The hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain.
Mr. Speaker, this is what the then Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, today the Minister of Industry, had to say on CBC News in Vancouver on May 3, 2011, the morning before the Conservative Party's re-election:
We have said that we will maintain or increase support for the CBC. That is our platform and we have said that before and we will commit to that.
Unfortunately, the Conservative government once again broke its commitment. Budget 2012 took a hatchet to Canada's national broadcaster, slashing $115 million from the budget.
That figure is a known fact. It is on page 34 of the 2014-15 estimates. Since the Conservatives came to power in 2006, CBC/Radio-Canada has lost $227 million in parliamentary appropriations, in 2014 dollars, which is equivalent to a cut of 18%—nearly one-fifth—of its budget.
Furthermore, CBC/Radio-Canada lost $7 million with the reduction of the Canada media fund and $47.1 million as a result of the CRTC's decision to put an end to the local programming improvement fund. When I asked a question in the House about how the cuts were affecting CBC/Radio-Canada, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages replied that the government was not involved in the corporation's decision to cut to services and jobs. How can she make such a claim? The budget cuts imposed by the government are certainly forcing the corporation to make drastic decisions, such as eliminating 657 full-time jobs and cutting a number of programs.
Today, in parliamentary committee, the minister told me that she was not the one who promised not to cut the CBC/Radio-Canada budget in 2011, only to cut it in 2012. She dissociated herself from her government. It is understandable that she did not want to be associated with a broken promise. In this context, it would be wrong to liken the cry of alarm from CBC employees to a corporatist reaction. Yes, the CBC is slowly dying, and we are reaching a breaking point.
It is important to realize that our public broadcaster has been living in the shadow of budget cuts since 1990. According to CBC/Radio-Canada's figures, in 2014 dollars, the corporation received $1,673,000,000 in parliamentary appropriations in 1990 and, in 2014, is receiving no more than $1,038,000,000, which represents a 38% decrease. Naturally, the combined effect of these cuts has weakened the institution. CBC/Radio-Canada has quantified the results.
Following recent cuts to parliamentary appropriations, the reduction of the Canada media fund and the elimination of the local programming improvement fund, the amount allocated by the government to the public broadcaster is only $29 per Canadian. That is much less than the $87 average for other developed democracies. Per resident, countries like Japan, Spain, Belgium and France financially support their public broadcaster twice as much as we do; Austria and the United Kingdom, three times more; Germany and Sweden, four times; Switzerland and Norway, five times. Only the United States and New Zealand are cheaper than we are.
Is there another country that needs a public broadcaster more than we do? Ours produces more national programming than all the private broadcasters combined. It offers local talents an irreplaceable springboard. It almost single-handedly provides broad coverage of international news. It is the only one to be required to provide programming that reflects a diverse country with two official languages, a country the size of a continent. It admirably serves the French cause in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, in addition to providing English-speaking Canada a voice that differs from the voice of American culture.
More than ever, Canada needs a quality public broadcaster. However, the broadcaster must receive the means it needs to carry out its mission in a rapidly changing world. The CBC does not have those means.
The corporation is increasingly forced to go after advertising revenue, at the risk of undermining its special status as a public service.
As our friends from the CBC remind us, our public broadcaster has increased its TV advertising by 33% since 2012, from 12 minutes to 16 minutes per hour. However, not only is the advertising market more segmented than ever, with 742 competing channels, but it is difficult to succeed when, like the CBC, a broadcaster does not have access to revenue from digital broadcasting. In a decade, the revenue from digital content has caught up with and is now exceeding the advertising revenue of traditional television.
CBC/Radio-Canada must stop being haunted by budget cuts that, year after year, are forcing the broadcaster to take a short-term patchwork approach. It is high time to provide the corporation with the resources it needs for proper planning—like the resources BBC has—and with multi-year, stable and predictable funding, over a five-year period perhaps.
The Broadcasting Act must be reviewed, because it has not been reviewed since 1991. The act does not even address digital content. It is crucial to reaffirm the independence of the public broadcaster, and as a first step to restore its autonomy in labour relations, which have been undermined by the Conservative government.
To justify the current cutbacks, the Conservative government often mentions those made by the Liberals, but that argument cannot hide a fundamental difference. We Liberals were forced to cut government spending to eliminate the huge structural deficit left behind by the previous Conservative government.
Despite that, we kept to the objective of preserving the public service, because we believed in its mission. As soon as the budget was balanced, we cautiously resumed investment in government action. That was true for CBC/Radio-Canada.
It is a fact that the Chrétien government had to reduce our public broadcaster's budget to get the nation's finances back in order. However, we did our best to protect its ability to fulfill its core mission, and once the budget was balanced, the Liberal government invested in the prestigious institution.
What a difference from today's situation, with the Conservative government imposing repeated drastic cutbacks on CBC/Radio-Canada motivated not so much by financial necessity as by the ideologically motivated desire of a large part of the Conservative caucus to dismantle this public institution.
It is a given that the Liberal government, if elected by Canadians in 2015, will impose an ironclad fiscal discipline on itself. However, this discipline will be based on proven and impartial data, not on ideological obsessions like the one of the Conservative government against the CBC.
The Liberal Party will combine fiscal discipline and firm support for CBC/Radio-Canada, as we believe that a strong public broadcaster is a critical part of maintaining and promoting Canada's diverse and rich culture in both official languages.
Conservative cuts have served as a severe setback for both the development and diffusion of innovative bilingual programming and have undermined CBC/Radio-Canada's capacity to fulfill its mandate, especially as it works to realign operational models to reflect 21st century program and consumption demands.
This brings us to motion moved by our colleague, the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, who is calling on the House to:
(a) reverse the $45 million in cuts for 2014-2015 in Budget 2012; and
(b) provide adequate, stable, multi-year funding to the public broadcaster so that it can fulfill its mandate.
The Liberal opposition supports this motion in that it is consistent with what we have been saying for some time now.
We would also add the notice of motion moved unsuccessfully, unfortunately, on May 13, 2014, by my Liberal colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain that the Standing Committee on Official Languages undertake a study on the impact of budget cuts on Radio-Canada’s programming for rural and urban francophone communities across the country.
There are many more things to be done, but the most important is for the government itself to truly believe in the essential mandate of a top-notch public broadcaster. The government must acknowledge that CBC/Radio-Canada provides an essential service to Canadians. It must acknowledge that and prove it through tangible actions, starting with supporting this motion.
The hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain.
The hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain.
There is too much noise in the House.
There is too much noise in the chamber.
The hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain has the floor.
I would ask the indulgence of all members to recognize that we have one of our members speaking on this motion. I will give the floor back to the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain.
The hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain.
Mr. Speaker, the miscommunication was already acknowledged and corrected by the party.
What I find interesting, though, is that the NDP is condemning a practice in which it itself engaged. To quote Chantal Hébert, from February 27, 2012:
When [the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain] left the NDP to sit as a Liberal in January, the New Democrats hired a firm to robo-call her constituents.... The NDP was not identified as the sponsor of the calls....
However, the party claimed that the calls were not illegal and that they were perfectly comfortable with them.
The hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain.
The hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain for taking on the Conservatives and the NDP for its questions.
My question for her is about rural Quebec. We know from the Atlantic caucus what this will do for seasonal industries. The member talked about the depopulation that would happen in many rural communities. How will depopulation affect rural Quebec, whether that be in the Gaspé area, or northern Quebec or many rural areas there?
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain.
I represent a riding with a very mobile workforce. People from Guysborough, Canso, Mulgrave and all through Cape Breton Island have travelled for years to some of the biggest construction projects in North America and around the world. It is very interesting to have an opportunity to share conversations with people at the airport who are travelling to seek employment and ply their trade.
My colleague from Sydney—Victoria just shared a statistic. In 2006 in Cape Breton there were 1,700 workers from Cape Breton employed in Alberta. It was bringing something like $3 million a week into the local economy. Obviously, there are some social challenges when people are having to travel to work, but certainly it is of benefit to both places. It is of benefit to local communities when they are able to earn that level of income, but it is of benefit to Alberta, Saskatchewan and those provinces that need access to a labour force. Therefore, know full well that I am comfortable with understanding the benefits to both the employers and the employees when a workforce is mobile.
That is not the case in this instance with the changes in regulations. I would like to address them in a couple of different ways. I want to talk about the impact on business; about the department's capacity to really handle these changes, which I call into question; and then whether or not there are better ways to go about it.
First, the impact on business. My good friend from Tobique—Mactaquac had indicated that both employees and employers contribute to the EI fund. The employers in seasonal industries in our communities contribute to this as well. I fear that with the changes in the legislation, it will decimate business operators in seasonal industries. It has the potential to rob them of skilled workers, people who have been with them and provided expertise and services over a long period of time.
I have talked to people in the tourism sector and the forestry sector. They, and obviously people in the fishery, are very nervous about these changes and the potential impacts. I want to read into the record a letter I got from the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. Beth Densmore, the president, has shared her concerns with both the minister and MPs from Nova Scotia.
First, she makes reference to the fact that the majority of the labour force in the agriculture sector is skilled in a particular profession. It is just that the profession is in a seasonal industry. She says:
We, in the Federation, believe that the proposed changes have not been well thought through and would urge that the Federal Government give greater consideration to the perhaps unintended consequences of such action. Is this simply a way to move the responsibility for the working poor from one level of government (Federal) to another level where the worker's only recourse will be to apply for social assistance (Provincial or Municipal)?
The federation even suggests a possible amendment:
One possible scenario would be to provide an exemption from the proposed EI changes for the resource based industries which depend on a skilled workforce, but, only for a portion of the year.
Maybe that would be something that would make sense. It would certainly alleviate some of the fears that are being put forward by, not just the workers in seasonal industries, but those who operate those businesses and who are really the foundation of rural communities.
In this particular legislation, the government did put $21 million into a particular program. That is the e-alert program. I think it is worthwhile to make more information about potential for job opportunities available to those who are unemployed. That is a positive thing. Right now the rules are there that it is incumbent on those receiving EI benefits to pursue work opportunities, but I think this is of benefit. It is a fairly hefty cost, but it is of benefit.
However, if the government thinks this is going to solve all the problems, it is not. Forty percent of families with a total household income of $30,000 or less have no access to the Internet, and 25% in the bracket of between $30,000 and $50,000 annual household income have no access to the Internet.
We know that the government has carved the guts out of the community access program that enabled people to go to libraries and community centres to access the Internet. That has been lost now, and what we are doing with these actions is placing greater hardship on those who most need that access.
The burning question that begs to be asked is how the government is going to handle the changes in these regulations. We know that right now approximately 180,000 Canadians have waited over 29 days to receive their first employment insurance cheque. The EI processing centres no longer have the capacity to process these claims. We have seen closures in a number of different areas.
We saw the minister try to shore things up and put a band-aid on it last year by putting 400 people in over the Christmas rush to address this issue, but it remains a problem when 180,000 Canadians have waited over 29 days for their first EI cheque.
I know the minister herself was not very aware. The payment indicator, when correspondence is kicked out to someone who has applied for EI, measures both those who get notice of nonpayment and those who actually receive a cheque; she thought everybody was getting a cheque within that period of time. She thought they were doing famously over there, that everybody was happy and everybody was getting their money.
Actually, it is really hard to take a notice of nonpayment to buy groceries for the kids. Once the minister realized that, she did put some additional resources into the processing centres at Christmas time. Again, it was an interim measure.
Now, with all these regulations, we have to hound and pursue workers and find out if they are chasing down the jobs, whether or not the jobs are deemed suitable. There is nothing in the estimates about more resources being provided to make sure these regulations are concurred with. That should raise an alarm to everybody that we should anticipate further delays in payment of EI benefits to those who have earned and deserve them. I am not that confident there and I see nothing in the estimates for that.
I will close with this. The minister was in Halifax, Nova Scotia, recently. I want to read a quote from her into the record. She said:
Why would we want to bring in people from outside when we have people here who need the jobs and who can do them? It only makes economic sense.
There are 140,000 unemployed people in Alberta. There are 25,000 unemployed people in Saskatchewan. If we put them together, that is more than the number of unemployed people in Atlantic Canada. Would it not make more sense to put money into training for those people, rather than shaking people in Atlantic Canada out of their communities? All that is doing is contributing to the further decline in population in rural communities. I think that is the question I would like to pose to the member today.
I want to thank my colleagues in the NDP for bringing this motion forward to the House today.
Before I recognize the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, I will let her know that she only has about two minutes. I will have to interrupt her at 5:15 as this is the end of government orders for this afternoon.
The hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in response to the question of privilege raised on Monday, February 27, by the Minister of Public Safety and also to the consequent intervention by the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.
In reviewing their remarks, I have concluded that their argument is really composed of three distinct complaints and my remarks will deal with them as such.
I would like to say at the outset that I understand the minister's embarrassment at having the details of his personal life brought into the realm of public discussion.
The introduction of Bill C-30 caused quite a ripple across the country. Millions of Canadians voiced their discontent and expressed their opposition to this legislation. The fact we are here today debating this issue is a testament to that.
The first part of the minister's complaint deals with the issue of the Twitter account Vikileaks. Mr. Speaker, as you will no doubt recall, my leader addressed the involvement of a Liberal staff member earlier this week and offered an unreserved apology on this point. That being said, we would have hoped that the minister would accept this apology regarding Vikileaks and consider the matter closed. However, if he insists on dragging out the matter, I would like to mention a few things.
First, he purports that House of Commons resources were used to create the account. I should remind the minister that this is not a matter of privilege, but a matter reserved for the Board of Internal Economy. An excerpt from the Parliament of Canada Act dealing with exclusive authority, in subsection 52.6(1), explains the following:
The Board has the exclusive authority to determine whether any previous, current or proposed use by a member of the House of Commons of any funds, goods, services or premises made available to that member for the carrying out of parliamentary functions is or was proper, given the discharge of the parliamentary functions of members of the House of Commons, including whether any such use is or was proper having regard to the intent and purpose of the by-laws made under subsection 52.5(1).
The effect of this section in the act is clear. The matter of the use of House resources is the sole and exclusive domain of the Board of Internal Economy. If the minister still thinks there was a cost incurred by the creation of the Twitter site, I recommend that he take it up with the board. I have no doubt, Mr. Speaker, that you and the entire board will deal with this issue in the appropriate manner.
If the minister still thinks his reputation was affected as a result of the release of this publicly available document and that this in itself represents a breach of privilege, I would refer him, and indeed all members, to page 111 of O'Brien and Bosc where Speaker Fraser's 1987 ruling states:
The privileges of a Member are violated by any action which might impede him or her in the fulfilment of his or her duties and functions. It is obvious that the unjust damaging of a reputation could constitute such an impediment. The normal course of a Member who felt himself or herself to be defamed would be the same as that available to any other citizen, recourse to the courts under the laws of defamation with the possibility of damages to substitute for the harm that might be done. However, should the alleged defamation take place on the floor of the House, this recourse in not available.
In this ruling, Speaker Fraser wisely reminds members that where there is a normal avenue of recourse, the courts in the case of defamation, this normal avenue should be pursued. Given the resignation of the person involved and the clear apology by the member for Toronto Centre, we consider this matter closed.
The second complaint dealt with the threats from the international group that calls itself “Anonymous”. This was the main argument put forth by the minister and expanded on at length in the parliamentary secretary's speech. I think it is appropriate to note right off the start that, yes, indeed, there clearly are threats being made. However, before your finding a prima facie breach of privilege I think it bears careful consideration here that we fully understand what we are dealing with.
First, who is this group called Anonymous? Put simply, it is an international cabal of criminal hackers dating back to 2003, who have shut down the websites of the U.S. Department of Justice and the F.B.I. They have hacked into the phone lines of Scotland Yard. They are responsible for attacks against MasterCard, Visa, Sony and the Governments of the U.S., U.K., Turkey, Australia, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Iran, Chile, Colombia and New Zealand.
This is not at all in the same league as Vikileaks. We are not dealing with the actions of a sole staff member from another party. This is an international criminal organization.
I am forced to ask what would be accomplished by sending this matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Beauchesne's fifth edition notes the problem of dealing with these matters on page 23, where it states:
Direct threats which attempt to influence Members' actions in the House are undoubtedly breaches of privilege. They do, however, provide serious problems for the House. They are often made anonymously and it is rarely possible for the House to examine them satisfactorily. The common practice today is to turn the responsibility for investigating them over to the ordinary forces of the law.
By that Beauchesne's clearly means that these threats would be dealt with by the police and the courts.
This brings us to another point. Sadly, in this day and age, threats against ministers and indeed the Prime Minister occur all too often. One only has to step outside and see the Prime Minister's security motorcade to understand that the RCMP believes there are credible threats made regularly against the Prime Minister. I do not believe that the Prime Minister simply enjoys being escorted by multiple vehicles while sitting behind four inches of bullet-proof glass.
Presumably these threats are made by people who feel wronged by the government in some way. These are not threats by neighbours or angry people who were cut off in traffic by the Prime Minister. In other words, this is not some personal grudge but one related to his role as the Prime Minister of Canada.
Yet these threats have not been brought to this House to be handled as breaches of privilege. These threats are dealt with, as they should be, by the police, the RCMP and presumably by CSIS where needed.
As pointed out earlier in Beauchesne's, it would not be appropriate to bring these issues here to the House since little could be accomplished by studying these threats in committee. In fact the mere suggestion sounds rather silly. These are threats made by criminals and should be handled by the police, plain and simple.
The second reason these are not dealt with in the House is that they are, in essence, threats made against the Government of Canada, not the member for Calgary Southwest. His role as the local MP is of little relevance to those who make those threats. It is his role as Prime Minister that sadly makes him a target.
Similarly in the case of the threats by Anonymous to the Minister of Public Safety, these threats are directed at the minister in his role as Minister of Public Safety, not as the member for Parliament for Provencher.
In essence, these are threats against the Government of Canada made by criminals. Joseph P. Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, is instructive on this point. On page 191 he states:
—parliamentary privilege is concerned with the special rights of members, not in their capacity as ministers or as party leaders, whips, or parliamentary secretaries, but strictly in their capacity as Members in their parliamentary work.
Anonymous has threatened to release information about the minister if he does not withdraw Bill C-30 and step down as minister. This is clearly a threat, but they are not asking the member for Provencher to vote against a bill, speak against it or take some other action as a member of the House, or even for the member for Provencher to step down as an MP. They are asking the minister to withdraw a bill from Parliament, the House and the Senate, and to step down as a minister of the crown.
Again, these are clearly threats made by criminals, yet they are threats against the Government of Canada, and as such should not be dealt with as matters of privilege but instead be investigated by the RCMP to ensure that these criminals are brought to justice. It is not an appropriate role for the House to supplant the normal criminal justice system, and I would caution that a finding of prima facie breach of privilege may do just that.
Finally, to the third and final complaint, which dealt with the issue of being inundated by phone calls and such, thus preventing him from performing his duties, I would like to quote from Speaker Sauvé's ruling given on July 15, 1980, cited on page 117 of O'Brien and Bosc. It states:
While I am only too aware of the multiple responsibilities, duties, and also the work the member has to do relating to his constituency, as Speaker I am required to consider only those matters which affect the member's parliamentary work. That is to say, whatever duty a member has to his constituents, before a valid question of privilege arises in respect of any alleged interference, such interference must relate to the member's parliamentary duties. In other words, just as a member is protected from anything he does while taking part in a proceeding in Parliament, so too must interference relate to the member's role in the context of parliamentary work.
Indeed, it was for this very reason that we have not raised a question of privilege regarding the efforts of the New Democratic Party to systematically attempt to clog the phone lines of the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain. I say “systematically” because they are using a system of robocalls to call constituents in the member's riding and telling them to simply press a number on the phone to be connected immediately to the constituency office, thereby flooding it. These types of underhanded, dirty tricks by the NDP are unfortunate and certainly no way to do politics and are motivated by either a sense of revenge against the member or perhaps a dire warning against their own caucus members. In any event, while they may clog the phone lines of the constituency office for a time, they do not constitute a breach of privilege, which is why we did not raise it.
Mr. Speaker, in your ruling pertaining to the question of privilege raised by the member for Mount Royal on November 16, 2011, you stated:
There is no doubt that he has been bombarded by telephone calls, emails and faxes from concerned and confused constituents. However, the Chair has great difficulty in concluding that the member has been unable to carry out his parliamentary duties as a result of these tactics.
In his May 5, 1987 ruling Speaker Fraser stated:
Given all the circumstances in this case, I am sure that the Minister's capacity to function as a Minister and Member of this House is in no way impaired.
In conclusion, the only one of the three complaints that even approaches a breach of privilege is the matter dealing with the group Anonymous. While that instance clearly does involve threats and intimidation, these are made against the minister in his role as a minister, not as a member. As such, they do not constitute a breach of privilege. While they are a matter of concern for all members of the House, they remain threats made by criminals to a minister of the Crown, and as such are better handled by the RCMP and other appropriate authorities.
He did that 14 days after the voters sent him to this House as a Liberal. Other examples include Garth Turner, Wajid Khan and Blair Wilson.
I want to talk about Vancouver Kingsway because I know the story very personally. In 2006, when the Conservative Party first got a minority government, my own member of Parliament, David Emerson, who had been a Liberal cabinet minister, crossed the floor two weeks after the election to become a Conservative cabinet minister. The people of Vancouver Kingsway felt outraged and betrayed by that decision. That betrayal was most deeply felt by the many voters who voted for a Liberal member of Parliament. Moreover, the party that came in second in that election was my own, the New Democratic Party of Canada.
I want to go over some of the numbers in that election. The Liberals in that election had 20,000 votes, the NDP had 15,500 votes and the Conservatives had 8,600 votes. We had 35,500 people who voted for a party other than the Conservatives against 8,600 who voted for the Conservatives.
Not only did the Conservative Party come third in that election, it came far back. The two parties combined, other than the Conservatives, had 400% more votes than the Conservatives and yet the people of Vancouver Kingsway found themselves represented by a Conservative member of Parliament in a Conservative cabinet for his term of office.
That is fundamentally undemocratic and a betrayal of the voters of Vancouver Kingsway, and that is exactly what the people of Vancouver Kingsway declared to this country.
Interestingly, on election night, Mr. Emerson celebrated his victory for the Liberals by declaring publicly on television that he would be the Prime Minister's worst nightmare. Two weeks later, on February 6, he was that same Prime Minister's minister of international trade. Who would stand in the House and justify such a fundamental betrayal of the democratic process? That is just absolutely awful.
The people of Vancouver Kingsway rose up in disgust. Signs sprung up all over Vancouver Kingsway. People like Mike Watson, the president of the local Conservative Riding Association, a man of rare integrity and principle, people like Jurgen Claudepierre, a lifelong Liberal supporter, and Shannon Steele, the New Democrat, worked together from all three sides of the political spectrum to oppose that fundamental rejection of the will of the people of Vancouver Kingsway.
For a democracy to work, people need to have trust in their politicians and trust is at an all time low in this country. People are not voting in elections. Why? It is because they do not trust politicians to keep their word.
There is no more fundamental breach of trust of politicians in this country than to ask for someone's trust and vote to represent their philosophy in the House of Commons and then get into the House and change. The recent example of the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain crossing the floor is outrageous. The numbers are staggering. The Liberals had 12% in that riding and the member thinks it is a fair representation of constituents' vote to cross the floor to the Liberal Party. That is fundamentally wrong and should not be defended by anybody. This legislation should be put into practice to bring democracy to this country.
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on International Trade, entitled “Mission to Washington, D.C.”, on the state of Canada–United States trade relations.
If I may, I would take a moment to thank members of the committee. We have had an excellent trade committee this session. I want to pay particular gratitude to our critic on the other side, the member for Willowdale and certainly my vice-chair from Saint-Maurice—Champlain. They have been very co-operative and helpful in serving this Parliament. I also thank the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. I thank them and my own colleagues who have served so well on this committee.
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-12 is basically an attack on the Quebec nation. It shows a lack of respect for the Quebec nation. My question is for the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain. If Bill C-12 passes, what would be the consequences for the Quebec nation?
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain on his speech.
In a nutshell, he mentioned in his remarks that the Conservative government passed itself off as an open government, but that by introducing Bill C-12, it instead demonstrated that it was a closed government. He also remarked that the National Assembly voted twice in favour of urging the House of Commons to reject the proposal to reduce Quebec’s political weight.
I would like the member to tell us what message Bill C-12 would send to Quebeckers should it pass.
Madam Speaker, I would not say that words fail me just because I will not be debating the bill itself. I want to debate the motion that would prevent any discussion of the substance of the bill. I find it rather odd that the Bloc supports the government's attempt to stop any possibility of debating the substance of the bill.
No one in the House can accuse the Liberals of not supporting the proposal to abolish one-sixth accelerated parole for white collar criminals. Two years ago, my colleague from Bourassa, our candidate in Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, and the member for Lac-Saint-Louis participated in a press conference with a number of Earl Jones' victims to urge the government to quickly introduce a bill to eliminate eligibility for one-sixth accelerated parole for white collar criminals, especially those who commit major fraud and have many victims. No one can accuse the Liberals of not supporting this idea. I find it shameful that the government is making these types of accusations when it is fully aware of the Liberal position. That is my first point.
Second, I want to talk about the debate and the possibility that there will be closure. Barely seven months ago, the Bloc members rose in the House to criticize this government for doing what it is about to do with Bill C-59. The government had moved a motion to prevent debate. The Bloc member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain rose in the House last June to admonish the government because it moved a motion to prevent debate on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. The Bloc member for Hochelaga also rose to oppose the government's time allocation motion to prevent debate on the Jobs and Economics Growth Act, Bill C-9.
We oppose this time allocation motion because we believe that this is an important matter. In addition, the Liberals have been asking the government for two years to abolish one-sixth accelerated parole for white collar criminals such as Earl Jones, Vincent Lacroix and others. I find it regrettable that the Conservatives are trying to make people believe that the Liberals do not care about the victims. That is not true.
As I mentioned, when the government introduced Bill C-21 regarding white collar criminals and it was sent to committee, I proposed an amendment to eliminate the one-sixth accelerated parole rule for white collar criminals. The Conservative and Bloc members defeated the motion.
It is a matter of responsibility. Every member has the right to speak about the bills that the government introduces in the House. This is an extremely important issue.
We would like to hear from experts. It is possible that experts will tell us that we should eliminate the possibility of parole after one-sixth of a sentence for white collar criminals who committed a crime over a certain amount or if there were multiple victims. But for white collar crime that is not fraud, we believe evidence shows that parole after one-sixth of the sentence is served is very effective and that the recidivism rate is lower. I do not know. With this motion to limit debate, we will perhaps never know before we are asked to vote on this bill.
The Liberals are against this motion to limit debate. It is not justified, and we are sorry to see that the Bloc has decided to join the Conservatives to limit debate on this bill. As for the substance of the bill, up until today, no one could accuse the Liberals of not showing their support for eliminating the one-sixth accelerated parole rule for white collar criminals.
The electoral district of Saint-Maurice--Champlain (Quebec) has a population of 96,968 with 80,032 registered voters and 225 polling divisions.
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