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View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2019-05-15 17:17 [p.27900]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to say hello to the many constituents of Beauport—Limoilou who are watching. Today, it is my pleasure to debate Motion No. 170, which reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of the House, a special committee, chaired by the Speaker of the House, should be established at the beginning of each new Parliament, in order to select all Officers of Parliament.
Before I begin, I would like to recognize with all due respect that the motion was moved by the member for Hamilton Centre, who is with the NDP and has been in Parliament for quite a while, but will not seek re-election. If he is listening right now, I would like to acknowledge him and thank him for his work and decades of public service. The member for Hamilton Centre was once an MPP in Ontario, as well, and worked hard on all sorts of causes that were important to his constituents. I would like to congratulate him on his service.
Moreover, he is more than just a good parliamentarian. I remember hearing one of his speeches at the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, if I remember correctly. I took note of his delivery, because he is a fine public speaker with good rhetorical skills. I have always had a great deal of respect for my colleagues with vast parliamentary experience. I try to learn from the best.
I am sure the member for Hamilton Centre wants to leave his mark on Canadian democracy. I too want to improve Canada's Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. Our role as MPs is the cornerstone of parliamentary democracy. It is fundamental. MPs must play a leading role in the workings of Canadian democracy, which includes the selection and appointment of officers of Parliament. That is what this motion is about.
Officers of Parliament are individuals jointly appointed by the House of Commons and the Senate to look into matters on our behalf and help us carry out our duties and responsibilities. For example, Canada has a Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, a position created by Mr. Harper and the Conservative Party.
There is also the Information Commissioner, who ensures that Canadians are able to have access to all government information so that they can get to the bottom of things. Then, there is the Commissioner of Lobbying. We heard a lot about her because of the Prime Minister's trip to the Aga Khan's island. Then there is the Commissioner of Official Languages. I am the official languages critic and I worked on the appointment of the new commissioner, Mr. Théberge. There is also the Auditor General. That position is currently vacant because the former auditor general passed away just a few months ago. God rest his soul. I send my best wishes to his family. Finally, there is the Chief Electoral Officer and the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.
There are other officers of Parliament, but the ones I mentioned are the main commissioners who have been mandated by Parliament to conduct investigations in order to ensure proper accountability in the Canadian democratic process.
The member for Hamilton Centre wants to improve and strengthen parliamentary democracy with respect to the process for appointing commissioners and other officers of Parliament. Here is why.
During the last election campaign, the Prime Minister made some promises that he mostly did not keep. He promised to make the process for appointing commissioners more democratic. Under the Conservative government, from 2006 to 2015, the process for appointing commissioners was much more democratic from the perspective of a Westminster-style parliamentary system. It was also much more transparent than what we have seen over the past few years with the Prime Minister and the Liberal government.
When the Prime Minister chose the Official Languages Commissioner a year and a half ago, I am sure that the member for Hamilton Centre noticed, as we all did, that the process for appointing officers of Parliament was anything but open and transparent. Note that I am not in any way trying to target the individual who was selected and who currently holds that position.
This was done differently before 2015. For example, the Standing Committee on Official Languages used to send the Prime Minister of Canada a list of potential candidates for the position of Commissioner of Official Languages. The Prime Minister, with help from his advisors and cabinet, selected one of the candidates suggested. That is far more transparent and democratic than what the Prime Minister and member for Papineau is doing.
What has the Prime Minister done these past few years? Instead of having committees with oversight and the necessary skills for selecting commissioners, such as the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics or the Standing Committee on Official Languages, the Prime Minister is no longer relying on committees to send him a list of names of people or experts in the field. They are no longer able to send a list to the Prime Minister. He said to trust him, that he had set up a system involving people in his own office who send him lists of candidates with absolutely no partisan connections or any connections whatsoever to the Liberal list, candidates who were found by virtue of their expertise.
What actually happened? We saw one clearly terrible case with Ms. Meilleur. Far be it from me to badmouth her, but unfortunately, she was part of this undemocratic process. Ms. Meilleur had been a Liberal MPP in Ontario. She donated money to the Liberal Party of Canada, and less than a year later, she was nominated for the position of official languages commissioner. The Prime Minister did not send a list of candidates' names to the opposition parties. He did not start a discussion with the other party leaders to ask who they thought the best candidate was. He sent a single name to the leader of the official opposition and to the then NDP leader, saying that this was his pick and asking if they agreed.
Not only did the committees have no input under the current Liberal Prime Minister, but the Prime Minister actually only sent one name to the opposition leader.
What the member for Hamilton Centre wants to do is set up a process whereby candidates are selected by a committee, which would be chaired by you, Mr. Speaker, amazingly enough. First off, the idea suggested by my colleague, the member for Hamilton Centre, could not be implemented before the session ends. We have only a few weeks left, and I gather that an NDP member will be proposing an amendment to the motion in a few minutes. We will see what happens then.
Personally, I would say we need to go even further than the motion moved by the member for Hamilton Centre. I will speak to my colleagues about this once we are in government, as of October.
Why not be even bolder and give parliamentary committees not just the power to refer candidates to the Prime Minister for him to decide, but also the power to appoint officers of Parliament? I want to point out that I am speaking only for myself here. I began reflecting on this a year and a half ago, after what happened with Ms. Meilleur and the current commissioner.
I have been a member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages for two years now, and I humbly believe that I have learned a lot about official languages issues. I am familiar with the key players on the ground and I am beginning to understand who the real experts are, who the stakeholders are and who might make a good commissioner. I have to wonder why we would not go even further than what my colleague from Hamilton Centre is proposing, and perhaps even give the real power to the committees.
Imagine the legitimacy the process would have if parliamentary committees could one day choose officers of Parliament. These appointments should still be confirmed by both chambers, as is always the case.
Careful reflection is still needed. What is certain is that we are too close to the end of the current parliamentary session for the motion moved by the member for Hamilton Centre to become a reality. This is even less likely to happen under the current Liberal government, which made many promises to please the Canadian left, including a promise for democratic emancipation. All those promises have been broken.
I wish the hon. member for Hamilton Centre continued success.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2016-09-22 13:26 [p.4971]
Mr. Speaker, I, too, believe that I am the voice of the people of Atlantic Canada, where I lived between the ages of two and 11. Acadia is still very much a part of me, and that is why I absolutely had to speak about it today.
Right in the middle of summer, the Prime Minister arrogantly and unabashedly announced that he intended to change the historic process for appointing Supreme Court justices that has been in place since 1875.
More than any other, this government announcement has has made me dislike the political party that currently governs our great country. Yes, like many Canadians, I am outraged by such actions and attitudes that show the true arrogance of this government.
I am saddened by this unsettling desire, so brazenly expressed by the Prime Minister, to radically alter our constitutional customs, the very customs that have informed government policy for so long in Canada.
If this Liberal government decides to change the constitutional convention for choosing Supreme Court justices without first obtaining the consent of all parliamentarians in the House, it will be going too far. Therefore, and I am choosing my words carefully, this government's actions in the past few months make me fear the worst for the federal unity of this great country.
The Prime Minister is not just interfering in provincial jurisdictions whenever he feels like it, but also interfering in his own areas of jurisdiction by planning to make sweeping changes without even consulting the opposition parties or the public. This is nothing short of anti-democratic. There are other examples of this.
First, the Prime Minister plans to change Canada's nearly 150-year-old voting system without holding a referendum to do so. It is no secret that he and his acolytes are doing this for partisan reasons and to protect their political interests as well.
Then, this same Prime Minister shamelessly suggested just this morning that he wanted to put an end to a 141-year-old constitutional convention. I am talking about the constitutional convention whereby a Prime Minister selects and appoints a judge to the Supreme Court when a seat becomes vacant while ensuring that the new appointee comes from a region similar to that of the person who occupied the vacant seat.
The purpose of this constitutional convention is to guarantee that the decisions rendered by the highest court in the country reflect the regional differences in our federation. Must I remind the political party before me that Canada has five distinct regions and that those regions are legally recognized?
The fact is that Jean Chrétien's Liberal government passed a law that provides for and gives each of the regions of Canada a quasi-constitutional right of veto. Accordingly, the Atlantic provinces, and their region as a whole, do have a say when it comes to the Constitution Act of 1982.
What is more, the British North America Act guarantees the Atlantic provinces fair and effective representation in the House of Commons. For example, New Brunswick is guaranteed 10 seats. The same is true in the Senate, where it is guaranteed just as many seats. Under the same convention, each of the Atlantic provinces holds at least one seat on the Council of Ministers.
How can our friends opposite justify threatening, out of the blue, to reduce to nil the Atlantic provinces' presence in the highest court of the country? If the government moves forward with this new approach, will it do the same to Quebec, the national stronghold of French Canadians? That does not make any sense.
I invite the government to think about this: can the Supreme Court of Canada really render fair and informed decisions on cases affecting the Atlantic provinces without any representation from that region?
Justice for Atlantic Canadians means treating them as equals. It seems the Liberals could not care less about the regions even though every one of them includes distinct communities that want Supreme Court decisions to reflect their values, goals and ideas about the world.
For the Prime Minister to suggest, if only in passing, we defy the convention whereby one seat on the Supreme Court of Canada's bench is reserved for Atlantic Canada is offensive to many legal experts and associations, including Janet Fuhrer, a past president of the Canadian Bar Association, and Ann Whiteway Brown, president of the New Brunswick branch of the Canadian Bar Association.
Echoing this sentiment are the Law Society of New Brunswick, the Atlantic Provinces Trial Lawyers Association, and the Société nationale de l'Acadie, which advocates on behalf of Acadians worldwide.
Disregarding this constitutional convention is tantamount to stripping four out of ten provinces of their voice in the highest court in the land.
Must I also remind members that the Atlantic provinces have a large pool of extremely qualified legal professionals who come from every region and background and who are perfectly bilingual? More importantly, these are candidates who have a vast knowledge of the Atlantic provinces' legal systems and issues. Is there anyone in this House, or elsewhere, who would dispute that?
Even more importantly, there are a few significant constitutional cases on the horizon that could have major repercussions on the Atlantic provinces. Consider, for example, the case referred to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal regarding the elimination of protected Acadian ridings. Hearings on this are currently under way.
Is the Prime Minister really thinking about having judges from other regions rule on a case that deals with how Acadians are represented, when Acadians have been fighting for their survival on this continent for generations?
Is that really what our friends across the aisle want? Do the Liberals from Atlantic Canada really want to muzzle New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, two founding provinces of this great country?
The change that the Prime Minister wants to make to how judges are lawfully appointed to the Supreme Court is essentially a total and complete reversal of this country's established constitutional practices. How shameful and how arrogant.
It would seem the son is following in his father's footsteps. Do hon. members not see what is happening? Just like his father before him, the Prime Minister wants to alter the constitutional order of our country.
Fear not, however, because we in the Conservative Party are not buying it. We not only see what this Prime Minister is doing, but we also see know full well that behind this change in convention is a much greater ideological design.
There is an underlying desire to profoundly change Canadian constitutional arrangements and replace them with a post-materialist world view that is a departure from our constitutional traditions.
In this world view, the main objective is to eliminate from our government institutions, in this case the Supreme Court, the historical and traditional community characteristics that have defined Canada since day one by replacing them with individual and associational characteristics.
In other words, the Prime Minister obviously wants to eliminate the political predominance of certain constituencies in the Canadian constitutional order, at the Supreme Court in particular. He wants to promote a new political predominance, that of associational groups that bring together individuals who share individual rights rather than constituent rights.
Although that may be commendable in some ways, it is a major change because the Prime Minister is ensuring that the very essence of political representativeness and the concept of diversity within the judiciary is changed. The Prime Minister wants a representativeness based on a concept of individual diversity and fragmented by idiosyncratic characteristics.
In light of this potential change, Canadians across the country, including those from Atlantic Canada, must protest and call on the Prime Minister to answer for this. The Prime Minister cannot act unilaterally in this case and must involve all the players concerned.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2016-09-22 13:36 [p.4973]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to say to my dear colleague from Louis-Hébert that it is all well and good that the committee will consider regional representation, but that it should not be a consideration. It should be a given for the government, which would do well to accept it and choose a judge from Atlantic Canada.
As for the new consultative groups, I believe that they are puppets whose role is to hide the true interests of the Prime Minister.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2016-09-22 13:39 [p.4973]
Mr. Speaker, I agree with everything my colleague said. The important thing to remember is that, in a letter published in a newspaper, the Prime Minister announced his intention to change the process for selecting Supreme Court justices in Canada. That is what we need to remember.
Just this morning, the member for Louis-Hébert mentioned that his colleagues were going to support the motion, but they announced it this morning. This is not just about supporting a motion. It is about appointing a judge from Atlantic Canada to fill the next vacancy in the Supreme Court of Canada.
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