(seconded by the member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour) moved:
Motion No. 1
That Bill C-32 be amended by deleting Clause 17.
Motion No. 3
That Bill C-32 be amended by deleting Clause 23.
Motion No. 4
That Bill C-32 be amended by deleting Clause 30.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise to present deletions to Bill C-32, the Canadian victims bill of rights.
I and the Green Party support, in general, this important piece of legislation, but with some hesitations about its weaker parts.
Given the damage that the current government has done to the criminal justice system, I am surprised to be saying that. I believe that the victims bill of rights could be a positive step toward alleviating some of the frustrations and emotional pain that victims face participating in the justice process today.
However, the bill is still an imperfect document. I hope that we will improve it in years to come. We were disappointed that, in committee, our worthy amendments were dismissed.
Recent research points to a worrying trend. Canadians, especially victims of crime, have lost confidence in our justice system. A recent report by our own Department of Justice on survivors of sexual violence found that:
While 53% of participants stated that they were not confident in the police, two-thirds stated that they were not confident in the court process and in the criminal justice system in general.
It is no surprise that victims often do not report crimes. As so many victims groups have shared with us, going through the justice process can be confusing, emotionally draining, frightening and demoralizing.
The bill seeks to address some of the concerns of victims, those being greater rights to information, restitution, and protection. However, in the bill, these are more accurately called promises than rights.
I do not believe the bill would deliver what the Prime Minister said it would, that now “Victims will have enforceable rights in Canada’s criminal justice system”.
As many witnesses pointed out to the justice committee, the bill would not really set out rights because there are no substantial redress for violations. Victims are entitled to file a complaint if they feel their rights have been violated and a complaint is better than nothing, but it is not redress.
If this promise is followed by good faith and funding, we will have succeeded in improving the experience of victims in the justice system; if not, we will have made matters worse by promising but not delivering.
Though I support the bill on balance, I have concerns about some of the provisions. As Ms. Sullivan wrote, it is not necessary that we all agree on every aspect of the bill, and:
...what is important is the marking of a cultural shift to more fully consider and integrate victims’ in Canada’s criminal justice system and, jointly, the opportunity for important discourse about victims’ needs and how to better address them.
Since many of the concerns of victims were not addressed in the bill, I hope that Bill C-32 is only the start of the conversation on this important issue.
Three sections, in particular, worry me. I am most concerned about, first, restitution; second, redefining the purpose of sentencing; and third, non-disclosure of witness identities.
I have some concerns with clause 30 that would require that the court consider making a restitution order against the offender, regardless of the offender's ability to pay. This could cause issues both for the victims and the offenders. Restitution, as we have heard from many victims groups, can be an extremely important part of the healing process. It can also be an important step for offenders taking responsibility for their actions.
However, I am concerned, and witnesses were concerned, by the way these provisions are worded. As Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society, has warned, these orders for restitution could have a disproportionate effect on those offenders who, far too often, are:
...poor, marginalized, battling mental health and addictions and without the lawful means to provide financial compensation to others.
These orders could also open up the issue of fairness in the justice system.
At the same time, legal experts argue that the wording of 739.2, that requires the judge to specify a day by which the full amount is to be paid, would undermine the good that this system does for victims.
According to the Canadian Bar Association, “Including a deadline for payment could create adverse consequences for victims”.
The victim would not be able to go to court to enforce their order until the final date has lapsed, which could be many years away. According to the Bar Association, “[It] may have the adverse effect of providing victims with false hope of financial recovery”.
The worst thing that could happen is that victims be given the expectation of funds that they will never receive, and at the same time, burdening impoverished offenders with long-term debts that will prevent their rehabilitation.
I am concerned that these provisions will receive the same fate as the victim surcharges that judges have simply been refusing to order and this will leave victims unsupported.
Bill C-32 also seeks to redefine the purposes of sentencing in the Criminal Code. To echo the concerns of the Bar Association:
The cumulative impact of these proposed amendments, with the increased use of mandatory minimum penalties and the elimination of conditional sentence orders for many non-violent offenders, risks adding to Canada’s over-reliance on incarceration.
I do not see how these changes will have positive benefits for victims and may have the negative effect of prioritizing harm done over the other purposes of sentencing. Sentencing is a delicate balance, and there is no evidence to suggest that the balance in the code is presently broken.
Perhaps the most egregious element in this bill is clause 17. That would allow a judge to “make an order directing that any information that could identify the witness not be disclosed in the course of proceedings”.
As every legal expert who testified before the committee noted, this is an unprecedented and almost certainly unconstitutional breach of the right to a fair trial. As Howard Krongold of the Criminal Lawyers' Association testified at committee:
But it's hard to imagine a more fundamental change to Canadian law, one less consistent with Canadians' visions of open, fair justice, where everybody has a chance to a fair trial, where they can make full answer and defence and confront the witnesses against them.
Eric Gottardi of CBA added:
Clause 17 contemplates at least the possibility that the accused and counsel for the accused and the crown might have to cross-examine or direct examine a witness when they have no idea who the witness is. I haven't found a single case that talks about that, and I can't imagine a scenario, short of life and death and someone essentially amounting to a confidential informer, where that kind of process would pass constitutional muster.
Under extreme circumstances, judges already can use their discretion to limit the disclosure of witness identity through the use of pseudonyms, publication bans, and other measures. These are exceptions to the open court principle and they are used sparingly by judges. I would like to repeat the concerns of so many legal experts that what this clause anticipates is a clear violation of the open court principle. This is very worrying.
Every party in this House supports Bill C-32 in principle. It seems, though, that the Conservatives just could not help themselves. They had to insert something blatantly unconstitutional into a bill that everyone supports in principle.
All in all, the bill is a reasonable step toward addressing the difficult position that victims hold in the justice system. It needs to be strengthened and improved, and it will take work. As I said earlier, the bill constitutes more of a promise than it does a bill of rights. Let's make sure we keep that promise.
Does the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour have the unanimous consent of the House to speak?
Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour said, the government has not abandoned any industries; it is untrue to say that it has abandoned any industry. We have not abandoned the aluminum industry or the forestry industry, and we will not abandon the Aluminum Technology Centre in Chicoutimi, which is an excellent centre that provides unparalleled services to the aluminum industry in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec and Canada. Unlike what the member said, this centre will remain open.
There being no other members rising for debate, the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour may use his right of reply.
The hon. member has five minutes to conclude the debate on this issue.
The amendment to motion M-313 would add the words “without increasing his salary” at the end. The amendment is in order.
It is therefore my duty to inform hon. members that, pursuant to Standing Order 93(3), no amendment may be proposed to a private member's motion unless the sponsor of the item indicates his or her consent.
Therefore, I ask the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour if he consents to the amendment being moved.
Mr. Speaker, it is a shame to think that the Bloc would use the privilege afforded by this place to play the same tired politics of division with Canadian unity and the very traditions we hold dear, but that is exactly what it does, time and time again.
Unlike the four remaining Bloc MPs opposite, I, for one, am proud of our country's heritage and I am sincerely disappointed that a member of the House would suggest that the Governor General is responsible for something he has no control over, for nothing else than cheap political gain. There is simply no question that this motion has nothing to do whatsoever with correcting an anachronism in the tax code, which our Conservative government has already done, but everything to do with attacking Canada's proud royal traditions in this, the year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. That is why the government must oppose the motion.
It is no secret that the member opposite has deliberately timed the introduction of this debate to coincide with this momentous occasion. While Canadians view the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty's accession to the throne as Queen of Canada, as a time to celebrate our country's rich tradition and impressive achievements, the Bloc never misses an opportunity to try to tear the country apart.
The true intent of the member's motion is apparent in his reaction to our government's Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal program. During this year's celebrations, 60,000 deserving Canadians will be recognized for significant achievements and outstanding service to their communities, while honouring Her Majesty for her service to Canada.
Instead of fulfilling their duties as members of Parliament to recognize the contributions of their constituents to Canada and their communities, the Bloc members have hijacked an important and worthy program instead for political grandstanding. Not only have all four Bloc MPs sent the medals back, denying their constituents recognition for their selfless and outstanding service, but the member opposite has gone so far as to call them a “monarchistic joke”.
Unlike the separatist Bloc Quebecois, our Conservative government appreciates the monarchy's fundamental importance to our democratic history and tradition. As Canadians, this history and tradition defines and unites us.
That is why this year our government was proud to welcome His Highness, the Prince of Wales, to Canada this past month, to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen's service to our country for the past 60 years, inspiring Canadians and bringing them closer together. For some, Her Majesty is the Crown. She is the only queen they have ever known.
That is why it is so important we mark this year, this milestone, in our history. It is not only a celebration of the Queen, but also a celebration of what it means to be Canadian.
Despite the Bloc's red herring attempt to discredit our proud and united tradition of constitutional monarchy, I am happy to assure Canadians that our government has acted to ensure that the Governor General's salary is subject to tax in the same manner as the salary of all Canadians.
I should note that despite what is implied by today's motion, the Governor General had no say in the matter and could not have unilaterally corrected it. While it is true that the Governor General was for many years exempt from paying tax on income earned from the office, our government has acted quickly and fairly to correct this historic anachronism out of a sense of duty to the Canadian taxpayer and not as a thinly veiled attack on the Queen's representative in Canada.
We have already introduced legislation to end the income tax exemption for the Governor General's salary, which will subject it to tax in the same manner as the salary of every other Canadian. This measure will apply to the 2013 and subsequent taxation years.
This treatment is consistent with recent measures in other Commonwealth countries to make the salary of their governors general subject to income tax, such as Australia in 2001 and New Zealand in 2010. Indeed, the Queen herself has voluntarily paid tax on her private income in the United Kingdom since the early 1990s, setting an example for her representatives in Commonwealth countries around the world.
Since 2006, our government has been squarely focused on creating a tax system that fuels job creation and growth in the economy and allows Canadians to keep more of their hard earned money. Our tax system rewards Canadians for reaching their full potential and gives individuals and families the flexibility to make the choices that are right for them.
The words of Adrienne Clarkson, Canada's 26th Governor General, perfectly capture the fundamental relationship between taxes and indispensable government services to which all Canadians are entitled:
—I've always had the feeling whenever I hear people say they don't want to pay any income tax, I always wonder well, how do we get our medical care, or how do we get to the schools that we go to...How do we do all the things that we can do to make sure everybody gets their fair share? How can we do it? Well, income taxes do that.
While the former Liberal government did not fulfill Madam Clarkson's apparent desire to be taxed when she served as Governor General, I can assure her that our government would have done it.
Our Conservative government recognizes the fundamental importance of taxes, a responsibility and a benefit to be shared by all Canadians, and has rightly extended this duty to the Governor General.
I would remind members opposite that this side of the House flatly refuses to play politics with our Canadian democratic traditions. The Governor General plays a key role in promoting our national identity by supporting and promoting Canadian values of diversity, inclusion, culture and heritage, both at home and abroad. He or she encourages Canadians to build a compassionate society and work together to create strong and generous communities, fostering national unity.
It is abundantly clear why the separatist Bloc has chosen this, the year of the Diamond Jubilee, to launch this partisan attack on the Queen's representative in Canada. While our government has acted fairly to correct an outdated provision contained in the Income Tax Act, the Bloc wants nothing more from the motion than to gain media attention for its lamentable attempts to denigrate Canadian constitutional tradition, just like its refusal to honour outstanding achievements with the Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Members should not take my word for it. They just need to ask the deserving constituents from Richmond—Arthabaska, Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, Ahuntsic and, most important, Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, whose service to their communities still goes unrecognized by their elected representatives.
Is the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour rising on a point of order or to indicate how he is voting?
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order, and I do apologize to my hon. colleague. I should inform you that there have been consultations and I am hopeful that the House will give its consent to the following motion: That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, when the House begins debate on the second reading motion of Bill C-16, an Act to Amend the National Defence Act (military judges), one member from each recognized party and the member from Saanich—Gulf Islands, who shall divide her time with any of the following members, the member for Richmond—Arthabaska, the member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, the member for Ahuntsic, and the member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, may speak to the second reading motion, after which the said bill shall be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday something very irresponsible happened in the House.
In that regard, we need to give the House another opportunity to give unanimous consent to the following motion. I move that notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, the House give leave for the member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour and the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands to speak immediately, after this motion is adopted, on the subject of veterans and their sacrifice and contribution to building a better Canada in light of the upcoming Remembrance Day observances across the country, that those two members be granted leave to speak for a period not exceeding five minutes each, and that time taken by the two members at the conclusion of their statements be added to the time provided for government orders today.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue must also know that before there are motions, there is Twitter. Some journalists have been tweeting everything we have been saying from the beginning. I said the same thing.
It is a collective problem. The Bloc started things off and moved the first motion. I believe the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour moved the motion. That is not petty politics; that is a fact. I heard a former nurse say that she has had to work on June 24 in the past and I commend her. We need to be consistent, as politicians and as members of Parliament. A resolution was passed in the House to recognize Quebec as a nation. So, if we can suspend for a political convention—which I understand, for we have all done it—we can also respect Quebeckers, French Canadians, as a nation. So members felt that we should not sit on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, Quebec's national holiday. Both sides are to blame.
I appreciate the kind words from the member for Toronto Centre.
I see that the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour is rising to speak.
Mr. Speaker, I join with my colleagues, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in offering you our warmest congratulations on this significant personal achievement.
I think all members of the House have noticed your great interest in the affairs of this place and have noticed, as well, your commitment to an even-handed treatment of all members of the House in your previous responsibilities. I can assure you that we shall look forward very much to working closely with you and with your colleagues in ensuring that the House of Commons is as great and good a place which, at its best, I think we all know that it can be.
I will make a couple of further comments, Mr. Speaker, because this is one of the few opportunities that I have not to get cut off by you.
I first want to say that it is a tribute to the democracy of this place. Some of us who have been in previous Parliaments will know that there was a time when the speaker was not chosen by the members of the House. The speaker was chosen by the first minister of the day. The fact that it took six ballots, Mr. Speaker, for you to be chosen is a reflection of the democratic traditions of this place and of the fact that we have all participated in the toing and froing in the discussions that have taken place. It has been quite a remarkable day in that respect. You, sir, have come out as the winner and we continue to express our strong support, not only for you but for the institution.
Being where we are now in the House, I have to say that we pay special tribute to those who were not successful at the end with respect to the sixth ballot.
I join with my colleagues in expressing my appreciation to all those who presented themselves to the people who spoke so frankly and so candidly, and who presented themselves as effectively as they did.
I would like to say to my dear colleague from Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour that we have a great deal of respect for his work as the dean. We are well aware that he is no longer a member of an official party in the House. However, I can assure you that we believe that all members of the House have an important role to play in this parliament, and we will continue to respect the traditions of all members, even those who are not members of an official party, and even if we do not share all the aspirations of that party.
I congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, for your efforts and your accomplishments. I join you in paying tribute to Mr. Milliken and all speakers before you, who have done an outstanding job. We expect to continue our efforts to ensure that the House works well.
For my friend, the Leader of the Opposition, whom we congratulate today on achieving this position with which those of us on this side are quite familiar, and I can speak personally, I am as well, I will not be making any such declarations with respect to the complete and total silence of the members of my caucus when comments are made. I know we are all deeply in favour of decorous behaviour, of behaviour that respects the civility of this place, but I am also a profound realist. I have the scars in front and the scars in my back to prove it.
I am looking forward to the first sign of life from the official opposition, to the first heckle and to the first joke. I, myself, will be keeping book on how many days, indeed hours, it will be before he sees that happen.
Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your election.
I know this is something you have been preparing yourself for, through very hard work, for a very long time. I know it is a great day for you and your family and I again congratulate you. I also recognize, after all these years of work, that in the last few minutes you have shown a traditional reluctance to take the position. When we brought you to the chair, the Leader of the Opposition had a weapon. In any case, I am sure, nevertheless, that this is a proud day for everyone in your home.
Today's election served as a stellar example of how all members of the House have a say in its operation and how we can all work together in reaching an important decision.
All of the members who were in contention for this role deserve recognition. The same holds true for the Clerk and the dean of the House, the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, who has so impartially overseen the vote today. I was worried, and I assume you were as well, Mr. Speaker, to see how comfortable he was becoming in the role.
Your election by secret ballot demonstrates the great confidence that the members of the House have in you, your fairness and, above all, your ability to maintain the dignity and decorum associated with respectful debate.
Mr. Speaker, clearly the members of the House have as much confidence in you as your constituents, the good citizens of Regina—Qu'Appelle. In this job you are the custodian of a great parliamentary tradition.
Let me observe the following at this time, with the eyes of the nation and indeed the hockey world focused on Vancouver. It bears noting, Mr. Speaker, that you are the nation's top referee and its linesman, too. Your guidance will ensure that nobody crosses the line or goes offside. Most importantly, we will do our best to ensure there are no fights for you to break up.
Members on both sides of the House will work with you to play fair so that we can shake hands like hockey players after the big game.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, please accept from all members on this side of the House, not only our sincere congratulations but also our full co-operation as you undertake these very important responsibilities in Parliament and in our country.
First of all, I would like to thank my long-time colleague in the House of Commons, the dean of this House, my friend, the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour.
We have an important decision to make today in choosing one of our number to preside over the House for the 41st Parliament.
Each of us has a strong personal interest in making this a better place. I will not dwell on the obvious: the incivility of recent years, the lack of decorum and the lack of mutual respect. We all know what must be done and I think we know it can be done. Today we will choose the person among us who we think can get it done, presiding over the House as its firm guiding hand.
In making your decision, you will seek strength of character, parliamentary experience, knowledge of history and an understanding of the people and the regions whose interests we represent. You will want an individual in whom you have confidence to represent the House with fairness, dignity and respect.
Throughout my life, this House has been like a home to me. I first stepped into the visitors gallery of this place in 1972 as executive assistant for the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker. I watched some of the greatest parliamentarians of their day. I served on the senior staff of Prime Minister Mulroney for five years and, in 1988, I sought election and was privileged to serve in the government caucus.
Over these years, I have learned about victory and I have learned about defeat. I learned why running for Parliament is one of the greatest sacrifices we can make as men and women, fathers and mothers. I hold in the highest regard any man or woman who puts his or her reputation on the line to seek election and serve their community and country in this place.
Throughout my time here, I have seen great Speakers, those whose words uttered with great calmness and authority could cool a boiling House of Commons. I have seen others who tried with every ounce of their energy and intellect but could never quite manage the hard political conflict that, left unchecked, could turn debate into disrepute. I have learned from them all as I have learned from the oratorical masters of this place for nearly four decades.
That is why my commitment, if chosen as Speaker, is to earn and keep earning the respect of this House, to defend the sacred rights of MPs and to deal with each member as an equal.
I know that the Speaker's authority comes from the members and from the members only. The Speaker must inspire their confidence and earn their trust through a relationship founded on fairness, integrity, mutual respect and character.
I know from experience that members will accept a decision when they understand it was arrived at fairly, with impartiality and with due regard for tradition, precedent and the rules of procedure.
When members look at their choice for Speaker, they should see an individual with experience, judgment and character, and the personal fortitude to put those qualities to the service of members.
As has been said, the Speaker is also an ambassador for Parliament, a parliamentary host of visiting dignitaries, as well as representing this House and Canada in international parliamentary meetings. I shall represent members and this Parliament with dignity, purpose and honour.
In closing, I would like to quote from my maiden speech in this House 23 years ago when I said, “We have built one of the world's greatest nations, not on might, but on justice and tolerance. Tolerance is the basis of a civilized society”.
That reality is reflected in the celebration of our two official languages, French and English.
Growing up in Ottawa my children had an opportunity, which I did not have growing up in Calgary, to learn French.
So although they are both bilingual, their father is not, at least not yet.
I will do everything possible to improve my French, and I assure you that I will defend the equality of French and English in the House if I have the honour of serving you as Speaker.
As my dear colleagues can hear, my French is a work in progress but it is progressing.
I seek to serve this House as Speaker. I put before my colleagues my goals, my commitment and the skills I bring to restore dignity and respect. In service to members, I will make this institution an honourable place for the people's representatives to debate and shape important public policy once again.
I would be honoured to have your support.
The hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour.
Mr. Speaker, there are several reasons why I wanted to participate in this debate on Bill C-507, introduced by the member for Saint-Lambert.
First, I must say that only the Bloc could come up with a scenario like the one described in this bill. Our party will obviously be opposed. This bill would not benefit anyone in Quebec or in the rest of Canada. It proposes a system that cannot work, and the consequences of this bill would no doubt be terrible.
We have to wonder about the relevance of this initiative and about its real goal, which is purely political and partisan. I was very surprised that it was introduced, since the federal spending power is something on which we have taken concrete action.
In the spirit of our open federalism, our government has shown flexibility, particularly by restoring the fiscal balance, by focusing on its core jurisdictions and by avoiding interfering needlessly in the provinces' jurisdictions. Furthermore, when such expenditures were necessary, we sought and obtained the consent of the provinces. We avoided creating shared-cost programs in provincial areas of jurisdiction, and when we did so, we sought and obtained the consent of the province or territory.
Let us look at the example of Canada's economic action plan. I do not think I need to go into detail about the difficult situation that forced us to adopt this series of aggressive measures to help Canada make it through the worst economic crisis since the recession in the 1930s. But we worked together with the provinces for the benefit of Canadians. And now, with this bill, the Bloc is asking us to forever abandon this tool that successfully helped us through the crisis.
To that end, our government had to spend in areas of provincial responsibility, sometimes through shared-cost programs such as the $500 million recreational infrastructure Canada program or the $4 billion infrastructure stimulus fund. The provinces' approval of this approach reflected the belief that the response to the crisis had to be a shared response. Furthermore, the targeted, temporary and time-limited nature of the economic action plan reflected our government's desire to avoid long-term distortions of roles and responsibilities.
When the economic recession hit the world, we implemented one of the largest stimulus plans in the G7. Canada's economic action plan used every means at its disposal to stabilize the Canadian economy and get Canadians back to work.
Canada was able to respond to the crisis from a position of strength owing to the stability of its financial sector, the good financial health of businesses and households, the ongoing effect of broad-based tax reductions it had already instituted, as well as its strong fiscal position.
What was the outcome of this co-operation among the various levels of government? Canada is leading the global economic recovery.
Of all the G7 countries, Canada recorded the smallest decline in output during the recession. It is the only G7 country to have practically returned to pre-recession output levels. It is the only G7 country to have recorded, in March 2010, a year-over-year increase in employment. Since July 2009, our government has contributed to the creation of more than 420,000 jobs.
This exceptional performance has not gone unnoticed by other countries.
Canada's economic leadership stands out and has been recognized by international economic organizations and the press. In an article that appeared in the New York Times on January 31, 2010, economist Paul Krugman wrote that the United States must learn lessons from countries that have obviously made the right choices and that their northern neighbour is at the top of that list.
In this context, Quebec is benefiting from Canada's performance.
In his March 30, 2010 budget speech, Premier Jean Charest said:
The recovery plan we have implemented and the strategic investments we are making in our infrastructure, which total $9.1 billion for 2010-11, have enabled Quebec to distinguish itself and do better than any other economy in the world. With more than 3.9 million Quebeckers in the labour force, we are reaching new heights in our history.
At this time, we would like to point out the importance that Mr. Charest gives to the infrastructure program, which is both an essential component of the economic action plan and an excellent example of intergovernmental co-operation.
Although the economic recovery in Canada remains fragile, Canadians can be proud of how the federal, provincial and territorial governments have worked together to deal with the major issue of the country's economic vitality.
It goes without saying that the model proposed in this bill would have made the implementation of the action plan extremely complicated because of the delays the proposed amendments to the Financial Administration Act would have caused. Our government was able to quickly implement the economic action plan; however, the federal-provincial-territorial negotiations that would be necessary if this bill were passed would make such a quick and efficient response impossible. This is just one of the major flaws in this proposal.
There is also another disadvantage to this bill that does not really seem to pose a problem for the Bloc Québécois but that is certainly an issue for anyone who cares about the proper functioning of our federation: the role that the Government of Canada is called upon to play. The constraints imposed by Bill C-507 would make the federal government's leadership subject to the mercy of the provinces. The bill would deprive the Government of Canada of the latitude needed to react to changing circumstances both within the country and throughout the world. It would also undermine the Government of Canada's ability to strengthen the country in the interest of all Canadians.
I am sure everyone will agree that this bill would not improve the functioning of our federation in any way; the only party in the House that is not striving to achieve this objective is the very same party that is proposing that Bill C-507 be passed. This party's loyalties lie elsewhere and it is easy to see where.
By way of example, I would like to quote the member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour who said in the September 11, 1997 issue of Le Droit, “We have to show that federalism is not advantageous for Quebec. Sometimes, it appeared to be working. Now, we will be able to take it apart at our leisure.”
The electoral district of Bas-Richelieu--Nicolet--Bécancour (Quebec) has a population of 91,745 with 76,352 registered voters and 222 polling divisions.
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