therefore, there are different rules applying to two different people who are living in the same residence in another country for the same reason. I hope that some of the amendments would address this issue as we get closer to looking at it in committee.
In 1993, the rules were changed further to allow more people the right to vote. However, we again had the five-year rule that if they had been outside of the country for more than five years they were not eligible to vote, which is their right, despite the fact they are above the age of 18 and Canadian citizens. The Frank decision recently decided that was not good because it denies those Canadian citizens above the age of 18 who happen to reside outside of Canada, whether long or short term, the ability to exercise their right to vote under the Constitution.
In looking at the Frank et al decision, I see that section 3 of the charter states:
Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.
The Frank decision posed this to the government to take action. However, there is some confusion in Bill C-50 as to whether that was done. I am not a constitutional expert, but in reading it I have yet to square it as to where the vote of these people who are more than five years outside the country has been protected, because it is not protected at all. I think an administrative nightmare has been created for many of them to do that. In the past they could register once they were outside the country. They cannot do that anymore. They have to wait for the writ to be dropped. That puts them in a tricky situation as far as timelines are concerned. I understand there are some online mechanisms that the minister has pointed to that would remedy this, but by the same token there is still that process.
The verification of signatures for those people outside of the country appears to be absent from this, or I have yet to see it. I hope the minister can clarify the situation. That qualification is no longer there. It would have made it easier to identify and verify those people based on two signatures, one on the ballot and one on the application form, and that would have gone a long way toward helping Elections Canada. That is something we have to look at.
I would also like to talk about vote shopping. The government has stated on several occasions that vote shopping is a problem. For those Canadians who are not aware of what vote shopping is, in its base form, those people can choose the riding in which they want to vote. However, Elections Canada has never stated that it was a big problem or that there was too much abuse and the law had to be changed. I again go back to the theme that it was a solution looking for a problem. Unfortunately, it would impede their ability to vote; it would impede their right under section 3 of the charter. Therefore, in looking at this, we see the government wants to cut down on an abuse that we are not sure existed to any extent, by making it problematic for those who want to legitimately vote in the riding they left when leaving Canada. That raises many questions.
My final point is with respect to this coming into force in only 60 days. I cannot see how Elections Canada can administer all of these rules in that 60-day period.
- MPlibFeb 03, 2015 8:35 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, to begin I would like to seek unanimous consent to share my time.
- MPlibFeb 03, 2015 8:25 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, we have been through this on a few occasions now, where we have talked about changes to the Canada Elections Act, and here we go once more.
I agree with 99% of his speech. However, one of the issues that I would like to address with him is the issue of coming into force. It states that it would come into force 60 days after royal assent. On top of Elections Canada getting used to the changes made in the former bill, Bill C-23, this will be a particularly hard thing to do, especially when we are dealing with outside entities, and especially with issue he brought up of the Canadian entity.
How do we get the poll clerks trained to the point where they are able to recognize that? It could result in the mass confusion he talked about. I am not sure if he addressed that issue, but could he address the coming into effect of this particular piece of this legislation?
- MPlibFeb 03, 2015 8:00 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, I can obviously tell the minister is fighting a flu, so I will try not to be too long and prolong the agony.
I just want to ask some specific questions. My colleague asked one of them, but there is another one I want to ask. When we talk about people employed by the Government of Canada, such as military personnel, people working in embassies, and so forth, there is an exemption for them, but I am worried about their families who are also Canadian and also eligible to vote. Will they be included in that?
Second, the timelines here are really tight. People have to register. They are living in a country abroad, which could be halfway around the world, and they would have to do three things. They would have to apply, get their ballot, and it then it has to go back as their vote. With a 36-day writ period, it is a very tight timeline for people living halfway around the world to follow.
My third point is about riding shopping, as was described, where one gets to choose any riding. Was that really a problem brought to the minister by Elections Canada or any other entity? In the press release they say that they want to get rid of it, but where is the research showing this was such a major problem and major abuse?
- MPlibFeb 02, 2015 3:10 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, I have been here for 10 years. Ten years ago, when the Conservatives were in opposition, the government put out a pamphlet to all Newfoundlanders that said there was no greater fraud than a promise broken. The Conservatives have managed to make that even worse. Not only did they break a promise, they continue to pretend that they kept it, which makes that fraud even worse in this case.
This deal has gone from being one thing to another with little conversation involved. Would my hon. colleague talk about how, or even why, Newfoundland said to the world that it was this deal and that the Conservatives never said anything otherwise?
- MPlibFeb 02, 2015 2:50 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, if we consider the manufacturing sector, such as the auto sector, there have been many subsidies granted to that sector, for all of the right reasons, in deals which in the beginning resembled what they turned out to be in the end.
The issue in this debate today is not just about CETA, or this particular deal and what flows from the initial agreement with respect to all of these tariffs being reduced. It is wonderful that over 95% of the tariffs would be reduced because in the shrimp sector alone that could represent a big benefit. I do not know why the Conservatives keep asking why we are arguing against that because we are not. The issue, as has been pointed out time and again, is a deal that managed to meander its way to a point where it went from a positive to a negative. As an example, in all of the literature we have seen which stated that it was up to a certain amount of money, the initiatives announced within were always about things like marketing. All of these agreements that the Conservatives use throughout this country would illustrate just that. However, in this case, that is being referred to as a slush fund. I dare them to go to people in any other sector and ask why they are asking for a slush fund. They would not do that. The reason is because they were deals that in many cases were lived up to from the beginning. However, this one went south.
The question is this: Who said what and when? I would like the hon. member to address the issue as to why this deal changed from beginning to end, or perhaps he would like to tell the House that the deal never changed, even though everyone else is saying that it did.
- MPlibFeb 02, 2015 2:35 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
- MPlibFeb 02, 2015 2:10 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, I have great respect for my hon. colleague, who always provides valuable input, but my comments are really angled at ACOA.
The member of Parliament for Labrador sent in an order paper question back in December, and here is the response that she received. I thought I would bring it to the attention of the House and to the minister.
The question asks in part about any involvement by the government in the announcement of October 29, 2013, which is where this debate comes from.
The question following the affirmative answer asked about the nature of that involvement. The response to that particular question was simply, in part, “ACOA was not involved in this file at the time of the announcement.”
We are well aware that ACOA was not involved in the announcement, but it says it was not involved in the file. Why has the minister for ACOA now become the grim reaper of Newfoundland and Labrador, the ultimate deliverer of bad news for Newfoundland and Labrador? Why has the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency become the Atlantic Canada disopportunity agency? I would like to know the answers to these questions, as would a lot of people. Something happened between the time of the announcement and this past fall that made a lot of people start changing their minds, and I think we are facing the government that managed to do that.
- MPlibFeb 02, 2015 1:40 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member could comment on a couple of things about this particular deal.
First, we only have a day to debate this. This is not specifically about the merits of free trade with the European Union. This is about a specific measure between the national government and its subnational government, being Newfoundland and Labrador.
I hearken back to October 2013. In the release that was put out by the provincial government, it states unequivocally:
The fund will be used to invest in research and development, new marketing initiatives, fisheries research, and enhancements....
That is the same line it used throughout the entire spread. From 2013 to 2014, there have been a few correspondences, but nothing was ever made public that pointed out it is wrong.
In other words, the provincial government never said it was only to be used in case of demonstrated losses. Did the federal government point that out to them at some point? Before 2014, in that full year, did it point out that it was wrong in the release? Why would the federal government not do that?
- MPlibFeb 02, 2015 1:00 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, if you would allow me for just a second, I want to answer the question he posed. Now, the hon. member for Newton—North Delta is right, as well, in the fact that we are reinvigorating and growing the industry, which may alleviate any suffering from the removal of the minimum processing requirements.
However, to his question about getting workers for these particular plants, I would just say very succinctly that he is right on target, but wide of the mark. I say so because the fund would have given us the opportunity to market species in a way that we did not have before. Therefore, the new realities realized by the processing industry can be dealt with if, and I say “if”, this money is available, $280 million from the feds and $120 million from the province. Therein lies the essence of the issue.
Again, the free trade itself would provide some of these opportunities via reduced tariffs, but this particular deal that we talk about today, however, casts a different light on this, because the opportunity I mentioned has been squelched somewhat.
To my friend who talked about the other provinces, I appreciate that she talked about the fact that we could be here all day on a litany of broken promises. That is a valid point, but I would like for her to talk about not only the breaking of promises, but also the fact there is a product that is shown in the window and by the time we get to the cash register, the deal has changed.
- MPlibFeb 02, 2015 12:40 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague pointed out the tariff reductions, which are fine, and Liberals agree with that. However, as the member for Northwest Territories pointed out, the gist of this debate is that a negotiation took place between two entities within this country, one national, one sub-national, Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador.
I would like to point something out to the member, though, that I noticed from the very beginning. He said that this is an exercise in posturing. He said “we have seen this movie before”. I have seen this movie before, and he starred in it. Here is what happened.
In November 2004, that gentleman sat down here in opposition and argued vehemently, called it a crime, that then Prime Minister Paul Martin could not, wait for it, make a special deal with Nova Scotia, because it deserved it, because it negotiated, and the prime minister of the day broke his promise. That is what he said then about a special deal. Today he talks about no special deals.
I was wondering if he could comment on that, plus the fact that during the release, Newfoundland and Labrador said this was all about new marketing initiatives, fisheries research, and $400 million. It was not up to $400 million. It was $400 million. Why were they so wrong?
- MPlibFeb 02, 2015 12:10 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, many of the residents of the town of Change Islands in my riding are deeply concerned about the community wharf, which is inoperable for commercial reasons.
The residents want to harvest seafood products, and unfortunately the wharf is not in a state in which it can be improved right now. I have since learned that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has made some improvements. We hope they can go further.
These signatures are from people in the community and in surrounding communities as far away as Gander, who want immediate action to be taken.
- MPlibJan 26, 2015 12:20 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
With respect to the Enabling Accessibility Fund, since September 2011: (a) how many applications (i) were successful and received funding under this program, (ii) were rejected through calls for proposals; (b) with respect to successful applications, what was the location and value of each project, broken down by (i) province, (ii) federal electoral district, (iii) corresponding file and reference number; (c) what is the total cost of administering the program thus far for each year since 2011; (d) how much funding is left; (e) how many major projects under this program will go to, or went to, expanding existing centres; (f) what is the value of the successful major projects applications that went to (i) the construction of new centres, (ii) the expanding of existing centres; (g) how many of the successful Mid-Sized Projects Enabling Accessibility Fund applications went to (i) renovating buildings, (ii) modifying vehicles, (iii) making information and communications more accessible; (h) what is the value of the successful Small Projects Enabling Accessibility Fund applications that went to (i) renovating buildings, (ii) modifying vehicles, (iii) making information and communications more accessible; (i) what is the reason most often given for rejecting an application; (j) what are the reasons given for rejecting an application and what is the frequency of each reason; (k) will the program be renovated next year and, if so, when will the next call for proposals be issued; and (l) with respect to rejected applications, what was the location and value of each proposal, broken down by (i) province, (ii) federal electoral district, (iii) corresponding file and reference number?
- MPlibJan 26, 2015 12:15 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
With respect to servers, including leased physical and virtual servers and cloud-based servers, owned, operated, shared, or otherwise used by the government for all platforms and protocols, broken down by department: (a) what operating system and kernel version is the server using, including, for all unix-variant systems, the output of "uname -a"; (b) in what datacenter is the server physically located; (c) who owns, provides, and operates the server; (d) what is the purpose of the server; (e) for each service provided by the server, what is the name, type, software used, protocol, and listening ports of the service; (f) what security compromises have been detected in each service provided by the server, broken down by (i) the nature of the security compromise (privilege escalation, rooting or rootkits, sniffed packets, compromised passwords, worms, viruses, trojans, lost data storage devices, unauthorised use of information by otherwise authorised users, etc.), (ii) the details of any information accessed without proper authority, damaged, or lost, (iii) the classification and designation of the compromise and the information compromised, (iv) measures taken to prevent further security compromises, (v) date the security compromise was detected, (vi) date the security compromise was believed or found to have taken place, (vii) date the security compromise was resolved; (g) of the security compromises identified in (f), what are the file numbers of any correspondence or government records related to any such security compromises, broken down by (i) relevant file numbers, (ii) correspondence or file type, (iii) subject, (iv) date, (v) purpose, (vi) origin, (vii) intended destination, other officials copied or involved; and (h) on what dates have any threat risk assessments been conducted that affected or involved the server or its surrounding infrastructure, stored data, use, or relevant department?
- MPlibDec 10, 2014 12:00 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, here is a familiar story. The Conservative premier of Newfoundland and Labrador says, “We have a deal.” The Conservative Prime Minister of Canada says, “Oh, no, you don't.” Here we go again.
The feds say today they will only help displaced plant workers, but back in October 2013 a spokesperson for International Trade Canada said, “The program will address fish and seafood industry development and renewal as well as workers whose jobs are displaced....”
The government says it likes to be clear, so now is the time to be clear. Will the fishing industry of Newfoundland and Labrador receive its $280 million, yes or no?
- MPlibDec 03, 2014 1:50 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, sometimes there is a fine line between courage and stupidity, and I do not mean that in a derogatory way. I apologize if he is offended by that, but here is the problem. One cannot rush ahead and do something with bits of information that is put out to the public for people to consume.
I want to repeat what the leader of the NDP said:
The other thing that people have to understand is that even if it's not constitutional change per se, it is profound democratic change, and precisely because of that, it's not the type of thing that you can do either by just snapping your fingers the day after an election, or without profound consultation.
The courage of one's conviction must be measured in the public realm. That is how one gets people to vote for something. What if a referendum were proposed down the road? The information will have to be disseminated better than it has been so far. Luckily, there are people in organizations like Fair Vote Canada and others to do that, to help us have that debate and get through it. The courage that he is talking about is not where the courage lies in making a solid stand, if the NDP wants proportional representation in this country.
- MPlibDec 03, 2014 1:45 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for that. I do respect his opinion.
I do recall some of the changes to the Westminster system, such as what was done in the U.K. regarding the House of Lords. Also, we are looking at proportional representation in Australia as far as the Senate is concerned, as a playoff to that.
These experiments have good and bad parts. Again, we never really had a chance to discuss this. Some people might want to start this process in the Senate to see how it works and how we would go about doing that.
New Zealand had some time to come to terms with this in a couple of referendums. What runs through all this, as he mentioned, is that it is one of the oldest democracies around. To make a profound change like this in a two-and-a-half-hour debate, as prescriptive as it is, I would not find a responsible thing to do.
However, that being said, I am sure that a lot of people will vote to support this measure as it is right now. A lot of people have worked on this and have their opinions. I respect that, even if they do say yes to the proposal today.
- MPlibDec 03, 2014 1:40 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, I respect where the member is coming from on this, and I have even alluded to the fact that the members have been talking about this for quite some time as a party mechanism. However, it has never really gotten to the point of fleshing it out in the public like this. I quoted the member's leader earlier, who just talked about the duty to consult on this profound democratic change. If he wanted to have something decent in the House today that we could all vote for, he could start with paragraph (a) of the motion, by saying that the first-past-the-post system fails us in the numbers that it produces. Then, as I said earlier, if that is followed up with a prescriptive measure that failed in other parts of the country, and miserably failed by a super majority, there is still a lot of work to do before we can actually put this to vote in the House and say it is the best system.
- MPlibDec 03, 2014 1:30 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
He was the leader then, Mr. Speaker. Why so prescriptive now?
We just heard some conflicting views about the fact that there was an open list based on regions, or not, according to the second member. It is prescriptive to a point, but then it stops there. Our party understands about the necessary change.
Someone pointed out earlier that the Liberal Party did not believe in proportional representation in any way, shape or form. Here is what was passed at our Liberal Party convention in 2014. At our biannual convention in Montreal, we said:
—immediately after the next election, an all-Party process be instituted, involving expert assistance and citizen participation, to report to Parliament within 12 months with recommendations for electoral reforms including, without limitation, a preferential ballot and/or a form of proportional representation, to represent Canadians more fairly and serve Canada better.
That is a party position.
Despite that, however, because of the lack of information here, our leader has chosen to have a free vote. I have no doubt that many of our members will vote in favour of this because they believe it would be the best way to go. They have studied this option and they fully believe that. However, they are not happy about the fact that this has not been engaged in a citizenship discussion, and that is too bad. Some of the consultations that did take place were a resounding no.
I asked proponents of this type of mixed-member system of proportional representation what they did during the referendum in their province. They said they voted against it because they really did not understand it. Many people in Ontario and P.E.I. who were faced with this type of system said that. That has to tell us as parliamentarians that we need to have open and public consultation across the country.
That was decided upon in British Columbia. In May 2005, B.C. had a controversial referendum. The result of the STV, single transferrable vote, was 57.69% in favour, but it did not pass because the threshold was set at 60%. It decided to do it again. In May 2009, it was decided to do the identical referendum to resolve the ambiguity and the proposal was rejected by 60%. Over four years, B.C. had a chance to look at it, but maybe it did not like it. In all fairness, that was not the system the NDP has proposed today. It was a different one, the single transferrable vote.
People in British Columbia told me they did not have all of the information. Some people had some really good arguments. I met with a group called Fair Voting BC, which had some great arguments as to why we should consider doing this. I thought it, along with Fair Vote Canada, provided some profound arguments. We should learn from what the people in B.C. have done, maybe from the mistakes they made or maybe put more information out there.
In November 2005, Prince Edward Island held a referendum on MMP, which was defeated by 63.58% of the vote. Again, what was one of the most common complaints? Not enough information.
In May 2009, B.C. redid the identical referendum, as I mentioned earlier, which was defeated by 60% of the vote.
In October 2007, Ontario held a referendum, and 63.13% decided that it was not for them, and in that one we heard a lot about misinformation and not a lot of people felt comfortable enough to vote for it.
Remember, those people want to change the system, but what do they want to change it to? What is it to become?
There are groups out there that are very active social media, such as Fair Vote Canada. It is going through a process of collecting information so it can make that argument. It will not make the mistake where people did not know a lot about it. It wants to get it the information out there. It wants to sell a form of proportional representation that it feels is beneficial, as Doug Bailie, the president, pointed out. This was mentioned earlier by my colleague.
To be so prescriptive as we are now is not a good idea, in my opinion. As I said, other people in this party will vote for it. That is why we have the free vote. Even the leader of the NDP said, “You can't shove it down people's throats”. Why?
The New Democrats have said that we will have a form of system. When I read it that it was a form of mixed-member proportional representation, I thought maybe that this was of some benefit. If it were a form of it, then we would have is a parallel system. We would have people directly elected first past the post and then we also would have our open list. I did not even know it was an open list until the debate started.
I am not sure if this is evolving as we go along, not that there is anything wrong with that. However, I feel like I am not given that choice right now.
I applaud the efforts of the critic of the NDP for what he wants to do. As the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent pointed out, we need to be more collegial on these issues. We never had a discussion on this. I feel like this was only put in there as a wedge, that the members of one party in the House wanted to take this issue upon themselves. I will give them credit. They were talking about this before most other parties were. This is my way of reaching out and saying, “Let's do this”. If they are so right, why do they not discuss it with us?
Our resolution in the Liberal Party stated that we wanted to look at a form of it. In fact, our resolution mirrors what their leader said a year and a half ago, almost to the word, but now it is about wedge politics.
The NDP has stood each and every day and preached openly about the duty to consult, that the Conservative government does not want to consult with people. Well then what is this? We take it upon the research of others. We can go to provinces like Ontario and P.E.I. Those are the only two provinces that have faced this. What about the other provinces? They never have had to face a referendum like this. Now we are in this situation.
I am still waiting to see how this debate unfolds. Quite frankly, if we are going to look at a form of proportional representation, the one the New Democrats are proposing is probably one of the more favourable ones. Germany and New Zealand have it, but let us put all the facts out there.
It is said that when MMP was introduced, voter turnout in New Zealand went up. That is true. The following election it went to a historic low. Therefore, how do we deal with that? We deal with it by having an open discussion on how it has worked in other countries, even if we have to look at countries as far away as Djibouti, which has it. Maybe there is something in that. However, I do not know if we even have an open-list concept that we can draw upon.
We talk about the coalition between the Christian Democrats and the Social Democratic Party over in Germany, but at what point on election night do they get to that point? How is Germany favoured in doing so? I would like to know.
This is a free vote for us but we do not have a lot of time to discuss this. Back in 2013 the leader of the NDP had it right. This should not be shoved down anyone's throat. It should be talked about in an open manner so that people understand that this, as the NDP leader said, is “a profound democratic change”. I applaud the people who want to change our system, because we want to change it too.
- MPlibDec 03, 2014 1:25 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, I am really enjoying this debate. We get to talk about democratic reform in a very precise manner.
We are focusing on the one system that has been put forward in our country, which is talked about ad nauseam in many forums, not just in this country but around the world, and that is the MMP, mixed member proportional representation. However, I am surprised at how prescriptive the motion is.
I will read parts of the motion, and I want to illustrate to the House how important it is, such that countries around the world had this discussion, including Canadian provinces in the form of referendum. There were citizen assemblies created and referendums in New Zealand as well as in this country. The process was a long one and consulted dramatically. It consulted with an entire nation, or in our case, consulted with an entire province. Therefore, I find the motion a little too prescriptive.
Let us dissect the motion for a moment, starting with (a), as follows:
(a) the next federal election should be the last conducted under the current first-past-the-post electoral system which has repeatedly delivered a majority of seats to parties supported by a minority of voters, or under any other winner-take-all electoral system;
The critic from the NDP pointed out inflated majorities, and I agree with him. Numbers such as gaining 41% of the vote but getting 60% of the seats are troubling to all Canadians, and they want to rectify that. Therefore, when it comes (a), it sounds good to me. This is a good basis for a debate in which we can fix the problems with the system. Such was illustrated when the Progressive Conservatives went down to two seats but received a substantial amount of the vote. It becomes regional in nature, such as the first-past-the-post system, and therefore we need to fix that system in and of itself. I do not disagree with that whatsoever.
However, I find the second part quite surprising. It reads:
and; (b) a form of mixed-member proportional representation would be the best electoral system for Canada.
It begins with “and (b)”. I do not know if that is what is being recommended or if the NDP is proclaiming that it is the best one. Says who?
Personally, even if I did find this to be the best system, I could not say that without a full debate in the House. We are only here for a couple of hours. Let us take a look at the track record. Let us take a look at other systems.
Someone said that the people of British Columbia also turned it down. Actually, they voted on something else, the single transferrable vote, which is a different system. Now we are talking about multi-member ridings, which is completely different.
I was shocked when I saw the consultation. I have talked with NDP members on many occasions, I have spoken to Fair Vote Canada, Fair Voting BC, and to the opponents of proportional representation and received their views on it. However, to me, it seems that I am only scratching the surface every time I do this, because there is so much more to discuss.
I am surprised, because when we had the Fair Elections Act, or unfair elections act, whatever members want to call it, when the minister brought that to the House and we passed it, I remember NDP members saying, unequivocally, that the one thing they did not like was the fact that it was overly prescriptive.
For example, when Elections Canada advertises, it likes to advertise to promote voting, to get more people to vote and get those numbers up. I agree with that. However, the government decided to take that away and have it advertise only the location, when and where, one could vote, and that is it. The NDP members said that this was overly prescriptive and we should not do that. Therefore, why are they forcing us to vote on just one system? It is one narrow system already turned down by other provinces. Why was it turned down by other provinces?
People in Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick would like to know because they have never faced this type of referendum before. There is so much to be talked about. To me, this sums up why we should have consultation.
One particular politician from Quebec said a year and a half ago in an interview:
The other thing that people have to understand is that even if it's not constitutional change per se, it is profound democratic change, and precisely because of that, it's not they type of thing that you can do either by just snapping your fingers the day after an election, or without profound consultation.
He further went on to say:
People have to be brought in. It's a little like any form of development -- this is democratic development -- and it has to be from the base up. People have to agree with it. You can't shove it down people's throats.
Who said that? The leader of the NDP.
This was not said several years ago. If he had said this about 20 years ago, I would understand, but he said this on May 7, 2013—
- MPlibDec 03, 2014 12:15 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, I submit a petition on behalf of the many residents in my riding regarding postal services, which have diminished greatly over the past while: Saturday services, home delivery, as well as extended hours, and in many cases small communities actually losing their postal outlet.
This petition comes from the community of Leading Tickles.
- MPlibDec 02, 2014 10:30 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
For the sake of clarity for the House, Mr. Speaker, he actually can get a private member's bill through if he gets a royal recommendation. He did not get the right permission. That was the deal.
- MPlibDec 02, 2014 10:25 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
He takes our breath away.
- MPlibNov 28, 2014 8:50 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, the situation right now is very dire for the community of Change Islands in my riding.
The community in Change Islands has the potential to have a fantastic operation in its fish plant, and success is near. However, the problem is the adjacent wharf. The wharf itself has been deemed unsafe, unfit, and now an impediment to any success they might have from the fish plant.
I ask the minister to please assess the situation with the wharf that the community manages. Get in there, assess the situation, and put some investment in that wharf for the community of Change Islands.
- MPlibNov 24, 2014 12:15 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, this year the town of Horwood, in Newfoundland and Labrador, celebrates Come Home Year 2014.
I have a petition to present in this House of Commons regarding Canada Post. The reduction in services has caused great concern in many rural communities, especially in this particular community of Horwood. I have around 40 names from that one community. People are deeply concerned about the lack of postal services and the future reduction of services in that community.
- MPlibNov 17, 2014 3:20 pm | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
With regard to questions Q-1 to Q-644 submitted to the Order Paper during the Second Session of the 41st Parliament: (a) what are the details of all information, provided by responding departments to the Privy Council Office (PCO), that was omitted in the final responses to the questions; (b) what are the details of any correspondence, memos, notes, emails, or other communications, sent within the relevant departments, within the PCO, or transmitted between the departments and the PCO, regarding the omission of such information, broken down by (i) relevant file numbers, (ii) correspondence or file type, (iii) subject, (iv) date, (v) purpose, (vi) origin, (vii) intended destination, (viii) other officials copied or involved; (c) what are the reasons for the omission of information in the responses to these questions; and (d) what are the details of all objections to such omissions?
- MPlibNov 07, 2014 9:25 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
With regard to government funding, for each fiscal year since 2007-2008 inclusive: (a) what are the details of all grants, contributions, and loans to any organization, body, or group in the electoral district of Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, providing for each (i) the name of the recipient, (ii) the location of the recipient, indicating the municipality, (iii) the date, (iv) the amount, (v) the department or agency providing it, (vi) the program under which the grant, contribution, or loan was made, (vii) the nature or purpose; and (b) for each grant, contribution and loan identified in (a), was a press release issued to announce it and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline, (iii) file number of the press release?
- MPlibOct 31, 2014 11:30 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
My apologies, Mr. Speaker. I went off on a bit of a party tangent.
However, I will say that we do this for a reason, for national interest, to allow someone to sit at cabinet from any particular region of the country, in the same way that the constitution of committees would also benefit from that. I do understand that he is saying they can trade, if need be. A lot of that might happen under his particular motion. However, it is rather prescriptive in how it handles this. Remember, we only get one vote for this and then all of the rules are changed instantly. I would go back to that argument about the procedure and House affairs committee.
The other part with regard to committees is that I have no problem with there being more members, allowing for the fact that there are 30 new seats coming into this House. That is right: we are going to go from 308 members to 338 members across this country.
My final point is that I agree with my colleague from the official opposition. On Bill C-23, we also supported the voice of the independent member of Parliament by allowing that person to have more power within the committee structure. It is a bit difficult to do, but nevertheless it is legitimate. When that person runs as an independent member of Parliament, some of the freedoms and obviously some of the rules that benefit certain parties should benefit that member as well.
As the Liberal Party, we have made moves lately for reform, such as transparency of all of our expenses. We would take the partiality out of the Senate.
We look forward to this debate, and hopefully within the next hour of debate we will also shed more light on all of the topics that my hon. colleague has brought forward, because it is quite—
- MPlibOct 31, 2014 11:20 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, within the eight minutes, I hope to shed some light on the debate. However, many of the points that I wanted to bring up have already been covered by all three of my colleagues here in the House, including the mover of the motion, the member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.
There was certainly a lot of work involved in this proposal. The motion is quite broad in scope, with sweeping measures that would be brought in with one particular vote.
For that reason, I share some of the concerns of my other colleagues, outside of the mover of the motion, in that once it is done, it is done, and then the changes would take place within the Standing Orders. It has been common practice here to take reforms of this magnitude before the procedure and House affairs committee to study. The committee then calls certain experts in the field, along with former parliamentarians and Speakers of the House. Once that is done, the procedure is to come back and report the findings to the House of Commons, and at that point any of the members, excluding cabinet and the Speaker, could produce a motion that picks up on it.
I have no problem supporting some motions that would make changes to the Standing Orders. Some of the particular instances that the member has here have quite a bit of merit and I would vote for them outright, but on others I would want to have more answers before I could decide to move on them.
For example, the hon. member from Ontario, the mover of Bill C-586— the reform act, as it was called across the country—brought in measures prior to that pertaining to question period and its function. The hon. member who spoke on behalf of the government also brought up that point. He quoted from O'Brien and Bosc and talked about how the conduct of question period is based more on precedence and tradition than on what exists in the current Standing Orders. However, my hon. colleague from Ontario was talking about the fact that at the end of question period there would be more flexibility to allow an individual member to stand up and ask a question. Most likely it would pertain to the member's particular riding, as opposed to a particular strategy or news of the day that was national in scope. That is something I would vote for outright.
The allowance for individual members' questions is outlined here in O'Brien and Bosc and our current Standing Orders, which describe the function of question period and how it operates. The motion before us would codify some of what has been performed more by tradition than anything else, and for that I congratulate the member, because more clarity around how we behave is certainly welcome.
The member talked about the three main measures. I spoke about the one pertaining to question period. Another measure is the constitution of certain committees.
As others have said, and as I thought when I first read it, it is a novel concept, because people who do not have first chance at bringing private members' bills would, at least on the other end of that, have a chance to sit on the committee that they desire.
For example, the largest industry in my sector is the fishing industry. I would love to be on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, but it is difficult because we only get one seat. This measure would give me a better chance of doing that. For that reason, yes, I would agree with it.
However, the problem is that parties here in the House have to weigh the national interest with regional interests, gender interests, and so forth. For instance, if someone in the caucus is a member of a visible minority, that person would be beneficial on a particular committee.
By way of another example, if a member formerly served in the Canadian Forces and has a genuine interest in sitting on the veterans affairs committee, I think it is legitimate to ask to do so. However, it is best for that member to make the case in front of people who make the decision and not do it through a draw or a lottery. That said, these are the two ways that we deal with it.
Again, I applaud what the member is trying to do here, because the power of the individual member of Parliament has been eroded for quite some time.
I defend what he is doing, which is why sending it to the procedure and House affairs committee would have probably been a better route. Certainly whether this motion succeeds or it does not, maybe we should consider asking the procedure and House affairs committee to go forward with a study anyway, to see how we can increase the role or the powers of individual members of Parliament.
Again, I would turn to the example about interest: regional interests, gender, and visible minorities. This is what we do in selecting cabinet. When the governments of the day select a cabinet, they use those criteria. It is not just about a particular person who is well suited for that job; they have to consider regional interests.
Right now there is nobody sitting in cabinet from Newfoundland and Labrador. That is because there is nobody on the government side who was elected from Newfoundland and Labrador. There are no Conservatives who have been elected there. I have always said they are a smart bunch in Newfoundland and Labrador. I have always given them credit for that, and I continue to do so, of course.
- MPlibOct 31, 2014 10:55 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, in the past, whenever we have put forward motions or bills that have affected the Standing Orders, in a lot of cases, as a preamble, we have recommended that they go to the procedure and House affairs committee for study first and that members come back with a proposal. They would then put forward a motion based on the findings of experts, parliamentarians, former parliamentarians, and even Speakers of the House.
I have no doubt that what the hon. member has before us stands in good order, but I wonder if he considered that as a first option.
- MPlibOct 31, 2014 9:25 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, I want to again add my voice to the debate about Canada Post. I have a petition with well over 200 signatures regarding the reduction of hours of service, specifically for Saturday. In a lot of the smaller communities, the hours have been eliminated, quite frankly, for Saturday service. Other communities are suffering problems due to the elimination of the entire operation, but this petition comes from the town of Peterview in my riding.
- MPlibOct 24, 2014 9:00 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
With respect to boat operator licenses issued in the Atlantic provinces by Transport Canada: (a) for each license issued since 2009, (i) on what date was each license issued, (ii) who were the owners or operators, (iii) under what conditions, if any, for the use, retention, or renewal of the license was it issued; (b) for each vessel whose license was suspended, rejected, or for which a renewal was denied, (i) on what date was the license suspended, rejected, or the renewal denied, (ii) for what reason(s), (iii) on whose authority, (iv) what are the file numbers of all relevant ministerial briefings or departmental correspondence between the government and all entities, departments, companies, contractors, or individuals, broken down by minister or department, relevant file number, correspondence or file type, date, purpose, origin, intended destination, other officials copied or involved; (c) what are the specific rules for the retention or renewal of any such license; (d) what are all rules, files, and correspondence related to observer and dockside monitoring of these license-holders and users, broken down by (i) all relevant file numbers, (ii) entities, companies, contractors, or individuals, (iii) minister or department, (iv) correspondence or file type, (v) date, (vi) purpose, (vii) origin, (viii) intended destination, (ix) other officials copied or involved, (x) military base, asset, or facility, (xi) type of activity or contract; (e) what differences exist in the conditions for licenses between different regions, zones, or provinces; and (f) what are the rules specific to keeping as opposed to releasing fish caught on boats used for recreational or touristic purposes, broken down by province and number of applicable licensees?
- MPlibSep 29, 2014 10:30 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, that is a valid point. I did not bring that up in my speech, but it is true. There is time allotted for members of the government to ask their own ministers questions. Recently I have seen more questions and answers in government, if they want to look at that as complete satisfaction, that have been satisfied more, and exceedingly so over the past little while. It always comes with flattering comments toward the minister, which is fine; rhetoric is rhetoric, and we all do it. However, at the same time those questions are always addressed directly, so the capability of doing that is there.
We have seen this time and again. We would only ask that if they cannot come up with the answer directly that they at least have enough respect for other members, as well as for the Canadian public, to stay within the realm of possibility, or certainly stay within the realm of what pertains to the subject at hand.
- MPlibSep 29, 2014 10:25 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
. That is right, Mr. Speaker. The dance is for two people. The answer has to accompany and come back to the particular issue of the administration of government.
- MPlibSep 29, 2014 10:20 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, if I said no, the member would be shocked. Yes, I do agree with him, and on many levels.
The Speaker can challenge me as to whether this is relevant or not, but if I want to make a call to find out about a particular individual in my riding with respect to, for example, a fishing licence, I used to be able to call a mid-level bureaucrat and get answers right away. I am not talking about anything political; I just want the answers with respect to this constituent. I am that person's direct representative and I have the right to do so. However, the bureaucrat cannot answer the question because I have to call the minister's office for the sake of efficiency.
Quite frankly, I think what the Conservatives are trying to do is funnel the message toward them. I do not know if they want to find out what would be in question period the next day or whether I am trying score political points or so on. They can even listen to the conversation if they want, and they would know that my intentions are sincere.
Coming back to the relevant matter, question period is about the opposition. It traditionally always has been and it always will be. Even when I first came in here as part of the government, there were a lot of questions that came up. I was sitting on the government backbench. I did not like the questions, but I certainly liked and appreciated the fact that question period existed. Now it almost seems as though the fact that question period exists is sacrosanct to fundamental elements of democracy. Where does it go when we reach that low point?
- MPlibSep 29, 2014 10:00 am | Newfoundland, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise in the House and debate this motion for several reasons.
I have been here since 2004 and I have heard the debate go back and forth. I have also sat through question period in all its grandeur and not so much grandeur. I have said before and I will say it again that I have always considered question period to be one of the most expensive dinner theatres ever run in this country—
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