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    • MPconblog Joe_Preston 1825 post Reform Act, 2014

      Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased to stand today and speak on my friend's bill, Bill C-586.

      Before I get to my specific comments, I want to thank the member for Wellington—Halton Hills for his hard work. I know that this has not been easy to do, and sometimes it was a case of friend against friend discussing the bill. However, he brought dedication, spirit, and collaboration to the endeavour, which is not always shown in this place. When we do take the time to listen to the views of others, we sometimes get it right, or, as the member has said, it is perhaps not perfect, but we do take steps to get there. The hon. member has shown an extraordinary openness to discuss and, some might say, compromise, but at least he worked together with others here in the House. That certainly helped the bill make it through committee.

      I will begin my comments with a brief outline of how we have arrived at this point.

      The first iteration of the bill was introduced late 2013. After consultation with colleagues and many discussions among ourselves, and not even with the member sometimes, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills introduced a modified version of the bill in the spring of 2014.

      Since April, many in the House have reviewed, considered, and discussed the revised bill. In its original form, the bill would have made substantial changes to the Westminster system of governance, which needed to be carefully considered. I personally spent a lot of time talking to the member for Wellington—Halton Hills and others. We talked about proposed changes, and through the summer I realized that while I might not like the bill entirely, boy there was some good stuff in it, as the member said, and so we had to work to get it here.

      My colleague, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, worked with members on both sides of the House to improve the bill, and in September he announced further changes. It was also announced that political parties would remain in charge of their own nomination rules and have freedom to choose who approves candidates, which is such a large step. I do not think members recognize how large a step that is. This would allow caucuses to determine whether they wanted to opt in or opt out of some of these processes.

      I think there may be some initial fears about some of the changes that have been suggested, but as the member has said, we cannot reach for the stars without taking a couple of steps forward, which is exactly how this would happen. We cannot have it all at once, but we will never finish the trip if we do not take the first steps.

      I was pleased to see some of the further changes. I listened intently to the debate in the House at second reading, and then the bill came to committee. It is the changes that were made at the procedure and House affairs committee that I will focus the rest of my comments on.

      As the chair of the committee, I have been there a long time, and the rules of this place, as the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor said, sometimes get in the way. People do not understand why a rule is there and why a member cannot just stand up and do something about it.

      I thank the member for Toronto—Danforth for his great help at committee on this, but as he said, the procedures are what run this place, and if we write the right rules the place will run better, and if we write bad rules it will not. The member for Wellington—Halton Hills has it somewhere nearer to right, I might chance to say. However, as the chair of the committee, I must take a non-partisan role throughout all of the points I have discussed so far. When the bill gets to committee, I must help the committee move it as we can. Personally, I had some great thoughts as to what could be done, but we had to let it get there, and I thank the member for the kind comments about the work the committee did.

      I will talk about some of the rules in the bill.

      Regarding the role of the party leader to endorse candidates, as I said, it is a huge step forward when we can designate the person who would do that. If we take out of the law the provision that it is the party leader who endorses candidates, will that be a great change? We will see. As each party grows into the system, we will find out.

      As I said, section 67(4)(c) of the Canada Elections Act currently requires candidates to have the signed approval of their party leader. That could now change, and we expressed that we hope it will.

      A number of commentators have pointed out that the nomination contests represent the most fundamental element of our democratic system; that is, the people back home choose who is going to run to represent them back home. It is important that sometimes the party stays out of the way on that. This bill would help do that.

      The original version of Bill C-586 would have amended the Canada Elections Act to dictate a more elaborate process, but we have now got it to where each party can choose its own and, through a democratic procedure, make that happen. I think it is important that we have that freedom.

      This led to an important debate in the House about how to uphold the independence of parties and their right to decide how to function as private organizations and, in fact, function differently from other parties. I think the internal workings of parties need to have that type of flexibility.

      As amended by the procedure and House affairs committee, the requirement for the party leader's signature would be replaced with a more open requirement of the signature of a person or persons authorized by the political party to endorse prospective candidates.

      Those are just words on a piece of paper, but I find them to be extremely significant in this place. When we can change the rules to make the place work better, change party rules to make parties work better, we have accomplished something.

      It would also remove the presumption that only the party leader has the ultimate power to endorse candidates while, at the same time, recognizing the right of parties to tailor their process to meet the unique needs of that party. Large, small, national in scope, or not national in scope, all of these things can now be taken into consideration. We would have that flexibility when we pass this bill that we did not have the moment before.

      At committee, we also discussed caucus members and party leaders. The other key aspects of Bill C-586 are the provisions for the removal and the re-admission of caucus members and the removal of party leaders. These were discussions and parts of the bill.

      Unlike the role the party leader plays in endorsing prospective candidates, the rules and procedures of party caucuses have never been set out in standard. There is not something we could point to and say, “That is what they are”.

      In fact, we are ploughing some new ground here, certainly, in this Parliament, giving those options for a caucus to meet immediately after election and decide what rules it would be run by in the election of caucus leaders and the election of how to admit caucus members or dismiss caucus members.

      Again, having spent some time in this place, I know these are extremely large decisions. We may look back on this day and say, “I remember when we allowed ourselves to have the freedom to do exactly that”.

      Parties must have the freedom to organize themselves as they see fit. Again, what works for one party may not always work well for the other. However, the bill from the member for Wellington—Halton Hills would allow that freedom between those parties.

      I believe there are important changes in the reform act.

      I have spent a great deal of time working with a great group of people at the procedure and House affairs committee, moving things forward that are hard to do, but sometimes they are not as rewarding as I find the bill today from the member for Wellington—Halton Hills is, and would be, going forward. We have accomplished something here and I am proud to be able to do it. I am proud, now, to able to stand in the House, remove my non-partisan hat that I have to wear at committee in order to make things happen functionally, and say that I will be standing to support this bill and I hope all other members will.

      • MPlibblog Scott_Simms 1673 post Reform Act, 2014

        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.

        • MPndpblog Jack Harris 262 post Business of Supply

          Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor does not think this debate is a waste of time. However, he raises a very good point. If this were a fisheries adjustment fund, we would have the minister responsible for Service Canada implementing this for worker adjustment. We would not have ACOA. We might have the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans or something like that.

          This is an industry fund for research and development and things like that. The Minister of State for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency was brought in after the fact. He was not part of the deal. He did not negotiate the deal. He was brought in for implementation purposes only, to implement a deal that was about industry renewal, industry development, research and development, and innovation, those things his ministry does in other aspects of industry, so it is not surprising to me.

          What is surprising to me is that he has been told to do something that is not even related to his department, which is basically worker adjustment. I am afraid we have a serious problem here, and that minister has been sent out to carry the bad can for a government that would not keep its deal.

          • MPnews news Working out what's 'fishy' about the Fair Elections Act - www.brantnews.com
            With some prodding from fellow Newfoundlander Dave Jensen, MP Scott Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor) showed fellow Liberals how to kiss the fish before a screech-in ceremony at a fundraising dinner for Brantford-Brant Liberal candidate ... read more
            Jan 29, 2015 12:41 am> |
            • MPnews news Working out what's 'fishy' about the Fair Elections Act - www.brantnews.com
              With some prodding from fellow Newfoundlander Dave Jensen, MP Scott Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor) showed fellow Liberals how to kiss the fish before a screech-in ceremony at a fundraising dinner for Brantford-Brant Liberal candidate ... read more
              Jan 28, 2015 4:21 pm> |
              • MPnews news Working out what's fishy about the Fair Elections Act - www.brantnews.com
                With some prodding from fellow Newfoundlander Dave Jensen, MP Scott Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor) showed fellow Liberals how to kiss the fish before a screech-in ceremony at a fundraising dinner for Brantford-Brant Liberal candidate ... read more
                Jan 27, 2015 9:36 am> |
                • MPlibblog Scott_Simms 132 post Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

                  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?

                  • MPconblog BarryDevolin_MP 86 post Amendments to Standing Orders

                    Order, please. The Chair must interrupt at this time. The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor will have two minutes remaining when this matter returns before the House.

                    However, it being 2:30 p.m., the motion that the House do now adjourn is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until Monday at 2 p.m., pursuant to an order made on Monday, October 27.

                    (The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)

                    • MPconblog BarryDevolin_MP 23 post Amendments to Standing Orders

                      Resuming debate, there are eight minutes remaining today for the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

                      • MPconblog bruce_stanton 17 post Business of Supply

                        Questions and comments, the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

                        • MPndpblog Joe Comartin 33 post Business of Supply

                          Order. The member for Winnipeg North still has five minutes of questions and comments.

                          The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

                          • MPconblog BarryDevolin_MP 42 post Business of Supply

                            Order, please.

                            Questions and comments.

                            The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

                            • MPndpblog Peter Julian 251 post Business of Supply

                              Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor for bringing forward this motion.

                              I am curious. This motion on closure and time allocation the member is raising in regard to the Canada Elections Act and the Parliament of Canada Act we certainly support, but the problem has been far more widespread than that. As members know, we have seen omnibus budget implementation that has gutted our environmental assessments and has destroyed the independent ability of the National Energy Board to make independent decisions without being overruled by cabinet decree. We have seen huge bricks brought forward. Even though we are going to spend the whole day on this motion, and we are supporting it, I do not understand why the motion is limited to just two bills.

                              There is the Official Languages Act, the Canada Health Act, and a whole range of other legislation. There is the continual abuse of Parliament that takes place through the current government's omnibus budget bills. I do not understand why none of that is in the Liberal motion.

                              Could the member clarify why, when they have the whole day, and certainly we are supportive of putting a close to the abusive nature of time allocation and closure, the Liberal Party is limiting the motion to just two bills?

                              • MPconblog bruce_stanton 95 post Election of the Speaker

                                I appreciate the intervention by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. I think there will be some time so that we can accommodate the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor and we will be able to get him into the rotation in the time permitting.

                                The hon. parliamentary secretary.

                                • MPlibblog Joyce Murray 2744 post Business of Supply

                                  Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to today's motion. I also want to congratulate my colleague the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor for putting the motion forward. This would be an important step forward. I will repeat the text of the motion:

                                  That the House recognize the importance of transparency and accountability in the expenditure of taxpayers’ money and also recognize that the majority of parties have already begun disclosing the travel and hospitality expenses of their Members; and therefore call on the Board of Internal Economy to instruct the non-partisan professional administrative staff of the House of Commons to begin posting all travel expenses incurred under the travel point system as well as hospitality expenses of Members to the Parliament of Canada website in a manner similar to the guidelines used by the government for proactive disclosure of ministerial expenses.

                                  Why does that make sense?

                                  Canadians' trust in public office-holders and politicians was seriously eroded in past weeks by the ethics scandal involving the $90,000 payment by the Prime Minister's chief of staff to a sitting legislator and the holier-than-thou attitude of the Conservatives in power.

                                  There are a number of reasons to do this next move in transparency and openness. Canadians have a right to know how their money is spent, and there is significant public concern.

                                  Having said that, I want to touch on the remarks that the member for Burnaby—New Westminster has made in his indignation, calling on us to end the self-policing system. I want to reinforce the calm and practical words of the member for Labrador, a new member to the House, who is very experienced in parliament in her home province and who understands very well, as we all do, that this is not a self-policing system and that in fact there are non-partisan House of Commons administrative employees who process all claims and make payments for the bulk of our expenses, ensuring that they comply with the rules on how budgets can be spent.

                                  To leave the impression that this is a self-policing system adds to the damage we are seeing done to the reputation of parliamentarians in the House of Commons, and I hope that the temperature of this kind of indignation can cool down and that all parties can work together in a spirit of co-operation to support the Liberal motion.

                                  Having noted that a non-partisan House of Commons administrative employee will be the one who processes claims according to the rules, and they are very strict, as my colleague from Labrador has mentioned, more can be done. Why do we need to do more? Clearly, there is a democratic deficit in our country and that is leading to a loss of trust in Parliament and in parliamentarians. There are many reasons for that and I will go into some of those later, but an indication of the lack of trust and erosion of trust in our democracy and in our parliamentary system can be found in some quotes that I will provide.

                                  In an address in 2009 by the President and CEO of the Public Policy Forum, David J. Mitchell, he said that according to EKOS, a polling company, “Canadians' trust in government to do what is right has steadily declined by a total of 30% from 1968 to 2006”. That is government, not Parliament, but government is part of the whole institution of our democracy and so that affects the reputation of parliamentarians as well.

                                  Also, according to Mr. Mitchell, who quoted a Gallup poll, confidence in the House of Commons fell 26% from 1979 to 2001, and during that same period, trust in political parties in Canada declined by 17%.

                                  According to Elections Canada studies, there has been a steady increase in negative perceptions of public sector waste, “crookedness”, and ethical standards since the 1960s. This is a regrettable decline in confidence in Canada's core democratic systems and institutions.

                                  That is from 2009. How are we doing since then? The Conference Board of Canada recently gave Canada a C and said that we ranked sixth among 16 peer countries and that public confidence in Parliament has declined in most of the peer countries over the last two decades. Therefore, we may be in the middle third of the set of 16 countries; however, confidence in all of those countries has been declining. We know that confidence in the political institutions is crucial for the stability of societies and for the functioning of democracy. Actually, there is research showing that the health of the democracy of a country is directly correlated with the health of its economy; so this ties right into the pocketbooks of Canadians.

                                  In June 2013, The Globe and Mail quoted a former deputy minister of the New Brunswick commission on legislative democracy. David McLaughlin noted that trust in Canada's Parliament and MPs was among the lowest of some 26 countries in a polling survey conducted in 2012. Mr. McLaughlin said another survey last spring found a 20-point drop in democratic satisfaction in Canada in 8 years, to just over half of Canadians being satisfied with their democracy.

                                  That is not good enough, and that is a precipitous drop over the period of this Conservative government.

                                  In 2012, AmericasBarometer claimed its research showed that only 17% of Canadians trust Parliament and only 10% trust political parties. These are different numbers, but they are all about trust and confidence in Parliament. Of course, if questions are asked differently, there will be some difference in the results that are being acquired. However, all of this is not good enough.

                                  Frank Graves of EKOS polling, in 2014, noted this in his analysis. “If we wanted a one-sentence summary of what the polls told us about Canadian democracy in 2013, it would be this: We're losing faith”. That is what the Canadian public told EKOS pollsters. When asked, “Which of the following choices best reflects your deepest concerns about the future?”, the top choice was “Acute decline of our democratic and public institutions”.

                                  I have more statistics along that line, but that is enough to really demonstrate that there is a loss of public confidence in our Parliament, in our government, and in our democracy. We know that is the wrong direction. We need to be moving public confidence in the other direction.

                                  When there is a lack of trust in Parliament, there is a lack of trust in our democracy, and then Canadians limit their participation with democracy; so it can become a downward spiral if they are not engaging with the policies, the laws, and the bills. They are then less likely to support them, and those bills and policies are less likely to reflect their input. This is a downward spiral that we cannot afford in our country.

                                  I was born in a country that did not have democracy during the seven years I lived there. That is South Africa. It is a very personal matter for me to be aware of the health of Canadian democracy and to take the responsibility as a member of Parliament, as most of us do, to build the trust and confidence in our democracy. I have seen the kind of society one has when one does not have a democracy that is working and is trusted.

                                  In South Africa recently, we saw the passing away of Nelson Mandela, who was an absolute hero around the world for the work he did to bring democracy to a country that did not have it for so long, and he did it in a way that brought people together, rather than dividing them. In the spirit of the contributions that Mr. Mandela, Madiba, made to the world, I take it as a personal challenge and responsibility to do what I can, and I know that many of my colleagues feel that way as well in the quest for restoring the democracy of our country.

                                  There are reasons why the trust in democracy is eroding. Over the last eight years, there has been some acceleration of that distrust. I would contend that there are deliberate decisions and policies made by the Conservative government that have contributed to that. I need to mention some of them, even though the motion Liberals are putting forward is one that we are hoping will be supported by all parties in a spirit of co-operation.

                                  It is important to note that some of this erosion of trust in our democracy, institutions, Parliament, and government ties into the abuse of the tool called prorogation. When prorogation is used to avoid accountability, that undermines the public's confidence in the institution. When omnibus bills are tabled that include massive public policy changes on a whole range of issues, and closure on those bills is pushed through, so there is not proper understanding and debate in the chamber, then there is an erosion of the confidence of the public in the process of deliberating and debating on changes in policy and legislation.

                                  The public counts on parliamentarians to do work in committees, to scrutinize bills, and to explore and study issues of concern to Canadians, public policy issues, funding issues, issues of injustice. Committees have been counted on to be independent places where parliamentarians can bring their ideas and voice their concerns about the effectiveness of policies and bills being brought forward by the government or private members. Committees are no longer as effective. Much more committee business is done in secret, so there is a lack of transparency and accountability, and the independence of members on the government side has been curtailed, frankly, so that the instructions from the Prime Minister's Office overcome the individuals' possible concerns about what their own government is doing.

                                  Lastly, what I call the unfair elections act is another tool that is undermining the confidence of the public. Our elections are a very critical part of our democracy. They are how parliamentarians are elected. If the process for electing parliamentarians has become less inclusive and more likely to exclude vulnerable voters and Canadians like the disabled, the elderly, the homeless, and low-income earners, then that is less democratic and less fair. When the leader of the Elections Canada organization is curtailed in his or her ability to talk about the importance of voting, to encourage the public to get out and vote, to ensure that the laws and rules are being followed, and there is no cheating happening, that also undermines confidence in our democracy and the very processes by which our government and Parliament are made up.

                                  What is needed is action. We can talk all we want about transparency and openness, and that is a good start, but we need to see action. I am proud to say that the Liberal Party has taken a number of concrete actions to restore trust in the institution of Parliament and in our democracy.

                                  In fact, not long ago, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada announced Senate reform. Some people have called this the biggest reform of the Senate that has happened since the Senate was first created. What the leader of the Liberal Party committed to is a change in how senators are appointed. Under a Liberal government, no longer would senators be appointed because they are the best-possible fundraisers for their partisan team and would be doing that on the public's dime. Under the Liberal leader's commitment, there would be an independent, non-partisan, and non-patronage process for appointing senators.

                                  In order to walk that talk today, the Liberal leader released the Liberal senators from needing to be part of the national caucus, thinking through partisan matters as elected members of Parliament, of course, have to do. He released them from taking direction from the Liberal Party leader, released them from the time that had been devoted to those joint discussions, and certainly released them from the kind of following of instructions that we have seen the Conservative senators do, to the detriment of their own party and their own government when it came to the senators allegedly taking instructions from the Prime Minister's Office, allegedly whitewashing Senate reports, and influencing a supposedly neutral audit of senators' expenses. Those kinds of activities are completely unacceptable and undermine the faith and confidence of Canadians in our Parliament and in our government.

                                  Under the Liberal Party leader's Senate reform, Liberal senators are constructively working together. They are focused on public policy, on the well-being of Canadians, on their regions, and on the issues they are advancing and the expertise they are applying to the review of bills and policies. That is as they should be doing and as they would be doing in the future under a potential Liberal government. That is just one key initiative to walk the talk on openness, transparency, and democracy and to begin to restore the public's trust, the trust that has been so badly damaged, as the quotes with which I began my remarks attest.

                                  Co-operation is what we are looking for with this motion, and co-operation is what we are looking for from the parties in this initiative to make more transparent the spending of members of Parliament. The Liberal Party leader led the way with that last summer, by committing to transparent posting every three months of the travel and entertainment expenses, following a very effective proactive disclosure mechanism that was put in place by a previous Liberal prime minister in 2003 to cover the expenses of ministers. That has been in place ever since, and it made a lot of sense to adopt that mechanism for members of Parliament as part of that restoration of trust in our institutions. It was disappointing that, when the Liberal Party put forward a motion that all parties would post their expenses in this proactive disclosure framework used by ministers today, there was one party that blocked that motion, and that was the New Democratic Party.

                                  Who knows what the New Democrats' idea is? I heard some of the comments of the previous speaker, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, but I certainly did not clearly get why the New Democrats felt their party should not co-operate with a common framework of proactive and transparent disclosure such as the Liberals are doing; followed by the Conservative Party, whose members are also disclosing their information in a way that is transparent and restoring trust.

                                  We are inviting the official opposition to join us in doing this in order to have a framework that is, as I said, managed by the non-partisan officials who are already skilled in ensuring that rules are complied with in terms of how budgets are spent.

                                  It is important that we restore the trust, the confidence, and the spirit of co-operation, which is how we need to move forward to address the big public policy challenges that Canadians care about.

                                  • MPconblog BlakeRichardsMP 258 post Business of Supply

                                    Mr. Speaker, let me try this again. The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor made an attempt to get a response but did not get an actual response from the member. He just referred to the fact that anyone could go to his website. He mentioned this before the procedure and House affairs committee of which he was formerly a member and of which I am a member.

                                    I did check his website to verify the accuracy. I can tell members that what is found there is the same link we can find on the parliamentary website of a broad section of categories, but what we cannot find there is a detailed listing of his expenses for his travel or his hospitality. That is not there.

                                    However, if we look at the websites of every member of the Conservative government caucus, that information is there.

                                    I really want to know why he and the other members of the NDP do not seem to want to share this information with Canadians. Our government is very open and transparent about those expenses. The NDP seems to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into disclosure and accountability.

                                    Why is it that the NDP does not want to disclose its expenses, in terms of travel and hospitality, to the Canadian public?

                                    • MPlibblog Scott_Simms 125 post Business of Supply

                                      Mr. Speaker, that was unfortunate, but I want to go to a question and concern that was brought up earlier to the hon. member. First I offer my apologies that the member did not receive the consent he was looking for.

                                      When it comes to expenses, the member mentioned that if people go online and look at my expenses as the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, they will see, for the dates October 1 to December 31, how many trips I look in that time period and the cost of each of those trips, as published by the Liberal Party of Canada.

                                      Can I see that on the member's website?

                                      • MPconblog bruce_stanton 32 post Privilege

                                        Order, please. Questions and comments. The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

                                        • MPndpblog WMarstonNDP 169 post Business of Supply

                                          Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor for his intervention. I tend to agree with all that I have heard from him.

                                          I have been in this place for eight years and, particularly since the Conservatives have had a majority, I have watched them control committees in a way that is very close to being offensive at times.

                                          I find it ironic that the trade committee, discussing the European free trade agreement, is going coast to coast to coast to examine it, but not on a fundamental issue like the rights of Canadians to function within their democracy, to use their franchise to vote and to deal with the situation where nearly 100,000 would be dispossessed from their franchise. This strikes me as very ironic. I would like to hear the member's comments on that.

                                          • MPconblog Randy Kamp 669 post The Environment

                                            Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. friend, the member of Parliament for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, for bringing forward again this issue relating to the sunken wreck of the Manolis L off the Change Islands. I know he serves his constituents diligently and is following this issue very closely. I may not be able to tell him very much new that he does not already know, but perhaps for others who are less familiar with the issue or for his constituents who might be watching, let me give the government's perspective on where we are on this issue.

                                            As he probably knows, the Canadian Coast Guard is the lead federal agency for all ships, oil spills, or mystery pollution incidents in waters under Canadian jurisdiction. In cases in which the polluter is unknown or is unwilling or unable to respond, the Canadian Coast Guard will assume the overall management of the incident. In all cases, the Coast Guard will ensure an appropriate response.

                                            Since March 2013, as my colleague has mentioned, when the Canadian Coast Guard first became aware of pollution off the Change Islands, the Coast Guard, Transport Canada, and Environment Canada have taken action to mitigate the threat of pollution. They continue to monitor and manage the site of the Manolis L and, in my opinion, have done a commendable job.

                                            Since the first reports of oil on the water, Transport Canada has conducted aerial surveillance flights to provide information the Canadian Coast Guard uses to manage the on-water situation. In addition, the Canadian Coast Guard has worked closely with Environment Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service to manage the impact on wildlife and has installed a noise-making device to keep seabirds away from the area.

                                            The Canadian Coast Guard has conducted several underwater missions using a remotely operated vehicle to survey the entirety of the wreck. During the first inspection, two small cracks were identified in the vessel's structure. The first was sealed with an industrial neoprene gasket; the second, due to extensive damage to the bow of the vessel, was covered with a cofferdam designed to trap oil that might escape from the hull.

                                            On December 23, 2013, the Canadian Coast Guard again conducted underwater operations to reassess the Manolis L. This inspection confirmed that the neoprene gasket placed near the middle of the vessel is continuing to work effectively, but the cofferdam that was installed to capture oil from the second leak in the forward part of the hull had shifted four to five metres due to unanticipated heavy underwater currents in the area. The latest reports of oil were the result of this unexpected shift in the cofferdam. However, once again—and this is the good news, I think—the inspection did not find any new or additional cracks or tears in the hull.

                                            On January 19 of this year, the Canadian Coast Guard installed a new, streamlined cofferdam that is capable of withstanding the strong ocean currents and containing any further leakage, along with scientific instruments to monitor the subsea environment. A complete survey of the vessel was also conducted, and no further leakage was detected.

                                            The Canadian Coast Guard, along with its partners, will continue to monitor the area this winter. They will return after the ice season to remove any oil from the cofferdam and to conduct another full underwater survey to verify that the containment system is working properly.

                                            Safety and protection of the marine environment are two of the Canadian Coast Guard's main priorities, and I am pleased with its prompt efforts to date in responding to this incident in a challenging and dangerous environment.

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Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor

The electoral district of Bonavista--Gander--Grand Falls--Windsor (Newfoundland and Labrador) has a population of 86,394 with 69,828 registered voters and 226 polling divisions.


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