The hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London is rising on a point of order.
Mr. Speaker, I am here to speak about, and in favour of, Bill C-60, the economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1.
I would first like to discuss Elgin—Middlesex—London and southern Ontario. I will be sharing how this budget relates to and assists the people of Elgin—Middlesex—London.
The area of southern Ontario in which I live is very unique, very beautiful and a very hard-working part of this country. It includes 80 miles of Canada's south coast, the shore of Lake Erie, only 50 miles across to where Cleveland sits, and miles and miles of great farmland. The 401 Highway, the most travelled transportation route through southern Ontario, cuts through the riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London. Large manufacturers cluster along this highway, as goods come and go, into the United States and from the United States. In our area, almost everything we make, almost everything we service, almost everything we assemble, is either sold to a United States customer or shipped there for further processing.
It has certainly meant that since the United States has slowed, its economy sputtering, our area has also felt the decline, not the demise but a decline. The decline in manufacturing in our area has led to even more innovation, more entrepreneurship, more vision and more desire to succeed.
Let me share some of the great ideas that have happened. First of all, we have seen the gathering of Canadian businesses. As I shared, most of our economy in that area of southern Ontario used to have a real north-south edge to it. The economy was southern Ontario to the United States, and the United States to southern Ontario. Since the decline in the United States, we have had to go looking for other customers. We found them right here in Canada. Western Canada is flourishing, for those members across the way who have not noticed.
Recently, and thanks to the member for Edmonton—Leduc—I wish he was here so I could thank him in person—we had a large group of Canadian oil producers from the west come to southern Ontario, into small communities in southern Ontario like St. Thomas, put together by the economic development officers in southern Ontario and the oil producers from the west.
They came looking for stuff; gaskets, gauges, pipe, steel. Just about everything we make in southern Ontario that used to be made for the auto industry fits perfectly in the oil industry too. They brought their order books, and they came to southern Ontario. We matched Canadian company with Canadian company, and we are moving forward with this process and continue to do so. It is entrepreneurism at its best.
We have other auto-related companies in southern Ontario that are currently converting or have converted through the recession to products that are not always auto-related. Some are now making solar panels or brackets for solar panels. Some are making blades for windmills or parts for the wind energy industry. This is the innovation of the manufacturing community of southern Ontario.
What else do we do? We have food. We are great farmers. We have a fantastic growing area in southern Ontario. What else have we done from an innovative point of view? We have started to process the stuff we grow, right there at home. It is phenomenal. We have great producers of corn and dairy and whatever else we can grow in Canada.
Dr. Oetker is building a very large frozen pizza factory right there in the south part of London in the riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London. It is under construction right now, but will be opening soon. The company will buy wheat for flour cheese made out of dairy from our farmers and produce for toppings on those pizzas, all grown right there in southern Ontario. That is the productivity of the farmers and the food distribution piece.
We continue to look at food distribution. Most of the food grown in southern Ontario gets shipped to Toronto where it is sent to the food terminal, bought by people in southern Ontario and brought back. That does not make sense to most people, so why not put a food terminal right there in southern Ontario? That is what we are working on.
I think I spoke about this House. It is very unique. Right there, enclosed in farmland in southern Middlesex County is a tilapia farm. Aquaculture right there in southern Ontario, not on the lake but inland. A great entrepreneur realized there was millions of dollars of tilapia being sold in the Toronto market from the United States, and said that we could do that in Canada, right there in southern Ontario.
What else have we asked for?
We have heard speeches in the House this morning about tourism in southern Ontario and how it is thriving and newer than it used to be. We knew we lived in a beautiful place, and now we are telling other people about it. We are okay if tourists come to visit and take up some of our space. The 80 miles of Lake Erie shoreline, ports and beaches are fantastic.
If one goes to the beach at Port Burwell along Lake Erie, one will now find a 300-foot submarine. The HMCS Ojibwa has been landed and will open on the long weekend in May for tourists. I have been through it, so anyone can fit. This is the type of entrepreneurship that is happening in tourism in southern Ontario.
Here is another piece we are doing that was never thought of before. Rural Canada has always had the issue of its youth, after high school, having to go somewhere else for post-secondary education. They always went someplace bigger—not always better, just someplace bigger. However, we now have a branch of Algoma University right here in St. Thomas, Ontario, teaching undergraduate studies in what used to be a historic old schoolhouse. Also, Fanshawe College, a community college branch in St. Thomas, is there to teach skilled trades in the new skills program. It teaches people the skilled trades that will be needed to move Canada forward. We will keep our youth at home. Not only will our youth stay at home to go to school; others will come. We are attracting dollars into our community by people coming here for post-secondary education.
We cannot talk about entrepreneurs without talking about those in southern Ontario. Sure, it has had its troubles in manufacturing, but to many who would see a problem, thousands have seen opportunities from an entrepreneurial point of view; they have seen this as a time to move forward and open a small business.
With John and his people at the Elgin Business Resource Centre and their business incubator program, the community futures program and the mentorship programs they are developing, we are returning jobs to southern Ontario. It may be two, three, five, ten or twenty jobs at a time, but they are returning to southern Ontario. The great economic development teams of Elgin County, Middlesex County and the City of St. Thomas are all doing the same thing and attracting small and medium-sized businesses.
How does the budget help all this?
Each of the things I have mentioned has a piece in the budget that has helped move these things forward. I am sure I will not have a chance to cover them all unless the Speaker forgets what the clock looks like, but I will talk about some.
How about creating the Canada jobs grant for training skills for the needs of youth and employers?
As both a small business person, and my business is small, and volunteer president of the Youth Employment Counselling Centre for some 10 years before politics, I have recognized the need to ensure that youth are available and trained for the jobs of today and tomorrow. It seems like a no-brainer, but including employers in that mix of the Canada jobs grant program means that employers will be sharing their needs, and not just today's needs but tomorrow's needs too, so that the training programs for youth will be there and will be the right ones to create the jobs.
For years, we have talked about apprenticeships as an area of concern, certainly in southern Ontario's manufacturing belt, and the skilled trades workers. I remember having a conversation with a principal of a community college some 15 years ago. I asked him how many millwrights would be trained this year. He said that there would be 41. I said, “Wow, that's fantastic. How did you come up with that number? Did you talk to the local manufacturing association? Did you talk to the schools to see how many people were graduating?” He said, “No, that's how many seats there are in the classroom.”
That is how we used to determine how many skilled tradespeople we used to train. How about getting out and talking to employers about their needs? How about getting out and talking to the schools and finding the youth who want to move into those careers? We can merge the two and make it so that employers have enough people to hire.
Also, there are opportunities for those with disabilities. My friend, the member for Brant, has a great private member's motion coming up that will help move forward opportunities for people with disabilities.
I wish I had a great deal more time to talk about other things such as options and what we are doing for infrastructure. I am sure during questions I will be able to talk about some of those.
Members should recall that they must direct their comments, questions, speeches to the chair and not to other hon. members. It keeps the debate civil.
We are going to resuming debate. The hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London has 20 minutes available to him, but I will need to interrupt him at 15 minutes past the hour, which is the end of the time allocated for business of supply today.
The hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.
There will be about six minutes left for questions and comments when the House returns to this matter after question period. We will now move on to statements by members.
The hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to be standing here in this House to speak about the issue of the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. I have had the opportunity to listen to members opposite and to some of the questions that have gone through to our colleagues.
Let me start by establishing, if I might, that part of my bona fide is that I have been on the trade committee since I was first elected, and I am now in my fifth year. It has been a privilege to be on that committee, because it has been a very active committee. I will touch on that in a moment.
It is rather interesting to hear members from the other side talk about the issue of free trade as if they were the primary proponents of it, when in fact in my experience over the last four years and some, they just do not support free trade. I will grant that members opposite, without a voice vote, chose to support the Jordan free trade agreement, and I salute them for that.
However, that is a modest deal. It is an important deal for what we are going to establish in the Middle East, but it is only a piece of a much larger spectrum of what Canada is trying to do.
As I address my comments, I am not sure whether I want to address members opposite in terms of some of the things they have said or whether I want to stay specifically to the point of the text and the message I want to deliver. Perhaps I can share a bit of both for the benefit of the House.
Yesterday I was in the 10th largest city in Canada: London, Ontario. Our hon. Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development was with me, as well as the members for Elgin—Middlesex—London and London North Centre. Mr. Butters, the president and CEO of Purifics, a water treatment facility success story, when asked by a person who was not in support of free trade how he could justify it, said he would not be here were it not for free trade. He said he deals with free trade in Europe and in the United States, and it is critical to his success, his survival. It is the reason he is in business today.
I can echo those comments right across the spectrum of businesses across our great country. Why do we think the job creators of this country are the ones who support free trade? It is because they know Canada's survival is as a trading nation.
Mr. Speaker, you would know, because you seem wise, that one out of every five positions in this country is predicated on trade, and that is growing.
I find it baffling that members opposite would stand up in this House and pretend to support free trade when in fact they do not vote in favour of it. I struggle with that very deeply. I need them to search their souls.
Mr. Speaker, you might advise them accordingly to consider that, to actually think about what it means to be without free trade in this country. It is that critical.
I have a couple more things I wanted to share because I really think it is important. The member opposite, in his comments, said it is only a small deal. I suppose in some respects it is only a small deal. However, could anyone tell me how small that is to the humble potato farmer of Prince Edward Island when he has to pay a huge tariff when he delivers his potatoes, whole, and his frozen fries to Panama?
Tell me, what would my friends from P.E.I. say? If they had any respect for the humble potato, if for no other reason than that, they would want to stand up and support this free trade deal.
There is much more. In every province and every territory in this country, there are those industries that significantly benefit from free trade. I would like to touch on those a little.
Can members opposite tell me how they justify tariffs of up to 15% in Nova Scotia on fish and seafood? I cannot understand why they would want to do that. Right now paper and paper board products in Newfoundland are suffering tariffs as much as 15%, which kills jobs. The party opposite talks about creating jobs, but I am not sure about that. If it were, it would look to Alberta.
I know members opposite are challenged for some seats in Alberta. Forest products have 15% tariffs; milling products have as much as 40% tariffs. Would members opposite say this agreement is not good enough for Albertans? I would say, if they want to grow some seats in that section of the country, they might just want to say it is good for Alberta, and if it is good for Alberta, it might even be good for them, if they would get behind this and endorse it.
If members opposite were from Saskatchewan, they would say that pulses and cereals have tariff rates that range anywhere from 15% up to 40%. That is killing jobs and prevents additional job creation in the province of Saskatchewan. In Manitoba, the oil seeds and pulses, again, have tariffs of up to 15%.
When we sign this free trade agreement with Panama, almost every tariff will be eliminated. Those that are not eliminated are going to have a range of some three to five years and then they will be eliminated.
What would our friends opposite say to the pork industry? I would actually ask them, and they have consistently heard from the pork industry, which says, “Please, let us do business in Panama without the job-killing tariffs”. That is what they tell us.
I wonder what some members opposite would say to that. How can they stand up and say they support trade when in fact it has not been their history? I know, because I have sat in my chair at every meeting every week at the international trade committee, and that is not the position they take.
I have already excused Jordan, whatever excuse anyone might make about Jordan, and I have great respect for that trade agreement. However, I say it goes much more and greater and beyond that, and if they do ever want to imagine that at some point they would be at some spot other than that side of the House, they would have to come back and say trade is good for Canada and good for Canadian jobs. Frankly, I do not hear it from them. I hear a lot of rhetoric and I do not hear that.
When NDP members say it is a small deal, I would not say to these industries, companies and individual jobs in provinces and territories across this country, which are dependent on exporting to Panama, that this is just a small deal. I think that is rude, and we would never be rude in this House.
The interesting thing is that NDP members also ask what the rush is. I would like to inform the House, for those who do not know. Here is the rush. Did they know that last week the United States did sign its deal and ratified it with Panama? That automatically puts us at a significant disadvantage, because we are now behind the U.S., and we have to push this deal along. What is the rush? It was in 2008 that we started speaking about this and 2010 when we brought it back. It died in the last Parliament. We are trying to bring it back, so we can ensure that industry across this country is protected. We want to do that with every opportunity.
My colleague opposite made the comment that he would prefer to do multilaterals. This government has always said that multilaterals are good, and if Doha were around, we would support that. However, I fear that Doha is as dead as Elvis, and the problem with that is that we have to look at bilaterals and opportunities where we can.
Why are we doing CETA? That is 27 countries. That is a bilateral technically, but it is 27 countries with which we are doing business. We did EFTA, the European Free Trade Association, which is four countries: Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Iceland. That was important to them and important to us.
I do not know why members opposite cannot celebrate good news. This is good news for Canada. It is great news for Canadian jobs. If we get behind the United States in terms of ratifying these deals, good deals for Canada, then frankly it puts our workers and jobs in Canada at a huge disadvantage.
It is interesting too, because I have heard of issues like environmental and labour rights. One of the things I am very proud of is how our officials have established the negotiations they have done with Panama, as they have done with other countries. They have been very proper and very thorough, dealing with labour co-operation agreements with Panama and environmental co-operation agreements.
There are just a couple of things I would like to emphasize, because I think they bear noting. Here is what it means for labour. Members opposite, particularly in Her Majesty's official opposition, think their only role is to oppose. Maybe some day in an off moment someone will explain why they are given that title, because that is all they seem to want to do, oppose. If they would just celebrate and get on board, put their politics aside and do what is right for Canada and Canadians and for jobs in this country, I would say that is the right thing. They should get on side with that right away.
It is interesting, when I hear about the concerns members opposite talk about with respect to labour. I want to touch on this. The labour co-operation agreement we have put in place has several things: the right to freedom of association; the right to collective bargaining; the right to the abolition of child labour; the elimination of forced and compulsory labour; the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
If members opposite were so compelled that they truly believed in that—forget the potato for just a moment—they would get behind this for the sake of labour in Panama. I am glad this does good things for the great people of Panama, whether it is from the environmental standpoint, whether it is from the labour co-operation standpoint, whether it is for their ability to improve their standard of living by being able to bring goods into our country. However, what about Canada?
Who is speaking for the Canadian worker? Who is speaking for Canadian jobs? Who is speaking for Canadian businesses that want this deal? Is that not the point? The Conservative Party is speaking for Canadian jobs, and I am proud to be a member of the party that does that.
I would like to touch on a couple of other things, because we have heard of issues like money laundering and how it is rampant in Panama. I decided to pull a piece out of a very interesting publication. Panama historically had challenges with respect to money laundering. Its improvement has been so significant that it has been taken off the grey list, because it has tried very hard to improve its financial institutions. Not only that, but we have great institutions like Scotiabank, which has been in Panama since 1983, and from a corporate social responsibility has helped show the way to do business properly with financial institutions in Panama. As a result of that success, it has become the fifth largest bank in Panama. I say bravo to Scotiabank for its leadership and commitment to corporate social responsibility. We can all be very proud of that.
There are other things about the opposition to this that frustrate me. We have heard discussion earlier today about the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal is a project of some $5 billion or $6 billion. I have heard at committee and in the House that somehow that has passed us by. That is not exactly true. We had the Ambassador of Panama to Canada come to our committee a few months ago, and he said there are still huge opportunities. They are not just with that $6 billion project, but there are offshoots of that relating to infrastructure that represent some $13.2 billion of economic benefit that will be available in the market. Would I not want to give businesses like EllisDon, McKay-Cocker and M.M. Dillon out of London, Ontario, which do great international work, and all those other London companies great opportunities to do business? Why would the opposition members deny it? That is just wrong.
If members were truly committed to supporting jobs in all their communities, as I know this side is, they would say this is a deal we must get behind. Maybe they have to think of it like Jordan, that it may not be the biggest deal, but it is important to various industries in every province and territory in this country. It is truly beneficial, and we know it to be because the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, local chambers of commerce and job creators say so. If that is truly the case, it begs the question why members opposite cannot say they want to do this for the sake of their communities. I think it is the right thing for them to do. By getting behind a deal like this, they would be setting the stage for a very interesting dynamic, because Panama is the hub of Central America, which is the gateway between two major oceans and the gateway to South America.
We have done deals in Colombia and Peru, and in case there is some confusion, we deal with every country in the world in trade today. Canadian businesses deal with every country in the world today. Businesses are asking for a rules-based system so they know what happens. It is only right that businesses have an expectation that, when they do business in a foreign country, they know the consequences, the rights and the obligations. That seems to me to be fundamental. With my 30-plus years of business experience, I would say that if I wanted to do business in any country, I would want to know the rules.
Earlier I heard a member opposite say we need to do more business in the United States. By the way, I do not think any member of the House would challenge that, but we want to decrease the dependency on our business with the United States. I want to grow that business, but I want to expand it right around the world. That is why this government has been so committed to trade deals, everywhere from South America, to Jordan, to EFTA. We are now negotiating CETA, which involves the 27 countries of the European Union. We are negotiating the trans-Pacific partnership. We have recently been invited in. That involves many countries in the far east that will give us a gateway to Asia.
There is another opportunity we have not talked about. Several countries with which we already have trade, and in fact, with which we have trade agreements, but on a bilateral basis, are coming together in South America and Central America to try to establish more of that multilateral kind of concept. We support that. As long as a multilateral is not formal, I will do a bilateral agreement with every country in the world where I get a chance. That is my commitment to Canadian jobs.
I want to remind members that what we have here is a Canadian opportunity. However, we are already a little late. We cannot be late any longer. If we want to protect Canadian jobs, grow those opportunities, and protect that humble potato and everything else we do, we have an obligation to act expeditiously and as appropriately as we can to ensure that. Because Panama has already signed a deal with the United States, which is our major competitor in Panama, what we must do is put it in place as quickly as the House will allow. Then we must send it to the Senate, of course, for royal assent, as quickly as we can, for the sake of Canada, for the sake of our jobs, and to make sure that our kids have futures. Do not steal those jobs away. Give us the opportunity, give us the tools, to do that.
As I stand in my committee, we hear members who have very thoughtful views about trade with other countries, and I respect the fact that they have those views. I am surprised, after they have done as much as they can, that they would not fully embrace the concept of free trade. It is so basic. It is basic business and basic humanity. If we were to do business with a country like Panama, it would be raising that standard of living. It really would. We would also be raising our standing of living in Canada. That is what is important.
We have created some 800,000-plus jobs since the economic action plan was put in place. That was not done by accident. That happened because we have a plan, and a critical part of that plan includes putting in free trade agreements right around the world.
If we truly want to consider opening up the gateways to South America, and we already have some avenues in place, we have to do that with Panama. That will matter to Central America. That will matter to South America. It sends a message that Canada is open for business. That is the key to what we are speaking about here.
It absolutely dazzles me when members opposite do not seem to understand that. I would truly like them to take their partisanship off, and for the sake of jobs in this country, come forward, just as they did in Jordan, where they showed that they could, to say that they support trade, because look at what we did in Jordan. I hope that was not just a ruse. I hope that is not the case.
I am not a cynical guy. My Cape Breton mom said, “You've got two things in your life. You've got your name and your integrity, and you don't mess up one without messing up the other.”
I would ask the members opposite whether for the sake of Canada, for the sake of business, and for the sake of the Canadian worker, they would do as they did in Jordan and come alongside the Conservatives and let us just do this. Some things are just the right thing to do. That is fundamental.
It is a privilege for me to be on this committee, where I have an opportunity to have an opinion or two. I will apologize. My Cape Breton mother always said, “You remind me of your Cape Breton grandad. Why use 10 words when 100 can do the same thing?” I will raise my hand to say that this might be a modest fault. However, she also said, “If you don't stand for something, you fall for anything.” Therefore, I say to members opposite, do not fall for anything. Stand for the right thing. Stand for Canadian jobs. Let us make a difference in this country and let us grow it to be the greatest in the world.
Mr. Speaker, I come from a background of employee benefits and pensions and throughout that time I noticed that there has been a dramatic shift as it relates to pensions, RRSPs and, frankly, there has not been the uptake. As I have gone through my riding and asked questions about the interest in it, there seems to be a lot of interest in uptake.
I struggle because I am not sure why there is such opposition to this from members opposite, but I would ask my colleague from Elgin—Middlesex—London this question. Does he think, given a chance, that small businesses like the kinds of companies he represented in his pre-political life, would take a hard look at and participate in this program?
Mr. Speaker, I have a further submission dealing with my colleague, the hon. member for Provencher, in his intervention on a question of privilege just a few moments ago. My comments will be restricted to a question of privilege regarding the group Anonymous and not on the Wikileaks issue, which we just clarified a few moments ago.
I am rising to provide the Chair with additional submissions with respect to the question of privilege, as I mentioned a few moments ago. My hon. friend has put before the House a submission that his rights as a member of Parliament have been breached with respect to freedom from obstruction, interference, intimidation and molestation. In particular, his freedom from intimidation in connection with the proceeding in Parliament has been breached, amounting to a contempt.
Moreover, Sir, I submit there is a second contempt in relation to the obstruction of the hon. member for Provencher through an interference of nepotism and an accusation of criminal activity.
The classic definition of parliamentary privilege can be found at page 75 of the 23rd edition of Erskine May's Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament. It states:
Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively … and by Members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions, and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals.
A more pithy summary of privilege can be found in Mr. Speaker Lamoureux's decision at page 5338 of Debates for April 29, 1971, where he stated:
In my view, parliamentary privilege does not go much beyond the right of free speech in the House of Commons and the right of a member to discharge his duties in the House as a member of the House of Commons.
Citation 93 on page 25 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules & Forms, sixth edition, states:
It is generally accepted that any threat, or attempt to influence the vote of, or actions of a Member, is breach of privilege.
Citation 99 on page 26 of that same publication adds:
Direct threats which attempt to influence Members' actions in the House are undoubtedly breaches of privilege.
While some parts of the situation are time tested, other characteristics of this case present novel aspects to contemplate. On the one hand, responding to threats is among the first matters of parliamentary privilege dealt with in Canada. Page 198 of the second edition of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada tells us of an incident in 1758 where the Nova Scotia House of Assembly proceeded against someone who made threats against a member.
Although the framework of privilege has largely solidified through centuries of common law statutes and even the Constitution, it continues to have sufficient flexibility to adapt and be applied to a changing environment, such as televising proceedings, as noted at page 63 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition.
Page 225 of Maingot advises:
While privilege may be codified, contempt may not, because new forms of obstruction are constantly being devised and Parliament must be able to invoke its penal jurisdiction to protect itself against these new forms; there is no closed list of classes of offences punishable as contempt of Parliament.
That speaks to the novel aspects in this case where we are dealing with publications on the Internet, particularly with videos on the website YouTube. The YouTube videos of the so-called Anonymous include comments which are, I submit, threats and even blackmail. These comments seek to induce the Minister of Public Safety to undertake certain actions in respect of a bill he has introduced and sponsors.
Before I press further into my submissions, I want to make it very clear that I do not seek to bring ordinary free and democratic expression or critical speech into what is being considered here.
Page 235 of Maingot offers an articulate review of the balance to be considered. It states:
—all interferences with Members' privileges of freedom of speech, such as editorials and other public comment, are not breaches of privilege even though they influence the conduct of Members in their parliamentary work. Accordingly, not every action by an outside body that may influence the conduct of a Member of Parliament as such could now be regarded as a breach of privilege, even if it were calculated and intended to bring pressure on the Member to take or to refrain from taking a particular course. But any attempt by improper means to influence or obstruct a member in his parliamentary work may constitute contempt. What constitutes an improper means of interfering with Members' parliamentary work is always a question depending on the facts of each case.
The February 18 video of Anonymous said, in respect of my hon. friend, that, “you will cease your efforts...immediately. If you do not...you will soon find yourself not only mocked, but jobless and despised.
The video went on to suggest that my hon. friend, “is bound to have many skeletons in his closet. Some of these have already been brought to light and we have no doubt that this is only the tip of the iceberg”. The video later inferred that he would not be allowed “to have any secrets of his own”.
The February 18 video also included a broad swipe at all hon. members by threatening, “Let this be a warning to any politician....Your actions will not stand. You cannot run. You cannot hide”.
In a subsequent video published on February 22, after disclosing a number of items of personal information in respect to the hon. member and of individuals close to him, Anonymous rhetorically asks:
Do we have your attention? How does it feel to have personal information about your family in the hands of people you know nothing about, with no control over who disseminates it or how it will be used?... Let it be known this is only a taste of the information we have access to. And this is only the beginning.
Later in the video, there was another broad threat to all members of this House. I suppose that this very intervention I am making will come within the ambit of this threat to the effect that, “to the rest of the Parliament of Canada: you would do well to mind your words about Anonymous”.
In the most recent video on February 25, a further threat to the hon. member for Provencher was uttered to the following effect, “You have seven days to reflect upon your personal and political crimes. After that, the Canadian people will also be made aware of just how disgustingly unscrupulous and corrupt you are.”
As I will review later, there have been false and misleading statements meant to malign the hon. member. We should expect more of the same.
In this weekend's video, there was yet another threat aimed generally at all hon. members:
And to the rest of those who support Bill C-30: do not believe for a moment that you are untouchable. Anonymous has received information implicating many of you in both political and personal scandals....Let the next seven days serve as a period of reflection for the entire House of Commons. Ask yourselves, how many more scandals can you afford?
To summarize the various quotes, they are more than just intimidation or threats. Quite frankly, they are blackmail.
In a ruling on September 19, 1973, Mr. Speaker Lamoureux on page 6709 of the Debates stated that he had:
—no hesitation in reaffirming the principle that parliamentary privilege includes the right of a member to discharge his responsibilities as a member of the House free from threats or attempts at intimidation.
Speaker Bosley, on May 16, 1986, at page 13362 of Debates held that the threat or attempt to intimidate cannot be hypothetical but that it must be real or have occurred.
For his part, Mr. Speaker Parent, on March 24, 1994, at page 2706 of Debates said:
Threats of blackmail or intimidation of a member of Parliament should never be taken lightly. When such occurs, the very essence of free speech is undermined. Without the guarantee of freedom of speech, no member of Parliament can do his duty as expected.
In that instance, a prima facie breach of privilege was not found because the threats were associated with an appeal then pending at the Ontario Court of Appeal.
On page 143 of Erskine May, it says, “The House will proceed against those who obstruct Members in the discharge of their responsibilities to the House or in their participation of its proceedings”.
Indeed, Mr. Speaker, your own decision on December 13, 2011, at page 4396 of the Debates, also turned on the principle of whether there was an impact on parliamentary duties. This brings me to whether or not these threats arise from a “proceedings in Parliament”. The circumstances before us today arise from Bill C-30, which was recently introduced and now sits on the order paper as an order of the day. Pages 91 and 92 of O'Brien and Bosc quote two definitions of this term “proceedings in Parliament”, from Erskine May on Australia's Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987. May's definition states that:
An individual Member takes part in a proceeding usually by speech, but also by various recognized forms of formal action, such as voting, giving notice of a motion, or presenting a petition or report from a committee, most of such actions being time-saving substitutes for speaking.
The Australian statutory definition contains the expression “all words spoken and acts done in the course of, or for purposes of or incidental to, the transacting of the business of a House”.
Page 80 of Maingot addresses the point that:
—two of Parliament's constituent elements, the House of Commons and the Senate were established for the enactment of laws, those events necessarily incidental to the enactment of laws are part of “the proceedings of Parliament”.
The introduction and sponsorship of a bill cannot get closer to the process of enacting a law. Therefore, I would submit that the threats and accusations are quite clearly relating to a proceeding in Parliament.
While I am making references to Australia, that is one case when the Commonwealth which shares features to this case, particularly with regard to generalized threats to all hon. members.
On May 4, 1993, the President Sibraa of the Australian Senate ruled that page 19 of Hansard on two related questions of privilege. On one of the matters the president said:
The essence of the matter raised by Senator Walters is that a person has allegedly threatened to publish certain supposed information concerning Opposition members of parliament if the Opposition members adopt a certain policy in relation to X-rated videos.
The subsequent Forty-third Report of the Committee of Privileges, in December 1993, described the threats identified by Senator Walters as: first, an alleged threat “to 'out' Liberal party figures if the party adopted what it claimed was a leaked policy document proposing a sex industry crackdown” and second, an accusation regarding a “potential release of security film of a coalition member at a sex shop”.
The president found that:
The possible contempt of parliament contained in the matter raised by Senator Walters is that of seeking by threats to influence senators in their conduct as senators. This is one of the well known contempts of parliament...
The alleged threat is directed to Opposition members generally and not to any particular person, but it is well established that the threat to unnamed members, or to a group or category of members, or to members in general, can be a contempt just as can a threat to particular members.
The alleged threat as reported and also directed to Opposition members of Parliament generally, and does not distinguish between members and senators. If the threat as reported were made, it could be regarded as being directed to senators as well as members of the House of Representatives. This is so particularly having regard to the fact that senators could, and probably would, participate in the formulation of any policy relating to X-rated videos.
The formulation of such a policy by a group of senators clearly falls within their duties as senators and their conduct as senators...A threat such as the one reported obviously has the potential substantially to obstruct senators in the performance of their functions.
In the event, after hearing submissions and evidence, the committee concluded that, in view of the further details it acquired, this particular case “did not have the effect or tendency of substantially obstructing senators in the performance of their functions”, although the committee did find the actions of those responsible to be “inept and offensive”, and part behaviour which was “cavalier and unprofessional”.
One area I should address is the identity or source of the threats and the ability to make a specific charge. Citation 99 on page 26 of Beauchesne's states that:
Direct threats which attempt to influence Members' actions 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.
In his September 19, 1973, ruling, Mr. Speaker Lamoureux found, at page 6709 of the Debates, that the instance raised by a member could not be a prima facie question of privilege because the member did not know the identity of the person at the other end of the telephone conversation which gave rise to the complaint.
Nonetheless, the unknown identity of those responsible for breaching privilege did not deter Mr. Speaker Milliken in his October 15, 2001 ruling, at page 6085 of the Debates, from stating:
There is a body that is well equipped to commit such active inquisition, and that is the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which has a fearsome chairman, quite able to extract information from witnesses who appear before the committee, with the aid of the capable members who form the committee of the House
I have no doubt that the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London is an even more fearsome inquisitor than his predecessor 11 years ago. I believe that the same principle about the role of committee holds equally true today, that is to say, any unanswered questions can be resolved there.
As for how one could start to get to the bottom of this, I have some thoughts. I am sure others do too. However, my prevailing thought is that it should go to a committee to sort out this approach, hear from appropriate experts and go from there.
Mr. Speaker, I would commend to you the decision of your immediate predecessor from October 6, 2005, at page 8473 of Debates. The Chair wrestled with a novel question related to new statutory and Standing Order provisions pertaining to the Ethics Commissioner and that the officer of Parliament's conduct in respect of an investigation of the hon. member for Calgary East.
In those circumstances, Mr. Speaker Milliken opined that he was prepared to find a prima facie case of privilege, “to afford the House an opportunity to pronounce itself on how it wishes to proceed”.
Indeed, Mr. Speaker Jerome asked, in his March 21, 1978 ruling on page 3975:
Does the act complained of appear to me at first sight to be a breach of privilege?
...or to put it shortly, has the Member an arguable point? If the Speaker feels any doubt on the question, he should....leave it to the House.
Mr. Speaker Lamoureux also took this perspective of a member getting the benefit of the doubt on October 24, 1966, at page 9004 of Debates and on March 27, 1969, at page 853 of Journals.
In the present novel circumstances, I think the same course of action is equally appropriate.
Before concluding, I want to turn briefly to the other source of contempt in this argument: the unjust damaging of a member's name as constituting an obstruction.
In the February 22 video, “Anonymous” accuses the hon. member for Provencher, through an inference by using sarcastic language, of nepotism in respect of an employee of a member of the other place.
Again, on February 25, it was said that, “It is widely known that you have engaged in criminal activity to further your political career, as you did in 1999”.
It needs to be clear that the hon. member has not been convicted of any criminal offence.
These statements are not only misleading but are false and can only be viewed as an attempt to discredit the reputation of my hon. friend.
Mr. Speaker Fraser's ruling on May 5, 1987, at page 5766 of Debates stated:
The privileges of a Member are violated by any action which might impeded him or her in the fulfillment 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 is not available.
Nonetheless, Mr. Speaker Milliken issued several rulings with respect to the damaging of a member's reputation, including some decisions with respect to mailings by a member into another member's constituency, as well as the previously mentioned case on comments made by the Ethics Commissioner.
Given this departure from Mr. Speaker Fraser's view, but more so the inseparable nature of the accusations from the threats contained in the video published by “Anonymous”, I would submit that the Chair should find this to be further ground for finding a prima facie case of privilege.
In closing, the Chair is faced with a case where those who have legitimately held concerns about some business before Parliament have gone about expressing their opposition, and seeking to secure actions in view with their thinking, in an utterly despicable manner.
Extortion and blackmail are not part of legitimate debate. Threats against MPs to vote one way or else are unbecoming of the Canadian political discourse. Not only are they awful and inappropriate, they cross a line. They are a contempt of this honourable House.
The ancient privileges of Parliament were first meant to secure the independence of members' actions free of the interference of the Crown. They subsequently broadened to encompass freedom from interference regardless of the source.
As an institution, we cannot allow this reckless and irresponsible behaviour to go completely unchecked. The first step would be to find a prima facie case of privilege so that the hon. member for Provencher may offer his motion to refer the matter to a committee where the facts can be investigated and the issues studied so that we may, as a House, respond to such behaviour now and in the future.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.
I am very pleased to speak to the motion presented by member for London—Fanshawe. It goes without saying that we are disappointed by Caterpillar's decision to close its Electro-Motive Diesel facility in London and by White Birch Paper Company's decision to close its idled Stadacona plant. I can tell members why from a very personal perspective.
I grew up in Cape Breton and unfortunately witnessed the closing of the coal mines, steel plant and the collapse of the fishery during the time when I was in high school there. I have great sympathy for the workers and their families affected by the decisions of these companies.
Unfortunately these events come at a time of global uncertainty. Because of that uncertainty, and as has already been pointed out, the government has taken significant steps toward helping manufacturing in our country.
Specifically, we have provided tax relief. We have enabled a 50% straight-line cost allowance rate for machinery and equipment. We have eliminated tariffs on machinery and equipment and on industrial inputs. We are investing in skills training, infrastructure, supporting research and efforts to commercialize innovation. The results are clear. Nearly 610,000 new Canadian jobs have been created since July 2009.
It is also important to reaffirm our government's commitment to welcome foreign investment that benefits Canada and Canadians. Foreign investment is absolutely critical to the Canadian economy. It introduces new technologies and practices that promote growth, employment and help spur innovation here at home. Foreign investment brings some of the most productive and specialized firms in the world to Canada and results in some of the highest paying jobs for Canadians.
Our government also realizes that Canada is a player in a globalized economy that provides opportunities to connect our firms to the rest of the world, and that is important. It allows our firms to grow, compete and become global industry leaders. In fact, Canadian firms have invested billions of dollars throughout the world and that has expanded markets and stimulated Canadian exports.
Therefore, foreign investment, both into Canada and by Canadian firms abroad, is a win-win for the economy. As a performer in the world economy, Canada has continuously attracted far more than its share of foreign investment and the result has been job creation for Canadians and economic growth for the country.
A policy opposed to any foreign investment, and make no mistake that is the real NDP policy here, simply ignores the facts. If we shut Canada's doors, it would have a devastating affect on our economy. Our productivity would fall, jobs would be lost, Canadian firms would be denied access to world markets, consumers would suffer and Canadian innovation would lag behind. It is obvious that foreign investment brings critical benefits to Canadians and we just cannot afford to fall behind.
Forbes magazine has recently named Canada as the top destination to do business in the world. To maintain our top ranking, we need to stay open for business and we need to welcome foreign investment that benefits Canada. This government will continue to bring the benefits of foreign investment to Canada by providing the right economic climate so firms in Canada will continue to prosper and create jobs for Canadians.
I want to be clear about the jobs. Companies recruit, hire and employ Canadian workers and terminate employment. However, foreign buyers also have to know that they must operate under federal, provincial and territorial standards and regulations. Federal and provincial legislation governs collective bargaining between the employers and the bargaining units. Once a union is certified, the employer must bargain with the union in good faith and attempt to reach a collective agreement because labour relations are a key issue for businesses and workers.
In our federally regulated sector, we strive to help the parties co-operate and work effectively toward common goals. Labour-management conflict does get the headlines, but labour-management co-operation really is the norm in our country. We know that Canadians take pride in their work and they want their businesses to be successful. We all realize that we have very strong common interests. Therefore, a spirit of co-operation guides our efforts to promote a harmonious industrial relation in our sector.
We work closely with workplace stakeholders to achieve that common goal of facilitating agreements between workers and employers. In the vast majority of instances, collective bargaining does work. The parties involved negotiate in good faith, are willing to compromise and end up with an agreement with which everyone can live. It is seldom necessary for the government to step in. However, where necessary, mediators and conciliators can and do assist employers and unions to resolve their differences without resorting to a work stoppage.
As I stated at the beginning, I am deeply disappointed that the parties in the two cases we are discussing today were unable to successfully negotiate a new deal. However, in all cases, whether federal or provincial jurisdiction, the deal which the two parties are able to reach on their own really is always the best one.
Although federal laws govern employment in federal workplaces and businesses, such as aeronautics, banking and communications, the vast majority of employment relationships in Canada are governed by provincial or territorial authorities. In the case of Caterpillar and White Birch Paper, provincial laws and standards apply. We believe that treating employees affected by a termination of employment with respect and dignity is of the utmost importance.
For federally regulated workplaces, the termination of employment is covered by the Canada Labour Code. Termination and severance provisions help protect workers from those sudden changes in employment. They also provide security through the transitions.
We know, we realize and it is accepted that Caterpillar and White Birch Paper are not federally regulated workplaces. Nevertheless, our government is quite aware that the workers who have been laid off need to be helped. That is why Service Canada is quick off the mark to provide direct assistance to the affected employees during this very difficult period.
Service Canada has been in contact with the employees to offer information sessions and provide them with information on how, where and when to apply for employment insurance benefits. General information and other applicable Government of Canada resources, such as income support programs, skills development and training, labour market information, as well as programs and services from the provinces, will also be provided at these information sessions.
Let me just underline that we help Canadians gain the skills and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency. We also provide targeted supports for those facing particular barriers. We do all of that in partnership with the provinces and territories because our goal is to build a fair and a prosperous Canada where no one is left behind. Strong economic stewardship is a critical ingredient of this. We will ensure that Canada remains on the right track for economic growth and jobs. That is our commitment to Canadians.
While we disagree with the actions of Caterpillar and White Birch Paper and we really wish that this situation would have been handled in a vastly different manner, we advise members to defeat this motion as worded.
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-384, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act (publication of information).
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London for seconding this legislation.
If an individual under the age of majority commits a crime but is tried in an adult court, the individual should not have his or her identity restricted as it would be if he or she were tried in a youth court.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act precludes the publication of information about young offenders when they are sentenced or indicted. If a crime is of such a serious nature that the young offender is tried in an adult court, there should be no prohibition on the publication of his or her identity. The bill would allow the publication of his or her identity.
Hopefully, the bill will spur debate about the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Mr. Speaker, the member makes a great point. Elgin—Middlesex—London, not unlike Peterborough, is a mixed riding. It contains both urban and rural centres and that is a particular challenge.
As the member suggested, my riding is medium in size geographically. It is certainly much larger than some of the metropolitan ridings, but it is much smaller than some of the northern ridings and so forth.
The member is absolutely correct in pointing out that by expanding the number of seats, we will be increasing access for folks in each of the constituencies to speak to their MP and to do so in a convenient manner. The Liberal plan would remove rural voices. Those folks would have a lot farther to travel and fewer doors would be open to them.
Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely delighted to join in the debate on this very important bill. It seems to be a spirited debate between the members in the far corner and some of the members on the government side.
The bill represents a commitment that our government made to Canadians to move the House toward fairer representation. In particular, it reflects our government's three distinct promises to provide fair representation by: allocating an increased number of seats now and in the future to better reflect the population growth in Ontario, which is my home province, British Columbia and Alberta; maintaining the number of seats for smaller provinces; and maintaining the proportional representation of Quebec according to its population.
We campaigned on those promises and Canadians voted in a strong, stable, national Conservative government. We received a strong mandate and with this bill we are moving the House of Commons toward fair representation for all Canadians. We promised that to Canadians; they voted for us, and we are delivering on that.
I would be remiss if I did not specifically challenge the member who just spoke. I was going to ask him a question, but because I was next to speak, I thought I would address it in my remarks.
I have coined a term for the Liberal proposal. It is a little catchy, and if members find themselves saying it later, it is okay; they do not have to give me credit for it. I call it the Liberal loser plan.
The Liberal plan is a loser because it takes seats away from provinces including Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the maritime provinces, but it also makes a loser out of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta because they are not getting fair representation. It takes the voices away from rural Canada and deposits them in urban Canada. It would take seats away from Manitoba, for example. I would be very interested to see the member go into rural parts of Manitoba and talk about how those people are going to lose representation in the House. That voice for agriculture, that voice for natural resource economies, that voice for rural infrastructure, that voice that speaks on behalf of wardens in rural municipalities, those voices are not going to be here any more because the Liberal Party would take those voices away.
In the province of Ontario, for example, we have very large ridings, especially in the 905 belt, some of which are represented by large representatives, as my colleague is pointing out. There are some very large population-based ridings. Those ridings would still be under-represented. A vote in that province would not carry the same weight as a vote would in other jurisdictions of the country.
I openly admit that the bill would still leave some regions somewhat overrepresented compared to others, but it would move the entire democratic system in this country in the right direction.
If we look at the Liberal plan, as my colleague from Wellington—Halton Hills has correctly pointed out, if I live in Saskatchewan, Manitoba or Quebec, I understand one thing from what the Liberal proposal is. In absolute terms it would reduce the number of voices that would represent my province, that would represent my rural part of the country, that would represent my cities in Ottawa. That means that amid all of the voices here, amid all of what goes on here, in absolute terms those regions of the country would have fewer representatives than they have today.
I represent a fairly large riding. By no means is it the largest in the country, but the population of my riding is roughly 126,000. Its population size is close to that of all four ridings in Prince Edward Island. By that math, a vote in the riding of Peterborough is worth about 25% of what a vote in Prince Edward Island is worth. We have understood that. It is okay. Our system is not perfect. We understand that we need to correct it.
Bill C-20 reduces the number of votes in each riding in the province of Ontario and it does so in a very fair and principled way, working off census figures. It makes sure, as I said earlier, that no province is actually going to lose representatives and it also maintains the proportional representation of the province of Quebec.
That is why, for example, only a few weeks ago when the bill was introduced, Liberal members said that they thought we got it right. The leader of the Liberal Party is on the record as saying that. Members currently in the House who are making some commentary while I am speaking are on the record as saying such. That is why the bill, when it was introduced, received the endorsement, largely, of governments right across the country. That is why Canadians are supportive of the bill.
I would argue that the Liberals are playing a little bit of cheap politics on this. They are saying that they will hold the number of seats in the House of Commons at the arbitrary figure of 308. There is nothing special about the number 308, other than it happens to be the number today, but it was not the number when some of the members across the way were elected. It was not the number when a number of great prime ministers of this country served. That number comes as a result of a formula that has been in place since 1867, which was later refined in the 1980s. That is where 308 comes from.
The longer the current formula is in place, the more the electoral system in Canada, representation by population that we espouse, the more that actually becomes stretched and the less it becomes in actual effect in this country.
It is critically important that we move in that direction. That is what Bill C-20 does. If we determine, as the Liberal Party has, that it should be an arbitrary number of 308, and we start taking seats away from some regions and depositing them in other regions while still not moving any of those regions to representation by population, it would simply be playing cheap politics.
The Liberals are saying it is not the right time to spend money. That is very interesting. They did not feel that way on the per vote subsidy. They thought the per vote subsidy should be maintained. They were not in favour of saving Canadians that money. I am sure my colleague from Elgin—Middlesex—London recalls that debate in the House. We almost had a coalition government over that with the various parties, including the Bloc Québécois.
Ultimately, we are here to discuss fair representation. The Liberal Party members are being somewhat presumptuous when they say that when we add more members of Parliament, it will cost x number of dollars, because they are simply taking that average, but there has been no determination in the House as to what savings can be found. I challenge members across the way. I receive a subsidy to account for the excessive number of folks that I represent compared to other ridings, but I should not expect that the subsidy would be continued if the total number of electors in my riding is in fact reduced, and I do not. I do not expect that at all. I expect efficiencies to be found in those areas.
I would simply note that this all comes back to fair representation. That is what it is about. That is why the Liberal premier of Ontario has said that he supports the government's plan for fair representation, not the plan put forward by the Liberal Party, not the proposal put forward by his Liberal cousins, and certainly not the plan put forward by the NDP, which would probably expand this House closer to 400 members. It would actually move us much farther away from actual representation by population in the country, because it is also quite arbitrary in how it is put together.
This is the best formula. It is quite simply the best formula to move all provinces toward fair representation in a reasonable and principled manner. There has to be a principle behind what we are doing when it comes to representation in this country.
The growth in the size of the House of Commons will be kept at a reasonable level. I should note that all efforts will be made to make sure that the cost of operations in the House are conscientiously maintained at a level that I believe Canadians support.
What I will never support is to reduce in absolute terms the number of voices that speak for rural Canada, the number of voices that speak for northern Canada, the number of voices that speak for places outside the large metropolitan areas. That is what the Liberal proposal would do. It would hurt farmers. It would hurt our natural resource economy. It would hurt our rural municipalities. It would make a loser out of every region and territory of this country. That is why it is a Liberal loser plan.
Mr. Speaker, this relates to some comments I made on November 3, I was not here last week and I would like to clarify, retract and apologize. I said, “The last time I checked, the Speaker is a member of the Conservative Party and the Conservative caucus”. I apologize. He is not a member of the Conservative caucus. There was no intent to call into question your impartiality, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to clarify for the record a little bit earlier in the conversation on that particular matter where the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London said, “The Speaker of the House of Commons now makes those two appointments in the interest of greater impartiality and independence”. He went on to say, “...a three member boundaries commission chaired by a judge and comprising two other members appointed by the Speaker”. In the next paragraph he said, “The goal is a readjustment process that is generally free of partisan considerations”.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to review those particular comments in light of my apology regarding bringing into question your impartiality. I believe that these comments require some consideration.
I apologize for my comments.
Mr. Speaker, Canada's direct selling industry injects over $4.5 billion in total sales into the Canadian marketplace and provides earning opportunities for 900,000 of our constituents, including many of my own in Elgin—Middlesex—London.
Direct selling builds sales, management and interpersonal skills. Many direct sellers will apply these skills to their careers, their households and other business ventures.
More than 90% of Canada's direct sellers are women, embracing their entrepreneurial spirit and benefiting from the flexible and convenient opportunities that direct selling provides.
This evening the Direct Sellers Association of Canada will celebrate the Year of the Entrepreneur at its annual parliamentary reception. I encourage all members to attend and meet some of Canada's leading direct sellers, their companies and to learn more about this dynamic and important industry.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate.
First, we will not be supporting the bill at second reading, primarily, for the very simple reason we believe the government bill is not as good as our bill. We like our bill. We think it would be better for Canada and that is the message we carry into committee. If we support our own bill, why would we vote for the government bill at this stage?
Comments were made along the way by myself and our leader that we were very much looking forward to what happened at committee. I want to underscore that point and that intent on our part. I heard the member earlier commenting about whether the member for Hamilton Centre was going to change the census and some other smart-alecky type of remarks. Perhaps that is the answer. It is as simple as there are new numbers.
However, I know we have at least three different calculations going on at the same time and we are going to need some clarity around it. That is fine for the government. It has all the resources of government. All we really have as members on this side is committee. That is the closest we can get to match the horsepower of the government in terms of the lawyers, analysts and everything else that is available to whomever is in government at any time.
One of the most important messages that I will carry on behalf of our caucus is the importance of committee studying this bill. It is important on any bill, but on this one, given that this is the file marked “Canada”, that we take the time to get it right. We do not want to take time such that we do not have things in place for the next election. We agree with the goal. I have told that personally to the minister. I have said that publicly. I reiterate it again. Regardless of whatever machinations we go through in this place on second reading and in the House and on voting, we have all kinds of games that go on all the time, often for reasons that are not even readily obvious.
However, the fact remains that we want to get to committee. We want to do the work. Ideally, in the best world outcome, would it not be great if all the parties, or at least a majority of the parties, could agree rather than a situation where, like we saw with the Auditor General hiring, only the government carries the day and uses the weight of its might. Let us remember that might still comes from a very undemocratic place, perfectly legitimate and democratic to the extent it follows our rules, but there is no sense of natural justice or democracy when 39% of the vote gets 100% of the power.
I take at face value the comments of my colleague from Elgin—Middlesex—London. He is a fantastic chair. He commented on the work we do, and I have been spending a fair bit of time on that committee, dealing with the Chief Electoral Officer's report, with all the changes to the laws. We hope the minister in some way, by standing in his place and commenting, or by sending a message, or talking to me or talking to our House leader, could indicate that we really will go into committee with the same type of attitude that currently prevails when deal with the electoral commissioner's report. At that committee, we really have give and take. When we cannot agree on something, we put it later on in the agenda. We all do a little homework and we actively try to find how we can all put a little wine in our water to reach a point where we can agree on fair rules for elections.
If we can do it for that, then I would go so far as to implore the government to be serious in that same way, as opposed to what happens at some committees where the 100% might of the 39% vote walks into committees, says this is the way it will be and, no matter what anyone says, rams it through with their majority. If that is what the Conservatives do with this bill, then I would be disappointed and they would do a great disservice to the file marked “Canada”. We could all do better than that in continuing to build and strength Canada.
I assume the vote is still on track to happen this evening and we will be voting against the bill for the simple reason that we like our bill better. Why would we vote for the government bill?
However, once we get into committee, as far as we are concerned, we are ready to hit a reset button. We would then have two pieces of legislation and a committee of people with goodwill. Maybe we could then begin to see if there were some way to close the gap between the differences.
For instance, members will remember that when the government brought in its first two bills, it did not have any seats for Quebec. However, we now see in this bill less seats for Ontario and B.C. If that is because of a calculation, fine, we will listen.
Again, there are at least three different calculations going on. There is one calculation based on using the 2006 census numbers, which the government had been using previously. There is the 2011 census that will be received in February 2012. However, in Bill C-20, the government does not use census numbers in the equation. I am not saying that it is a bad thing or a good thing, I am just saying that it is a new thing that we need to have some explanation and discussion on in committee.
Instead of using a census number, the government is now using the estimated provincial population estimates. However, I am no lawyer and I do not necessarily know what that means. Maybe it is a good improvement and the government may be applauded for bringing in a better formula, but maybe not. I do not know.
I just know that when the Conservatives finally came up with the notion that they had to be more respectful to Quebec then they had been, suddenly they changed the formula. Does that mean they changed the formula to meet the mathematical outcome they wanted? I do not know, but we need answers to that.
If the government is just going to come in to committee and ram things through, then the opposition is going to be given no opportunity to not only understand it, but maybe respond with a counter proposal as well. Again, these are things that would allow us to find a way to work together to get as close as we can to a single bill that we all might be able to support. Would that not be a win for everyone, especially for Canada?
I will not dwell on this, but I want to take a second to talk about the Liberal position. I know questions are going to come during the questions and answers, and they are going to do what they do. They seem to have one note to play on this and they play it over and over. That is their right. I am not suggesting that they cannot do this, but I am suggesting that it is disappointing.
The Liberal Party can really take an awful lot of credit for much of what we have to be proud of because the Liberals were the government in many of those years. It is a historical fact that a lot of the things we are now building on were put in place by a Liberal government, not all of them, but a good bit of it.
Certainly the current leader of the third party is a respected individual who has history on the national file, not only as a national leader but as a provincial leader. The member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville is a well-regarded academic expert on matters of constitution, regardless of how one feels about the Clarity Act. I know it is not loved unanimously, nonetheless it was an important piece of our Canadian history in building and strengthening our great country.
I use those two members as an example because I am saying positive things about the Liberals. They are important contributors to a national debate, whether one agrees with them or not. However, I am disappointed because all I have heard so far is the cost. However, that is real, especially at a time such as this economic era.
I think back to the Liberal governments of the past. Would they have led with that issue and said that the most important thing in terms of building Canada was to keep the costs down, like that was the priority? It is always important, but is it really the priority this time?
The Liberals suggest that we cap and then look at proportional representation. I am just happy when Liberals say the words “proportional representation”. It is a good start. It is an intriguing idea, but it feels more like an escape hatch than a new idea because it allows the Liberals to stand on one piece of ground, and that is the cost and how big this place will be. Again, it is an issue but that is it.
When the leader of the third party was the premier of Ontario, he played a significant historical role in the Charlottetown accord, notwithstanding the outcome was not as good as I am sure he and others hoped. It was in the Charlottetown accord where the first notion of a percentage floor of Quebec's seats, in terms of its political weight, would be maintained going forward, no matter what. That number was 25%. Now it is interesting that not only was the leader of the third party a signatory to that agreement, but the prime minister of the day was a Conservative.
If this notion of providing that kind of a guarantee is so un-Canadian, is just pandering to the province of Quebec and is loosening the ties that create our country, if that is what is wrong with our coming out with 24.35% and tying it to the day that we all stood unanimously in this place and proudly recognized the Québécois as a recognized nation within a united Canada, we believe it is building and strengthening Canada. It is certainly showing Quebec the same respect that the prime minister of the day and those premiers unanimously agreed would be a component of the Charlottetown Accord.
I raise that because I would like to hear what the leader of the third party thinks about the notion of 24.35%. Given that he was a signatory to 25%, I would like him to do exactly the same thing. I would very much like to hear more from the third party on what it thinks about the bill, the seats and the formula. Maybe we will hear from it and I will stand corrected, which would be great. However, we have not heard a lot. All I have really heard is the Liberals found this ground of the cost because people were concerned about it. It is part of being a parliamentarian. We defend what we believe in. We know that democracy can be slow, tedious, messy and expensive, but it is still better than any other system around. Therefore, we are wedded to it and we want to make it work. We see the expense as an investment in Canada, an investment in strengthening Canada. I ask my colleagues to remember that if Canada were easy to build, everyone would have one. It is not. It is a difficult country to build.
Let me underscore the importance of the committee, and I will end on that. It is close to where I began. So much work needs to be done there. The member for Elgin—Middlesex—London cannot do much more than what he did, which is to say he is looking forward to chairing that kind of a meeting. However, the member does not have the power to say that is the way it will be. That will have to come from on high. I know it is a shock to my colleague's ego but I am sure he will survive it.
Truly, honestly and sincerely we need some indication from the government that it will approach it the same we are looking at reviewing the election laws. I applaud the government, the chair and everyone on that committee because it is good work and I enjoy it. It is challenging but in a positive way, where we are all trying to find how we can work together rather than how we can be the strongest, apart, fighting one another. After 26 years in politics, I find that a lot more fulfilling than going into our respective corners and starting to politically shoot.
Regardless of the machinations of today--the speeches, the give and take and the cut and thrust of what happens in this place--given the importance, we are hopeful that when we get to committee, it will be meaningful, real give-and-take discussions and work.
If it is the other approach, in which the Conservatives just say, “This is our bill. We are not changing anything. We do not care if you do not like it. Take the time that you get to speak, and when you are done bothering us with your words, then we are going to utilize the 100% of power that we got with 39% of the vote. We are going to shut you down and we are going to dictate what is going to happen”, that attitude has nothing to do with building Canada. What is needed is co-operation and respect for each other, for all our provinces and for everyone's rightful place in our country.
Let us get to work. When we are finished the politics of the voting and debating today, I urge the Conservatives to signal that they want to entertain meaningful discussions to get as close as possible to, ideally, one bill that we could all support, so that even if we are in disagreement at some point, the overall exercise would leave Canada stronger than when we started on the bill.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I will end my remarks. Thank you again for the opportunity.
Does the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
Mr. Speaker, of course, I have already spoken to that question. Let me turn to the many positive investments this government has made in the city of London, thanks to the efforts of my colleagues from London West, Elgin—Middlesex—London, Lambton—Kent—Middlesex and my new colleague representing London North Centre.
Our government's investments include a new cargo terminal at the London International Airport, expanded research and teaching facilities at Fanshawe College and the University of Western Ontario, important road improvements throughout the London area and new affordable housing for seniors in the London area.
Because of our investments and low tax plan to create jobs and spur growth, the future for the people of Canada and the people of London has never looked brighter. Here again, I will reiterate the fact that our plan has created over 560,000 net new jobs across Canada since July 2009.
Mr. Speaker, my Winnipeg friend and I have had a few of these discussions over time and I appreciate his comments today.
He was right. I was about to get up and say he had never met a tax he did not like to hike but apparently he has found one, so there is one he does not like to hike. That may be the only one in his repertoire so I am pretty happy to suggest that he still has not met many taxes he does not like to hike and has never met spending he did not like to increase.
As I shared in my debate, the wise people of Elgin—Middlesex—London have chosen a Conservative government with a better plan.
Yes, I will do my best.
We have lowered taxes for all businesses. We introduced the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance that I already talked about, giving businesses the ability to buy better, newer and faster equipment to make their businesses run better. Over the past five years, we have eliminated the cost-killing corporate surtax. We also have helped provinces get rid of their capital taxes.
We have enhanced scientific research and development. During the previous five years that we were in government we visited a lot of universities, colleges and businesses that have really been able to capitalize and commercialize on the research and development opportunities we offered to them. I have already mentioned that we have extended the accelerated capital cost allowance again in this budget. Speaking about this budget, this is where we are at.
Supporting seniors has been mentioned a lot today, as well as increasing the GIS, enhancing the new horizons program, extending the targeted initiative for older workers, eliminating the mandatory retirement age for federally-regulated employees and we have already talked about extending the eco-energy program to help make homes more energy efficient and save people money. These are the things that we have been able to do.
Today I have discussed an area of Canada that I represent and the positive differences within it. I have talked about some of the positive steps in budget 2011 and how they will make Elgin—Middlesex—London a better place, indeed make Canada a better place.
I just spent 35 days touring my riding, though I forget what caused that. I had discussions with Canadians and constituents and I found some people who have a fairly negative outlook on Canada as a country. I am here to say that I do not and the great people of Elgin—Middlesex—London think Canada is the best place on the face of this earth. What we have been able to provide them in this budget makes it just a bit better.
Collectively we are reminded often that Canada is the best place to live and we should celebrate that. Canada is looking good.
The electoral district of Elgin--Middlesex--London (Ontario) has a population of 110,028 with 79,894 registered voters and 218 polling divisions.
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