Mr. Chairman, might I be permitted a moment to review everything?
This is for all the members who were not present last time.
We left off on clause 7. Our Liberal amendment, amendment L-2, which you will find on page 8.1 of our documentation, says that Bill C-442, in clause 7, be amended by replacing lines 8 to 10 on page 3 with the following:
7. The Minister shall be responsible for the construction and maintenance of the Monument.
That particular amendment passed.
Then, because some members noted that we hadn't dealt with subclause 7(2) as we were voting for clause 7 as amended, some discussion began to circulate regarding the fundraising campaign to cover the cost of the construction of the monument.
It was our contention then that all that happened, as far as we were concerned, was that when we were preparing our amendment, we had inadvertently eliminated the portion that would have said.... Instead of lines 8 to 10, it should have been lines 8 to 13. Accepting clause 7, i.e. amendment L-2, would have made that subclause redundant.
What we've done to remedy that confusion is introduce our amendment L-3, which states that we delete lines 11 to 13 on page 3. It was, at the time, the suggestion of the Bloc member present that we could handle it in one of two ways: either make clause 8 as it exists part of clause 7 or just go on to clause 8 afterwards and move along.
It is still our contention that what we wanted, and what we thought was the intent of the mover of this bill, is for the Government of Canada to establish a location in the National Capital Commission for a national Holocaust memorial on behalf of all Canadians. I stress the words “all Canadians”; so that all Canadians would have an opportunity to commemorate the tragedy visited upon so many victims of the evil that was perpetrated by one ideological faction in the world. And we wanted to do that.
All of us accepted the idea that it would be Canadians and their government recognizing the importance of a Holocaust memorial, not a special group, not a particular group, and not anywhere else in the country except in the national capital region to indicate the commitment of the Canadian public to this. So we had accepted that principle through all the clauses leading up to clause 7. We feel that the elimination of subclause 7(2) of clause 7 is consistent with everything else the committee has accepted so far.
Moreover, nothing ever precludes a fundraising campaign by interested citizens from taking place--nothing. But it doesn't have to be prescribed in law. So if a council were not to come forward, and if a council were not to be a part of the spearheading of a fundraising campaign, and God forbid, if that fundraising campaign weren't able to bring forward sufficient funds to erect such a monument in the national capital region, what would then happen?
It was our contention that we shouldn't leave that to the vagaries of chance, when we already have at our disposal the mechanisms necessary for erecting such a monument. We have a bill that was unanimously accepted by the House. And we have, as we saw last week in a discussion of the estimates, the funds already available in the national capital region to be able to erect such a monument, to eliminate all of the potential mitigating vagaries of such a fundraising campaign, or in fact, if the government wanted to back away from something, it need not happen.
So significant is the erection of this monument that we need not put it at the chance of a council that may or may not come up with the funds in the prescribed period of time. The minister's answer to my question about whether the government was prepared to provide royal recommendation, i.e., to pay for it, was yes, no doubt.
So cost is no longer an issue. Implication on the finances of the government is no longer an issue. The legislative authority to act is already vested in the National Capital Commission, which is responsible to the minister we interviewed on the estimates a few days ago.
Mr. Chairman, the last time we went through a whole series of scenarios regarding amendments, etc., it took us all by surprise on this side of the House that the government would introduce an amendment to every single clause in the bill that their backbencher presented and that all opposition parties supported. For the government to come forward with amendments that would completely gut the bill, completely change the intention of the bill, and try to tactically buy into some other agenda is just absolutely unacceptable to us.
We regret the fact that for whatever reason we did not clarify subclause 7(2). We thought we did, and this amendment is there to ensure there is no confusion about the way the committee had already accepted all the amendments up to and including subclause 7(1).
I'm hoping that all members around the table will accept the third Liberal amendment, which reinforces the fact that the government must allocate the land and provide the funds for erecting and maintaining this monument. This monument will be a Canadian public testament to the horrors of the Holocaust and to the suffering of those who survived and those who didn't, and also a testament to mankind's need to stay ever vigilant against evils that find their way into government and perpetuate and perpetrate genocidal and other types of atrocities.
Mr. Chairman, I know all members around the table agree with that. That's why I'm sure everybody will support the Liberal amendment to clarify clause 7, subclauses (1) and (2) by eliminating subclause (2) of clause 7. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, there is no one more excited about the erection of this monument than I. My grandfather, too, was a prisoner of war in the Second World War and was held in a labour camp for five years. So I was quite excited that we would take this initiative as a government, and as a whole, the taxpayers of Canada themselves would be part of this initiative.
Now, portions of the letter that we're not discussing have already been tabled and read into the record, as a matter of fact. Clearly, there is some uncertainty with respect to the reference to the quote, “the government's amendments”, which are specifically very vague. They don't refer to which government amendments, and we're not certain whether the third party involved, the CJC, is aware that those amendments fundamentally change the essence of the bill as it had been presented.
Now I think we have no other course of action than to bring them forward and ask them to appear as witnesses to provide clarification as to whether they understand fully that these amendments, which they purport to support, fundamentally change the essence of the bill that had been initially tabled and that was supported by this committee.
Perhaps before we can move forward on a clause-by-clause basis, we need clarification from the organization on the letter, which hasn't been tabled and isn't official.
If I could add one more point, Mr. Chairman, I find it offensive, to use the word of my colleague across the floor, that the government would share amendments with outside organizations, no matter how wonderful the organizations may be, without bringing them forward to their colleagues at this committee first. That has to be immoral and probably wrong, but it is certainly offensive that they do that and that they tabled these amendments nine hours before we have to come to a decision on them, without giving us the respect to review them properly, to consider them, and to debate them as a caucus ourselves. That is disrespectful and quite offensive, and they should absolutely be out of order.
I think you're absolutely right, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Bevington raised the point, and Madam Crombie raised a similar point, namely, that when we discuss clause-by-clause we typically have the technical experts—usually from the department—here before us.
We've been sidetracked from that because of a letter. I used language that was pretty strong, and I don't mean to get into ad hominem attacks. I never do that. I want to retract the words that were offensive to my colleague, Mr. Jean, but I found it difficult to come up with any other language. I'm sorry for that.
We have, as one of our observers, a representative from the Canadian Jewish Congress. This representative is responsible for the file, wanted to be consulted on this letter, and was probably consulted on what the conversation was about. Even though the letter was not accepted for tabling, the first paragraph was read into the record. We can deal with it because it was read into the record in both English and French.
I'm wondering, Mr. Chairman, whether you would call up Mr. Eric Vernon from the Canadian Jewish Congress. He can appear before us and answer any questions specific to these clauses. He's the only one who can determine whether the letter was solicited or offered voluntarily. He's the only one who can tell us whether it reflects the points that Mrs. Crombie, I, Mr. Bevington, and others have been trying to make. I'm wondering whether you would call Mr. Vernon to the table.
I come back to the principle that I repeated on many an occasion. I'd like to add another one, which builds on what Madam Crombie said a moment or two ago and was repeated by Mr. Bevington. I think even Mr. Laframboise referred to it. That is that such a monument is important to the history of Canada. It's important to the people of Canada, and it should not be relegated to a particular group in Canada. It is not a monument for 100,000, 200,000 or 300,000 people. It is one that has the full commitment of all 32 million inhabitants of the country, and that's why it's important for this bill to reflect the interest not only of the Government of Canada but the entire Parliament of Canada, and indeed, Mr. Chairman, the entire House of Commons—no exceptions—voted in favour of the bill with those principles in mind.
The government has turned the tables on that process and is now talking about user fees for specific people who might be interested. Mr. Chairman, colleagues, I plead with you to think in terms of what that means. It means that all of us are going to be implicated in stepping back from the commitment by the entire public of Canada to erect a monument to commemorate the injustices done by evil around the world, and that specifically affects all of our values as Canadians—all Canadians.
I can't be a part of that. I'm not sure anybody else would want to be a part of it. I'm not sure the Canadian Jewish Congress would agree to that process, as much as they are excited about having such a monument erected. But such a monument erected according to the principles outlined by amendment G-6.1 by the government would mean that monument is specific to a small group in Canada, financed by a small group in Canada, by their own volition, by their own resources, irrespective of outreach by all other Canadians to share in the tragedy that befell them and affected all of us. We can't have that. They won't have it. I'm sorry that you won't call them, because the rules don't allow it, to come before us during the discussion on this amendment. Perhaps we'll have to consider it on the next amendment.
But, Mr. Chairman, I think I reflect the views of all colleagues, not just the government members, to stay true to the principle that we have accepted so far. This amendment rejects that principle. I'm not going to implicate or allocate a motive of false intent, malicious intent, or even oblivious intent. I just think it's wrong. It's wrong to turn our backs on the principles that make this a worthwhile project that had all Canadians interested and involved and now are turning a portion of the population into a wedge. That's never been the intent of this legislation. It's not anything that my caucus colleagues on the Liberal Party could ever support. We couldn't support this amendment even if we wanted to comply with the government's desire to go out there and involve Canadians in a fundraising exercise, to get user fees, by any other language. The money is there. We saw the minister agree to it. We saw the minister agree when he came before the committee last week and said that the royal recommendation is not a problem. Those are his quotes. We'll offer; the money is there. Finances are not an issue.
The principle is an issue. This amendment not only erodes the principle, it destroys the principle, turns its back on the people who are most affected, and it turns its back on the values of the Canadian public that wants to be at one with all the people who are affected, because the Holocaust affects us all.
I urge everybody to turn this amendment down.
Mr. Chair, it is funny, but I am in favour of amendment G-6.1, as I would be for amendment G-7.1 and the government amendments. Let me explain why.
It is true that the law clerks have recommended that you do not accept these amendments. I would just like to challenge the position they have taken. The objective of the amendments is to make the bill better. We are coming up against the limits of a private member's bill. A bill like that has limits. We have already talked about them here.
When it tabled amendments G-6.1 and G-7.1, the government confirmed that the minister would remain responsible but would delegate that responsibility. Personally, I feel that that is allowed. That is why I said earlier that, if the Liberal Party is not happy, it could get the Speaker of the House involved and ask him to decide. With all due respect to the law clerks advising you, I feel that he would rule in favour of the decision that was just made to overturn your decision. I feel that the minister is going to issue a power of attorney. It is a kind of proxy. He keeps the responsibility, but he is delegating part of his authority. When you delegate part of your authority, you always remain responsible. To me, this is a legal debate.
I understand the Liberals. They have been trying to filibuster for a while. They can do that. They know very well that it is another way, another strategy, to get the original bill passed. If they can filibuster until June 11, it will be passed as is.
We have to give the government amendments a chance. Personally, I am going to support them. If there is ever an objection, if the Liberals and the NDP vote against, fine; the Speaker will decide. That is where the debate will be. As for the amendments, the government has the right to delegate its authority. The law clerks are against it doing so. So I feel the decision will have to be made by someone else, and that someone is the Speaker of the House.
But I would prefer not to have a political debate about whether we will or will not have a monument. I want us to have a monument and those people to have the recognition they deserve. If that is a problem legally, let us support these amendments on division if we want to, and the Speaker will decide. I have no problem with that.
Mr. Chairman, this particular amendment by the government is attempting, as I said earlier on, to reverse some of the decisions that had already been made by the committee leading up to this particular clause.
All of this is predicated on the parliamentary secretary reading into the record part of a letter that was not accepted for tabling, for the usual procedural reasons--legitimate as they have always been--by other members of the committee. However, with respect to what was already read into the record, it would appear that a letter of endorsement was produced on the basis of a scenario depicted to the letter writer or to his colleagues responsible for the file that conveyed an impression that might have been, at the very least, incomplete.
On the basis of those conversations and the scenario being incomplete, we voted on accepting or not accepting to continue the debate. We are now here on G-6.1.
I think it always bears repetition that the government is trying to do something through the back door that has already been shut at the front door. What the government is doing is it is essentially saying that anyone who wants to build a monument can go ahead and do it on their own. What this amendment says is we'll establish a council, we'll use the appropriate legal model to ensure that it exists, we'll give it the articles that we give any other corporation, we'll let them--although the legislation doesn't say that--maybe establish themselves as a charitable organization, and we'll let those people go forward who have a direct tie to the Holocaust.
We've already rejected that language. We already rejected that language because Canadians all have a direct tie. But the government doesn't think so. The government thinks that it's only members of those families who have an immediate connection to someone who perished during the Holocaust. And in that thinking, Mr. Chairman, the government is saying that the Canadian public doesn't want to have anything to do with the monument. That analysis is wrong. The Canadian public does want to do this, but there are only so many ways the Canadian public can express itself in favour of a monument that commemorates the tragic genocidal actions committed in our generation.
So the government comes back and it says what they're going to do is establish this council; they're going to conduct a fundraising campaign. They'll cover the cost of planning, they'll cover the cost of designing, they'll cover the cost of construction, they'll cover the cost of installing and maintaining the monument, and they'll cover any of the costs the council establishes.
Well, you know, Mr. Chairman and colleagues, everybody else in the country is asking why we need the legislation for us to establish such a council in the first place. We don't need permission to do that in a free and open country like Canada. If we have the money, we'll do that. We'll do it ourselves. We can buy property here through the National Capital Commission. We can do it on our own. We don't need the permission of the Government of Canada. We don't need the consent of this committee to send out a real estate agent to locate the land for us. We might actually come up with a better location than the one you want to give us. We don't need you to conduct a nationwide contest from an architectural design point of view. We don't need you to give us the money. We just want to do it on our own.
Well, you know what? We can. Every citizen can. Every group of citizens can. So we're not talking about the financing of a concept. We're not talking about permitting a concept to be generated. We're not talking about the abilities of any community to generate the resources necessary to realize this project. There is in fact already a group out there that says it has this project in mind and it thinks it's long overdue and it is already generating funds. It wants to get it done. People have already done that. Why do we need a government amendment to say they have our benediction, they have our approval, they have our consent? Give us a break. In a democratic environment where the citizen prevails, we don't need the Government of Canada to do that.
But here's what we need the Government of Canada to do. We need the Government of Canada to speak for all Canadians—every single one of the 32 million who have subscribed to the census and have identified themselves as legitimate inhabitants in this place. We need the Government of Canada to collectively speak on behalf of those 32 million and to say collectively that it is our will to ensure that such a monument be planned, designed, constructed, installed, and maintained at our expense—because it is our monument, because it is an expression of our experience, because it is a reflection of all the values that make Canada what Canada is.
Do you want to help? You're quite welcome. But the Government of Canada has the resources, the generative resources of talent, ingenuity, even will, and finances. To be able to marshal together all of those elements that collectively give a stamp of Canada on the project, that's what every community would need. They don't need the Government of Canada for anything else. They don't, and the committee has already said, all along, leading up to this amendment, that it doesn't need anything other than an expression of the Government of Canada's will to do this.
But do you know what, Mr. Chairman and colleagues? Members of Parliament have already done that. They've done the heavy lifting for the Government of Canada. They've already done all the preparatory work for the Government of Canada. They've done it in the House of Commons, unanimously. They expressed support for a bill presented by a backbench member of Parliament, seconded by an opposition member of Parliament, and everyone agreed that the principle should be the one we've enunciated--everyone. The bill came before this committee, and to everyone's surprise, the government presented an amendment for every single clause in the bill. Just reflect on that, colleagues. Every single clause in the bill was pulled back by the Government of Canada.
The Government of Canada said no, we could not have the expression of the public's desire to support this concept. The Government of Canada said to that community, which is already busily working away to build a monument in the national capital region, to ensure that the Canadian public lends its support to that initiative. Let it stand out there like a beacon, worldwide, and say the people of Canada have done this--not the Government of Canada, the people of Canada. The Parliament of Canada--members of Parliament from every nook and cranny in Canada, from every political stripe, from every religious background, members of Parliament elected in rural Canada, in maritime Canada, in urban Canada, in the north, members of Parliament as remote from the experience of the Holocaust as you can get, collectively joined in and said, “We want our voice stamped on that monument.” There's only one way for us to do it, and that's to say that the people of Canada--the Government of Canada--want to finance, plan, design, build, and maintain this monument. It's a reflection of our will. It's a reflection of our design. It's an expression of our commitment to fellow man.
That's a laudable thing to do. But the government said “uh-uh”. What's going to trump all of this is money. And even though the House of Commons agreed with us wholeheartedly, completely, thoroughly, unanimously, the government, upon reflection, said it doesn't want to do this anymore, that money is an issue. What money? The Government of Canada's annual budget is something like $255 billion. The Government of Canada has that much money at its disposal on an annual basis--$255 billion. I don't know how much this monument would cost. I dare say it probably won't even put a dent in that $255 billion budget.
So really, the issue of money can't be it. Well, maybe it's because we're in a time of constraint. Now we have to reduce the deficit, we have to reduce the debt. We have to balance off all of the woes that have afflicted our finances. So the first casualty will be this monument. Well, is money that significant? To judge by the statements of the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities just the other day, when he appeared before a committee, money is not the issue, and the reason for that is that the budget gave even more money to the National Capital Commission for the conduct of its business, for the management of its real estate assets, and for its operations. The Government of Canada, thanks to votes in the House, was able to transfer to the National Capital Commission additional millions of dollars--additional--for projects just like this one. In fact, they didn't even need this legislation.
I pointed out in a letter to the minister that the NCC already possesses the authority to establish a monument without parliamentary approvals. Indeed, the NCC currently is responsible for, count them, not one, not two, not three, not four or five, but 16 monuments, including the Hungarian monument, the Canadian tribute to human rights, the monument to Canadian aid workers, and currently there's even construction under way of a national naval monument. None of these required legislation.
What makes those people who want to have a national Holocaust monument so special that they require legislation to get it done? Do you know what, colleagues? The National Capital Commission is in the planning phase for the creation of a national monument for victims of communism. I don't want to diminish that because there are countless millions who have suffered at the hands of communism, who died, in the old U.S.S.R. and other places around the world. We're building a monument to them. That's to our credit. But we didn't require a bill. We didn't ask the families of those victims to go out and do the fundraising. We didn't ask them to engage in contributing user fees, because that's what this is. We found the community that wanted one of these monuments and we said, oh, well, maybe they have the wherewithal to pay for it, so we don't have to pay for it. Can you imagine anything so cynical? Can you imagine any member of Parliament on this side of the table or even on that side of the table turning around and saying our cynicism is covered by their willingness to self-tax for a monument we could build just like that? We don't need the legislation. Finances aren't the problem. Could it be greed?
The material is always fresh, Mr. Chairman, and I accept the intervention of colleagues. They probably suffered under the mistaken impression that perhaps I was tiring in my energy, and so just to give them an opportunity to think of themselves as having fulfilled something of benefit, I can now assure them that, no, I was not tiring, but that the added moment of freshness in the air is probably going to generate even more energy about a topic on which we should all speak with passion.
I apologize to my colleagues from the Bloc who thought my command of the English thesaurus was more limited than they had expected of me, and I'll try to live up to Le Petit Robert and Larousse, etc., if I can, in order that the repetition not fray any nerves.
But it's important to keep in mind, Mr. Chairman, that repetition is the soul of integration. In fact, if you repeat, yes, in repeating the concept we drive home the point, and the point is still the one I was talking about a moment ago: first, whether it was will, public will, public reflection, public involvement; secondly, whether it was a question of moneys--and we have clearly dealt with the issue of moneys not being the issue.
It must be something to do with authority: in other words, whether the Government of Canada could have, should have, must have the authority to put this forward. Mr. Chairman, colleagues all know that the authority is vested in the cabinet and exercised through the various ministers. Now, the only way that any community—whether it is the Jewish community, the Italian community, the Hungarian community, any community in Canada—can know that the Government of Canada, the people of Canada, side with them is if a minister of that cabinet, a minister of the crown, an administrator of the authority of the people, can actually speak on their behalf. A minister did. The Prime Minister did. The member who presented the bill, when questioned here before this committee, said yes, he had not only consulted the Prime Minister and the cabinet and the minister responsible, but he'd gotten their approval. They've gotten their approval. Can you imagine? The Prime Minister and the cabinet said yes, the bill is great, and they supported it. Everybody supported it.
But then the Prime Minister and the cabinet and the cabinet minister responsible for this pulled themselves back, apparently. So now we're looking at something like this. This particular item says “No, no, it can't be the minister, it can't be the government, it can't be the Prime Minister who is going to incur the costs of covering the planning, designing, construction, installation, and maintaining of the monument. No, it can't be the Prime Minister. It can't be the Government of Canada. It can't be the people of Canada. It has to be somebody else”.
Well, let's pick some people. We'll call it a council, but it can't be the people of Canada. It can't be the Prime Minister. That's what this amendment says. I can't imagine that the government would promote an amendment that would cast such aspersions on the will of its own Prime Minister and cabinet minister.
When the cabinet minister stood before this committee, he was sitting right there by number 18, Mr. Chairman, and I asked him if he was still committed to this. He said there was no doubt. I asked if he was willing to give a royal recommendation in case there were costs associated with this. He said there was no doubt. Well, I don't know who speaks for this government or for the people of Canada anymore. There's no doubt, apparently, that the minister wants to cover the expenses, wants to exercise his authority. There's no doubt. There's no doubt that they will cover all the financial considerations because they're prepared to give a royal recommendation. And the government members opposite present an amendment that says, “No, we don't want to do that. It costs too much money.” We don't know. Nobody's every asked for an estimate. Nobody has done a feasibility study on this. Nobody has looked at the design projects. Nobody has conducted a national campaign to find out who's interested, which architectural firm, what's going to be done, and where it's going to be done. Nobody has done that, so we don't know what the cost is.
Members opposite must know the costs, because they're saying they want the council to cover all this. We don't know whether it's $10 or $10 million. It doesn't matter because it's all the same to them. That $10 or $10 million is going to break the bank. It's going to ruin the finances of a government that has $255 billion in expenditures. Can you imagine that?
Well, we can't imagine that. We can't. We have to take all of our colleagues at face value. When they presented this particular bill...and I'm going to ask my colleague from Mississauga—Streetsville or my colleague from Newton—North Delta what their understanding might be when in the House they voted for something completely different, i.e. that the minister would be responsible and that the minister accepted that responsibility.
Now think about this—just to change topic for a moment; the word “responsible” is there for a very specific reason, Mr. Chairman, and that specific reason is that we live in a parliamentary system that says the government is responsible—responsible—and accountable to the people for everything it decides.
So here, now, is something novel: the government members are presenting an amendment that says the minister can no longer be responsible.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I mentioned earlier how all the people of Canada want to honour the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and how my own grandfather served in World War II and was a prisoner of war who served in a labour camp for five years. So it's as important to me as I know it is to all Canadians. That means they all want to know that they're taking part and sharing in the responsibility and obligations that go with honouring these victims.
So I ask myself, what's behind these amendments? What's behind amendment 6.1? What's really going on here? Is there not some nefarious purpose? I wouldn't go that far, because clearly we wouldn't accuse the government of having a nefarious agenda. So what is going on?
You know they had unanimous support in the House of Commons. All parties rallied behind this private member's bill, because it was the right thing to do, it was the moral thing to do, it was the ethical thing to do. They sent it to committee for further study so we could analyze it clause by clause. Of course, this committee stamped it.
What's happened here at the 11th hour—well, not even at the 11th hour, but a little less than that—is that government members have presented amendments in a very underhanded way. It showed their contempt for the process, because it's a bait and switch. That's what's happened.
It is not the first time we have witnessed this government's contempt for the process, its contempt for Parliament. Amendment 6.1 speaks to its further contempt. They have ignored the supremacy of Parliament on a number of occasions. We can look at the issue of the Afghan detainees and the production of non-redacted documents. The same thing happened when we sat in the public accounts committee, where the government refused to produce non-redacted documents on the Afghan detainees—
Mr. Chairman, again, because the word “filibuster” is out there, I'll talk about chicanery. That's relevant.
This is exactly the same amendment the government felt it needed to withdraw. Why did it feel it needed to withdraw it a few short moments ago? I'll tell you why they felt they needed to withdraw it, Mr. Chairman and colleagues from all parties. They wanted to withdraw it because they realized it cannot be in order for them to introduce an amendment that would contravene everything the committee and the House of Commons has already approved. They just cannot do it. There's no authority there.
As Mr. Laframboise said a moment or two ago, perhaps we ought to leave this to the Speaker, because the Speaker will make a ruling. I think that would be a dereliction of duty, a dereliction of obligation, an irresponsible way to act. The Speaker of the House of Commons didn't ask this committee to deal with this so he could then deal with it himself. The Speaker of the House, on behalf of all members of Parliament, said there was a bill and asked us to go through it clause by clause.
Typically what happens is you deal with it on technical issues but respect the principle inherent in the decision of the House of Commons, and the decision, if I might be so bold, was to provide a full loaf to the decision. It wasn't to take it away. It wasn't to slice up that loaf and ask people to be satisfied, or to wedge the Canadian public and say a particular part of the community that should be interested in this is in favour of our slicing this up and providing less than the full loaf that the House of Commons said the Canadian public needed.
You cannot get the consent of the individual or the group--the community that may have been included as part of the larger issue of Canadian values--to take a diminished amount than what the Parliament of Canada, the House of Commons of Canada, had already accorded. That's one of the reasons why they felt they needed to withdraw the motion that has now been re-presented. They knew it had to be withdrawn.
Mr. Chairman, I'm trying as hard as I can. As I said, I'm trying to look at the new amendment that's before us, the new amendment with the same words, the same syllables, the same vowels and consonants grouped together to present language that is still in the English dictionary; it's even in the French dictionary. And you know what? They are exactly the same words. So I'm trying to be relevant to the constancy and the integrity of the words that are in this amendment.
I have to speak as well to the fact that this is a new amendment, so because it is a new amendment, the words that are coming out have not been heard before. They haven't been heard by anybody. In fact, they don't make any reference at all to this letter by the Canadian Jewish Congress that was read in part into the record. So I'll only address the part that was read into the record.
Because this is a new amendment, and these are new words, new syllables, new vowels, and new consonants, it means, to anybody who would follow this, that the Canadian Jewish Congress no longer supports the government's position, because it's brand new. It's completely different, even though the words, the syllables, the nouns, the consonants, the vowels, are all grouped in the same phrases and paragraphs.
Mr. Chairman, the reason the government withdrew that old amendment and introduced this new amendment is because they realized there was no support for the old amendment. They realized they were giving members of the community, the larger Canadian public, and specific elements of the Canadian public, less than what the House of Commons had insisted they receive.
You know, he said a few moments ago that this issue has been on the table for 10 to 15 years. I just got off the phone with the person who signed the letter that hasn't been tabled but was read--
Let me address the issue of covering the cost of planning.
Now, obviously, whenever the government, by authority given in the House of Commons, is about to engage in a particular enterprise, a particular project, it has to address the issue of costs. All of us, as responsible parliamentarians, want to know that things are affordable, whatever project we're talking about. The cost of planning a project is inherent in the overall expenditure plan that the government puts when it plans to do something.
We know, Mr. Chairman, that the government, through its backbench MP, presented this bill initially. Only now are we being asked to take a look at the cost of planning. But there is no business plan presented to us--none whatsoever--with this amendment. There's no indication of how much it will cost for the land, how much it will cost for the erection of a monument, how much it will cost for the maintenance. In fact, we don't know the scope of what is planned because we haven't even got it to the point of the design phase. So what is the cost of the design phase, and what cost is the government planning to offload onto the council?
Remember that the House of Commons said that in principle, this is what we want. There was unanimous agreement in the House of Commons by all parliamentarians of all parties that the costs would be absorbed by the House of Commons, by the Parliament of Canada. Now there's an amendment in which the government says, “No, we want the council “to cover the cost of planning”—without a business plan—“designing”.... Can you imagine?
We don't know whether they're going to do a national or international competition to get people to make—
The truth is, of course, Mr. Chairman, that the government decided to amend every single clause in the bill that it now says it supports. I don't know whether you can have it both ways or three ways or four ways, but the government appears to want everything its way. That's irrespective of what the rules or what the procedures or what the principles that are agreed on 10 minutes ago might be today, 10 minutes later, or indeed a couple of hours later. It doesn't matter. This is a very whimsical approach to anything.
Now we're still talking about covering the costs of planning and covering the costs of design. There's no indication of the process of how to get to the point where we have a design project in place. We don't know what the cost of that might be. We don't know what the cost of the whole planning process might be. We don't even know what the cost of the construction process might be, because we haven't even taken a look at what the materials are that are going to be used and how much of those materials are going to be used. What is the extent of the project? All of these factor into the cost.
So what we might be doing is we might be saddling this council with an enormous cost that the public doesn't want to offload on to a private concern. It said we want this monument and we want it at the expense of Canadians. No, I'm sorry, it shouldn't be at the expense...it's at the contribution of all Canadians. We all want to participate and it becomes ours. We become proprietors of it because we participated through our tax structure. We want the minister, as a representative of the government and as a representative of the people of Canada, to absorb that cost because that's the only way we can demonstrate that it is ours. It's not somebody else's. It is not some nameless council's. Anybody can make a contribution.
As I indicated at another discussion with another particular amendment, in this one here we're talking about construction, installing, and maintaining a monument that reflects the will of all Canadians. Where's the business plan, as I said a moment ago? We want to be relevant. We want to be responsible. You want to indicate that you're doing what the right thing would be. Well, tell us what the scope and size of this monument would be. Tell us what the cost range might be. And tell us in fact how this is going to be covered. What are the mechanisms? What are the responsibilities? Don't tell us that while you've accepted the principle that this be there, a private group of five individuals is going to assume all the responsibilities for covering the costs and then eventually might be able to say that this belongs to all Canadians.
Any five individuals, any 10, any 20, any 500, any one can go ahead and erect a monument on his or her own, but it reflects his or her own.... Here we're talking about covering the cost, the planning, the design, the construction, the installation, the maintenance of a monument, and any other costs included by the council. Why? Why would we tell everybody, here you are, you can go ahead? You can formulate yourselves into an organism that we will approve--although you don't need our approval--and then you can go out there and raise the money and you can build this, and then we'll call it Canadian. That's a user fee. That's a tax on a particular community, not the general taxation system, where every Canadian makes a contribution, directly and indirectly.
You know, Mr. Chairman, I can't believe the chicanery associated with trying to get this passed when the government knows it is unacceptable. It was unacceptable because you as the chair received the studied opinion of those who procedurally look at what this clause means in respect of everything else that's been done--
The new amendment has language that is so completely different from the last one that I think if you superimposed the words from it on the previous amendment, every single one of them would coincide. Somebody called this chicanery, and another person said it's an appropriate tactic of politics, but it's probably brought to a fine art by members opposite.
Let me talk to the relevance of “planning, designing, constructing, installing and maintaining”. A council--a nameless council--is going to be responsible for the maintenance of a monument that represents all Canadians, a nameless council that can do anything it wants with the funds that are raised, a nameless council that will go forward and erect a monument that it could, at any time it wanted, anywhere in this country, plan, design, construct, install, and then even maintain ad infinitum, and forever be responsible for this, when the Government of Canada is fully equipped to do all of this, when the Government of Canada, through the House of Commons, has already expressed that it is in favour of covering the cost, the planning, the designing, the constructing, the installing, and the maintaining of a monument in perpetuity. Government members want to deprive the Canadian public of the opportunity for the Government of Canada to do its job, to do what it was obligated to do by the vote in the House of Commons.
Mr. Chairman, I can't believe that the government members want to go out into the Canadian public and crow that they are—
Mr. Chair, the point of order had to do with the fact that we are now in the middle of a filibuster. The Liberal Party has no improvements to make. The amendment as presented just asks us to add funds to cover the costs of planning, designing and constructing the monument. I support the people from the Jewish community when they say that, if they are going to go to the trouble of setting up a fundraising campaign, they will include maintaining the monument as well as building it.
If the Liberals had made an amendment that suggested contributing to the costs rather than covering them, we could have assumed that the government would cover them if ever there was not enough money. Mr. Volpe argues that we have no plan, no figures and no analysis. He had none either when he made his amendments. So we then have no choice but to respect the requests of the community.
That is what the Bloc Québécois is doing. They are telling us that, since they are going to be conducting a fundraising campaign, it will not just be for construction, but also for maintenance, design and installation. I think that is great.
Then, if you want the government to cover the costs… I still maintain that the government is responsible, under the terms that have been submitted to us. If you have amendments to improve it, I am open to them. But we see that the Liberals are opposed to that. They insist on opposing what the community wants. That is their choice, which is why we have this filibuster. The Liberal Party has no intention of improving this bill, but rather seeking political advantage through their filibuster.
I am ready to stay here. I am going to take on the Liberals anytime, anywhere. I have no problem with that. I can take all the time we need.
I thank my colleagues for their intervention, because, quite frankly, we want to clarify who is going to assume, under the act, all the costs for the planning, design, construction, installation, and maintenance of the monument.
Contrary to what Monsieur Laframboise just mentioned a moment ago, we have no need to introduce an amendment to identify who would do that because we've already accepted in the amendments, and the bill, unamended clauses that the government, through the minister, be responsible for all of those. That in fact is one of the basic principles of the bill, that the government have that responsibility for the public of Canada, not, as he says, for the Jewish community, but for everyone.
That's the basic element here. Is it going to be the Canadian public who are responsible for the planning, design, erection, and maintenance of this, or is it going to be only one particular community?
The Canadian public, through the House of Commons, said no, this is a Canadian issue. This is a Canadian values issue. This is something that reflects the Canadian public, and therefore the Canadian public, through its ministers, is going to assume that responsibility.
I don't need to introduce an amendment on behalf of the Liberals to say something otherwise. We agree that's going to be the case. That's why we would object to this. This particular amendment says no, it should be a council. If they aren't capable of raising those funds, the monument doesn't get built. If they don't do it in a timely fashion, it might not get built before those who really want to see it built are there to see it built.
Who pays is a fundamental component of the expenditure plan envisaged by the bill. The government has, with this plan, with this amendment, turned around and said the financial responsibility lies with the council and with the individuals we put on the council and their ability to raise those funds. In fact, they might even take a look at spearheading a campaign to cover the costs.
Why would you treat particular members of a community differently from all the others who have received a monument in the national capital region? Why? Why would you say that this group of people, now on a council, now have to assume the financial liabilities associated with the planning, design, construction, installation, and maintenance of a monument when the Government of Canada, directly or through the National Capital Commission, already has the funds available and is already able to do all of this legislatively without even having to have either the bill or the amendment?
I think the government is really stalling on the intention expressed by the House of Commons. They don't want to build this, and they're hoping that the members of the Jewish community who may end up being on the council might be capable of raising the funds for we don't know what type of monument. We don't know the size because we don't know the design. We don't know the planning and we haven't got the construction plan yet either.
People are asking us to buy a pig in a poke. That's what this particular clause says. It says trust us. Trust them. Don't worry, there's not going to be anything wrong. The council is going to be responsible for everything. But you know what, Mr. Chairman? I'm not sure that people who look at this logically and look at it in terms of procedure would ever accept that such a clause should be part of a bill. It wasn't a part of the bill before, and the bill passed with every member of Parliament.... I'm constrained; I can't name them all or say who wasn't there, but everybody who was present supported it, including all the members of cabinet.
It's not as if the executive branch didn't already assume a principled position of supporting this financially. Why would the government withdraw that financial support with this amendment? Why would it say we no longer want to incur the costs of planning? Why would it say we no longer want to incur the costs of the design? Why would it refuse to absorb the costs of construction?
As I read the original bill that I voted on and that passed, the minister will oversee the planning and design of the monument. That means the minister will ensure that the design and plan for the monument are put in place. Then he will allocate the public land for the monument. Then the council will spearhead a fundraising campaign to raise the money for the monument the minister has decided is appropriate, the level of expenditure that is appropriate, and that is the way this bill is laid out. After that, the maintenance is going to be handled by the National Capital Commission.
How is this motion we're facing not completely different? What it's doing is asking the council to be engaged in the entire process. The council will raise the money to cover it all. To that extent, I think it's putting a lot of weight on the council and it's taking weight off the minister.
I don't have a problem with the campaign supporting the cost of planning and design, working with the minister, as this bill outlines “in cooperation with the Council, shall oversee the planning and design of the Monument”. I would like to see something that would allow the minister to make the decision about the design of the monument and the council then be engaged in raising the money to construct it, just as the bill is laid out.
I find this amendment casts too much weight onto the council. It could lead to a situation whereby a council was, through its fundraising efforts, not able to raise enough money to do the project properly. I see that happening. I see that we might end up with an inferior monument this way because of the vagaries of fundraising for the particular monument, or we end up with a monument that would be inappropriate through the process that went ahead. I'm concerned about that.
I would like to see an amendment that could change the word “cover” to “support”, so the operative word “cover”, which as I understand it means to take on all the costs—cover the costs—becomes the word “support”.
Mr. Chairman, can I put forward an amendment in this fashion, or do I need the consent of the committee?
There does seem to be some confusion, even on the part of Mr. Jean. Yes, we voted for it. He voted for it. His party voted for it. In fact, the entire Parliament voted for this bill, so we don't understand the need for this subamendment and these amendments continually being presented. What was passed at the last meeting, which unfortunately I wasn't able to be present at, was Liberal amendment 2 to clause 7. It reads:
The Minister shall be responsible for the construction and maintenance of the Monument.
Now, as we had just voted on a subamendment to this clause, we now continue on with G-7.2 to suggest that:
The Council shall spearhead a fundraising campaign to cover the cost of--
An hon. member: Rather than “cover”, we're now going to “support”.
Mrs. Bonnie Crombie: I'm just going to try this one more time. It reads:
The Council shall spearhead a fundraising campaign to support the cost of planning, designing, constructing, installing and maintaining the Monument, and any other costs incurred by the Council.
The fundamental essence of the bill and the amendment and the subamendment is the ultimate responsibility of the minister, and that intent and that integrity must be preserved. What we don't want to see is continued contempt for the procedure and contempt for Parliament, which this government and the government members have enacted here through these underhanded and--
Mr. Chairman, the parliamentary secretary's response to Mr. Bevington's question is a clear indication of why we would have to have somebody before the committee who actually knew what this meant.
My sense of what Mr. Bevington is saying is divided into two parts. I am sure--the parliamentary secretary has already said so--he is not in a position to be able to answer this. We're talking about the minister's authority and the minister's responsibility. Under our system of government, the responsibility is always vested in the government. It cannot be delegated to anybody else. Someone else can have delegated authority to execute a decision, but the responsibility for that decision is always resident in the executive, in the minister.
So under this clause--and this is, I think, why Mr. Bevington may have difficulty with it, and why I have difficulty with it--we're not even empowered to ask the minister to delegate his responsibility, because he can't do it. If that interpretation is correct, then I think we need to maybe have the law clerk of the House before us to tell us whether this would be acceptable. If in fact we can do that and the parliamentary secretary's interpretation that everything always stays with the minister anyway, no matter what...then we can deal with the clause as we ought to, in a thoughtful, deliberate fashion.
Under the circumstances, the answer I've heard makes it as difficult for me as it makes it for Mr. Bevington to say that we can authorize the minister to eliminate or to delegate his responsibility. He can't. He can delegate his authority. That's why we have a bureaucracy. That's why the deputy minister exists. That's why everybody below the deputy minister exists, to execute the authority of the minister.
I'm not sure we even need this, especially given that Monsieur Laframboise has already proposed an amendment that you say we must deal with after we deal with this one. Mr. Laframboise's proposal--even though it's not yet on the table, but you have said we have to refer to it later--addresses that issue.
I wonder if you would revisit your decision and make a decision as to whether, for the sake of clarity and moving along, we could ask the government member to withdraw amendment G-7.1--which I guess would now have to be numbered differently--in respect of the Bloc's amendment to clause 8. At the very least, you would clarify that constitutional issue that's raised by the words “responsibility and authority”.
Is it in order, Mr. Chairman?
The Chair: If it wasn't, I would state that. It is in order.
Hon. Joseph Volpe: Oh man.
Mr. Chairman, I just can't believe this.
An hon. member: [Inaudible--Editor]
Hon. Joseph Volpe: I don't challenge the chair.
An hon. member: We leave that to you.
Hon. Joseph Volpe: And please recognize that the opposition members have been attempting to work within the system, and they've always supported the chair. We've never challenged the chair. We've left that to the government, and the government has challenged the chair on every one of its decisions.
But at any rate, Mr. Chairman, this amendment essentially puts a constraint on the fundraisers, mandating the fundraisers as to what they ought to do and what they cannot do. This is a volunteer group. It says “as determined by the National Capital Commission”. So here you have the Government of Canada--let me repeat it again--through its executive branch, the minister, washing his hands of the whole affair and saying that the National Capital Commission will determine whether these guys were able to get enough funds on the table to build the monument. Incredible. Just absolutely incredible.
Thank heaven for the subamendment by my colleague from the NDP, and thank heaven for the other amendment from the Bloc Québécois about contributions that can be made. This points out once again that the government has not only said goodbye to this monument, it's turned its back on it. It has done everything it can to the concept, to say to heck with you, and to treat the Jewish community differently from everybody else by making them pay for something the Canadian public has already accepted. That is scandalous and shameful that they should be taxed specifically for something that represents all Canadians' interests. I'm embarrassed they would put in this clause.
Mr. Chairman, I don't think we can be in opposition to proposed subclause 11(1). At the very least, both 11(1) and 11(2) now take us full circle to all the arguments we have been making all along; that is that the Government of Canada, through its minister of transport, be responsible for the planning, the designing, the building, and the maintenance of this monument on behalf of all Canadians.
New subclause 11(1) really says, you know what? This monument does revert back to Canadians. New subclause 11(2) says, and by the way, if you've raised any money--which we've referred to as an additional fee, a tax on a particular community--it comes back to the Government of Canada.
I think anybody who has listened to this debate or watched it all along would agree with our assessment, that the intent we had presented with our amendments in support of the original bill was that the Government of Canada do everything for the people of Canada. The government has dragged the Jewish community along and deceived the regular public, and now it's coming back and saying, by the way, we did do all of that, but the monument is going to come back and be a Canadian monument.
We applaud the fact that it's going to be a Canadian monument, because that's what we thought it was going to be all along. But the government fought it all the way along, and finally, with an amendment, it says mea culpa, we're sorry, you're right.
An hon. member: And retain the funds.
Hon. Joseph Volpe: And by the way, if there is any special spare cash, we're going to bank it. That's great, but at any rate, at least the end objective is resolved.
We're sorry that the Jewish community was deceived through all of this, and that the Canadian public was manipulated, but we're happy to see that the monument is going to be built. It's going to be resident in the national capital, and the Canadian public can call it its own.
I think we can call the question.
(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])