Interventions in the House of Commons
 
 
 
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View Michael Ignatieff Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, before we start this debate, I have a few words for you. You are at the end of your term as Speaker of the House, and I would like to express how much fondness and respect we all have for you. Your rulings have left their mark on our country's history.
Mr. Speaker, you have taught us all, sometimes with a modest rebuke, sometimes with the sharp sting of focused argument, to understand, to respect and to cherish the rules of Canadian democracy, and for that your citizens will always hold you in highest honour.
This is a historic day in the life of Canadian democracy, the democracy that you, Mr. Speaker, have served so well. I have to inform the House that the official opposition has lost confidence in the government.
The government no longer has the confidence of the official opposition.
Our motion asks the House to agree with the finding in the 27th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented on March 21. This was a historic finding. It was the first time that a parliamentary committee has found the government in contempt.
Today, with this motion, we ask the House to do the same, to find the government in contempt and to withdraw the confidence of the House.
With this motion, we are calling on members of Parliament to condemn the government for its contempt of Parliament and to withdraw the confidence of the House. This is a historic day in the life of Canadian democracy, but it is also an opportunity for us to confirm our commitment to parliamentary democracy and its fundamental principles.
What principles are we talking about? That the government has the obligation to provide members of this House with the information they need in order to hold the government accountable to the people of Canada.
The principle at stake in this debate goes to the heart of parliamentary democracy: the obligation of a government to provide members of this House with the information they need in order to hold the government accountable to the people of Canada.
We are the people's representatives. When the government spends money, the people have a right to know what it is to be spent on. Parliament does not issue blank cheques. For four months, the opposition has asked the government to tell the Canadian people the true cost of its budget plans. For four months, we demanded to know how much Canadian taxpayers were being asked to pay for fighter jets, prisons and corporate tax breaks. For four months. this House and the Canadian people were stonewalled by the government and they are being stonewalled still.
For four months, we have been trying to hold this government accountable. For four months, we demanded to know the real cost of the fighter jets, prisons and tax breaks for major corporations. For four months, we did not get a single answer, aside from the contempt and arrogance of this government. And today, still, we have no answers.
We were shocked, but we were not surprised. After all, this is the same government that shut down Parliament twice, the same government that was forced, by one of your rulings, to hand over documents to do with Afghan prisoners, and we are still waiting for those documents.
In the case of the Afghan documents, the government's excuse for withholding the truth was national security. In the case of the budget documents, it invented something about cabinet confidence, but actually it did not even bother with an excuse at all.
But you, Mr. Speaker, would have none of it. You, Mr. Speaker, held that the rules of our democracy require the government to answer the questions that Parliament wants answered. The matter was sent back to a committee for action and it came back with a finding of contempt. That is why we are where we are today. The House must decide whether the government has broken a basic rule of our democracy and therefore, whether it can remain in office.
For our part on this side of the House, there is no doubt. You, Mr. Speaker, have spoken, the committee has spoken, and now the House must speak with a clear voice. It must say that a government that breaks the rules and conceals facts from the Canadian people does not deserve to remain in office.
With one clear voice, the House must declare that a government that does not respect democracy cannot remain in power. We have had enough. If this vote results in an election, the Canadian people will have the opportunity to replace an arrogant government with one that respects democracy.
To those who say an election is unnecessary, we reply that we did not seek an election, but if we need one to replace a government that does not respect democracy with one that does, I cannot think of a more necessary election.
It is not just democracy that the House will be called upon to affirm this afternoon. The House should also affirm Canadians' hunger, nay their longing, for change. It is time to change Canada's direction. It is time to get us on the right path. After five years of Conservative government, it is time to say enough is enough. Enough of the politics of fear. Enough of the politics of division. Enough of the politics of personal destruction.
Enough is enough. We need to look at the government's priorities. It wants to spend 1,000 times more on fighter jets than on helping students in CEGEP and university. We reject the government's priorities. It is offering less to seniors for an entire year than what it spent on one day of the G20. We say no to this kind of waste. The government wants to spend 1,000 times more on prisons than on preventing youth crime. Again, we say no. This government's priorities are not in line with the priorities of Canadian families. We have had it. Enough is enough.
The priorities of the government laid bare in that thin gruel that we saw earlier this week reveal a government out of touch and out of control. There is no credible plan to tackle the deficit because there are no numbers any reasonable person can believe in. There is no vision of how to sustain our health care system. There is not a word about affordable housing, not a word about child care, and nothing for the pressing needs of Canadian families in poverty.
Instead, we get jets, jails and giveaways to oil companies, insurance companies, and banks that are doing just fine, thank you very much.
So we need a change. We need to focus scarce resources where they really matter: early learning and child care; college and university education for all, especially for aboriginal and immigrant Canadians; energy efficiency and green jobs; family care for our loved ones in the home, and security and dignity in retirement. We need all of this plus a clear plan to clean up our country's finances and get us back to balance without adding to the tax burden on Canadian families.
These are the priorities of our people. These are the needs that we must serve. These are the priorities at home. However, let us not forget the priorities abroad. We have so much ground to catch up. We have a government that has lost our place in the world and lost our place at the Security Council of the United Nations.
We need a government that restores our honour, our credit, and our prestige on the international stage, a government that understands the deep and committed internationalism that dwells in the hearts of all Canadian citizens.
We need a government for the people, a government that is accountable to the people and that serves the people and democracy.
I want to conclude by saying a few words about democracy. Some members of this government have been charged with electoral fraud. A member of the Prime Minister's inner circle is accused of influence peddling. Enough is enough. People are fed up.
I return to where I started, to democracy, to the abuse of power. We have a government whose most senior members stand accused of electoral fraud. We have a Prime Minister who appointed, as his top adviser, someone who served prison time for stealing money from his clients, someone who now faces accusations of influence peddling, and is under an RCMP investigation.
Canadians look at that picture and they say, “We have had enough”. This House has had enough, enough of the abuse of power and enough of the bad economic choices.
We have a government with unique distinctions. We have a government with the largest deficit in Canadian history. It is the highest spending government in Canadian history. It is the most wasteful government in Canadian history. Finally, it is the first government in Canadian history to face a vote of contempt in this House.
This is a government and a Prime Minister that is out of touch and is out of control. It is time for a change.
Mr. Speaker, I urge all of the members to support our motion.
View John Baird Profile
CPC (ON)
View John Baird Profile
2011-03-25 12:06 [p.9265]
Mr. Speaker, I rise once again to try to bring unity to the House, changing the subject to do something good for Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:
That notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, following Question Period today a member from each recognized party and the Deputy Speaker may make a brief statement and the time taken for these statements shall be added to the time provided for government orders.
View Peter Milliken Profile
Lib. (ON)
Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
View John Baird Profile
CPC (ON)
View John Baird Profile
2011-03-25 12:07 [p.9265]
Mr. Speaker, I am very privileged to rise today to pay tribute to a great Canadian, someone who will not be seeking re-election to this place after serving 23 years as the member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands. I am, of course, talking about you, Mr. Speaker.
The Speaker and I have known each other since I was 19 years old when I was a young Queen's University student. Our first encounter was rather interesting and I think he knows what I am talking about. I was protesting the Speaker when he was running against the Honourable Flora Isabel MacDonald. All judicial matters were cleared up a few months after that first encounter.
Mr. Speaker, for four terms as the Speaker, you have conducted yourself with great integrity, with great professionalism. You are thoughtful. You are intelligent. You have enjoyed the confidence of this House each and every sitting day of those four terms. That is a remarkable accomplishment.
You are aware that you have been elected by majority Liberal governments, by minority Liberal governments, and by minority Conservative governments. I think it speaks to the number of friends and the high esteem in which you are held by each and every member of this place.
After becoming government House leader, I had an opportunity to visit the Palace of Westminster, the mother of all parliaments. The Speaker of the House of Commons there said that he and Speakers in the Commonwealth around the world looked to you as their leader and their inspiration as someone who has conducted himself very professionally. For a Canadian to hear that from a British Speaker is a pretty remarkable conclusion and assessment of your role as Speaker.
Not only are you the longest serving Speaker in Canadian history, you have also been elected, so others who have served at great length did not have that distinction. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, you will go down in history as one of the best Speakers, if not the best Speaker, that the House of Commons has ever had.
On behalf of the Prime Minister, on behalf of the government caucus, on behalf of the people of Canada, and I think especially on behalf of the people of Kingston and the Islands, we want to thank you for your remarkable contribution to Parliament and your remarkable public service to this great country. We want to wish you well.
View Michael Ignatieff Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, it is with sadness and emotion that I rise to pay tribute to you today. We are saying goodbye to a wonderful parliamentarian, the member for Kingston and the Islands, and a great Canadian who has left his mark on this institution, which we all hold so dear. We salute you.
You were elected Speaker by your colleagues four times, making you the longest-serving Speaker in the House and only the second one to have been chosen from the opposition benches. Ten deciding votes have been cast by Speakers of the House since 1867 and you have cast five of them, which is extraordinary.
You have been the voice of this House. You have inspired us—sometimes with kindness, sometimes with firmness, sometimes with great conviction and emotion—to better understand the rules governing this House and Canadian democracy. If only for that, the country owes you so very much.
As Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, as chair of the procedure and House affairs committee, as Deputy Speaker, and now as Speaker, you have built a legacy that will outlast you and that will endure in the annals of this Parliament.
At the end of your tenure, we all regret, if I may add, that another great lover of parliamentary democracy and procedure, our friend and your friend, Jerry Yanover, is not here to celebrate with us your incredible achievement.
With your departure, Mr. Speaker, this place loses a faithful guardian of our best traditions. We also lose a fierce protector of its privileges. Few Canadians have done more to affirm the supremacy of Parliament. Three times in the last year, you have stood in this House to defend our democracy against the abuse of power. Your rulings are the consummation of a career spent in the service of our institutions and they will echo in the history of our Parliament. For your devotion to this place, you have our gratitude and our respect.
Today, the House stands poised to make history of its own and to make an important and historic choice. The irony is that if this House were to find the government in contempt, it would have one consequence, which all of us deeply regret: We would send a great Speaker into retirement.
So farewell, Mr. Speaker. This House will miss you and we will never forget you.
View Pierre Paquette Profile
BQ (QC)
View Pierre Paquette Profile
2011-03-25 12:13 [p.9266]
Mr. Speaker, before paying you a well-deserved tribute, I would like to acknowledge the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, who has announced that she will not be running for office in the next election. I wish to salute her.
It is an immense privilege for me to pay tribute to the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands. Not only are you the longest-serving Speaker in the history of Canada's Parliament, but you managed this feat in a very special context. This has been pointed out, but I believe it deserves to be repeated.
What I would like to say is that, on four occasions, after four consecutive elections, no matter which party was power, no matter whether it was a majority or minority government, the member for Kingston and the Islands was elected by his peers to preside over our deliberations and to be the guardian of the rules of procedure and the traditions of the House of Commons. In my opinion, the confidence the House has expressed in you, four times over, and in a secret ballot, is a great feat, even more than your longevity as the Speaker of the House of Commons.
If I had to describe your work in one sentence, I would say that it is obvious that all your actions have been guided by your profound knowledge of the institution of the House of Commons. This knowledge is the fruit of your hard work and obvious passion for parliamentary business. It is public knowledge that, even as an adolescent, the Speaker of the House was an avid reader of Hansard. Of course.
With this in-depth knowledge of the institution, the member for Kingston and the Islands quickly became the defender of the rules and traditions of the House of Commons at a time when, need we be reminded, these rules and traditions could easily have been diminished. In fact, for more than five years, you have presided over a House of Commons with a minority government. Since 2004, with a number of your decisions, you ensured that the balance between parliamentarians' rights and the government's prerogatives was maintained. It was not always an easy task, I must say.
We will remember you, in your role as the Speaker of the House of Commons, as a man with an engaging personality and whose integrity, intelligence, judgment and knowledge, not to mention sense of humour, have been a source of admiration and inspiration for us all throughout these years.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, allow me to offer, on behalf of the members of the Bloc Québécois and myself, our most sincere congratulations for the quality and longevity of your tenure as Speaker of the House of Commons. Allow me to say, one last time, thank you for everything, Mr. Speaker.
View Libby Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
View Libby Davies Profile
2011-03-25 12:16 [p.9267]
Mr. Speaker, you have given a decade of service to all members of Parliament as our Speaker. Maybe this day is no different from all those others spent occupying the chair, listening to endless points of order that really are not points of order, making your rulings and seeking order, seeking order, and still more order.
Of course, it is different today, in that this appears to be the last such day. So it is fitting that we pay you tribute, and I do so on behalf of our leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth, and our entire NDP caucus.
Mr. Speaker, you were elected or acclaimed as Speaker on four occasions, and it is no small feat in itself to have earned the respect of the House so many times over. You presided at many critical moments, including being the only Speaker ever to decide a confidence vote in 2005.
Mr. Speaker, we remember you for your fairness, your impartiality and your good humour.
You know this place inside out and all of its strange practices that no one really understands but which, at certain moments, become important, even critical, to how we function and do our work for Canadians.
Most of all, though, Mr. Speaker, you will be remembered for your historic rulings on the disclosure of documents dealing with Afghanistan, other document disclosure and questions of contempt, which bring us here today.
You have been our guardian and the guardian of our Parliament. I think it was best said in an article just yesterday in Maclean's magazine, which concluded:
Amid much gnashing of teeth over the state of our parliamentary democracy, [the Speaker] reasserted the power and preeminence of the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the NDP members, we wish you well. We hope you are not left to muttering “Order” in your sleep. We thank you for your service as an honourable Speaker, and we thank your family for sharing you with us and for the work you have done so well.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2011-03-25 12:18 [p.9267]
Mr. Speaker, I hope the House will allow me a few minutes to speak so that I, too, may pay tribute to you. I will not repeat all that we have already heard about your illustrious career as the Speaker of this historic Chamber.
Mr. Speaker, you have been the voice of the Commons for just over 10 years. I have been very proud to have served with you as a Chair for just about half of that time.
In your speech to the House on the first day of the current Parliament, you told members that in your view:
—in a minority House there are certain circumstances that require expertise, not merely experience.
That, I think, has become clear to all members who have served with you since you first took over the speakership of this House in the 37th Parliament. You have shown a great deal of expertise, and not merely experience.
Mr. Speaker, you have consistently demonstrated your vast knowledge of the rules and procedure that guide our deliberations and the precedents that guide the Speaker's rulings
But what stands out the most is the fact that, not only did you carry out your duties with a great deal of expertise, but you did so with a genuine love for Parliament, a true grasp of the important role this institution plays in Canada, and true commitment to its traditions.
Beauchesne's, citations 167 and 168, tells us that:
The essential ingredient of the speakership is found in the status of the Speaker as a servant of the House. The Presiding Officer, while but a servant of the House, is entitled on all occasions to be treated with the greatest attention and respect by the individual Members because the office embodies the power, dignity and honour of the House itself.
The chief characteristics attached to the office of Speaker in the House of Commons are authority and impartiality.
I think all members will agree that those are two characteristics you have displayed very well over the past several years.
Perhaps many Canadians do not know that the Speaker is often called upon to represent Canada abroad at meetings such as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, with the speakers of other G8 countries and on bilateral diplomatic visits.
I can tell the members of the House and, indeed, all Canadians, that Canada was always very well represented when Speaker Milliken represented us.
Members of the next Parliament will no doubt miss your presence in the Chair. They will miss your affable nature in guiding this House through some interesting times, and they will certainly miss your expertise.
However, it is said that it is not what one gets out of something that one is remembered for, but what one leaves behind.
You can be proud of the legacy you are leaving here today. I am not talking only about statistics and numbers, as the longest-serving Speaker, for instance, or the highest number of votes taken, but rather as a Speaker who has left such a mark on the position that it is probably difficult for the members and for Canadians to imagine you no longer occupying the chair.
On behalf of all of those who have worked with you, both in the Chair and as table officers and as the many clerks you have served with over the years, I wish you all the best in whatever your days may bring. I know you will always be welcomed in these corridors.
View Peter Milliken Profile
Lib. (ON)
Before I begin my personal remarks, I would like to join the other hon. members in recognizing the presence here today of the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île. Welcome. It is a pleasure to see you.
I am honoured by the very kind comments that so many colleagues have made today.
I would like to thank you for your remarks. It has always been a pleasure for me to be here in the House. I have been grateful for this opportunity since I was elected by the voters in Kingston and the Islands in 1988.
I have really enjoyed being their representative in this House. I am honoured to have been able to do it for so long and so consistently, in the sense that they kept re-electing me. I have appreciated that support immensely. I am very pleased and honoured to have been the member of Parliament for such a great constituency, which is obviously Canada's first capital. It has been a privilege to serve my community of Kingston. I must say that I look forward to spending a little more time there, if there is a dissolution shortly.
I would also like to express my profound thanks to the Clerk of the House, as well as her predecessor, Bill Corbett, and his staff.
The Speaker must work with the Clerk all the times to arrange things in the House and to receive notices regarding things that happen here. The Clerk also acts as the Speaker's advisor.
Throughout, the Clerk and her officials have been very, very supportive and very, very helpful. Obviously, if I have been getting some credit for some successful decisions in the House, a lot of the credit goes to the table officers who do the work in preparing these things. I do not claim to do all that research myself. It is great.
I also want to say how much I appreciate the support of my fellow Chair occupants.
As Deputy Speakers, I have worked with: Bob Kilger; the current Minister of Transport; and Bill Blaikie. The member for Regina—Qu'Appelle is the current Deputy Speaker. We have had a very interesting association among the whole group of us in a way.
The Deputy Chairs of Committees of the Whole: Réginald Bélair; the hon. members for Hull—Aylmer and Ottawa—Orléans; and, currently, the hon. member for Victoria. I have enjoyed working with all of them.
Finally, the Assistant Deputy Chairs of Committees of the Whole: Eleni Bakopanos; Betty Hinton; Jean Augustine; and, currently, the hon. member for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock. I thank them all for their assistance. As a team, in each case, I think we have worked very well together.
I would like to also thank all of the dedicated staff in my Kingston office who have worked hard to keep the constituents of Kingston and the Islands happy.
Once I became Speaker, the number of days I could spend there during the week diminished somewhat, so I have not had as many appointments in the last 10 years as I did in the years before that, but they have seen a lot of constituents and dealt with a lot of the issues and helped out.
The staff in the office here in Ottawa have also been very helpful, particularly in the Speaker's office, in assisting me in this role in helping arrange all the trips and the visiting delegations and the meetings with officials that I get to do on behalf of the House. I appreciate their help very, very much.
I thank the Leader of the Opposition for mentioning my old friend, Jerry Yanover. We were in high school together. I am sure he would have loved to be here today if he were still around.
I would like to thank my family, my five sisters, my brother, some of whom are here today, their spouses, their children, all of whom have helped me, and my mother. I am looking forward to again having a little more time to spend with them at the cottage when we get a break this summer. That will work out well.
I want to also thank all of you for having elected me so frequently as Speaker in this House. It has been a singular honour to serve in this position. I am always delighted with the support that I get during the elections, and of course elections are a real pain in the neck for Speakers, you have two every time. However, having been voted in, I do then have the pleasure of working with each one of the members.
It has always been a pleasure for me to have meetings and discussions with you and to receive little messages from time to time. I really appreciate the support you have given me and your good-naturedness. I also really appreciate the remarks you have made today.
Perhaps I could just end by telling a little story.
Toward the end of her long reign, Queen Elizabeth I, in an address to her subjects, said these words:
--though God hath raised me high, yet this I count the glory of my Crown, that I have reigned with your loves.
When you elected me to this job, you raised me high in this House, but what has been the wonderful part about it is the affection and the respect that you have showered upon me since my first election.
Thank you very much, my dear friends.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, before I table the documents with you which will be for the last time, I will make a few very brief remarks, if I may.
I do not profess to be as eloquent as those who spoke before me, but let me say, as one who has dealt with you on a daily basis on procedural matters for the last five years, I know this must be a joyous but also a very difficult day for you. “Mixed emotions” has once been described to me by definition as watching one's mother-in-law drive over a cliff but driving one's own brand new Cadillac. With all due respect to mothers-in-law across Canada, what it means is that you must be viewing this day with a mixture of joy and regret because this place has been such a big part of your life. From my perspective, I have benefited greatly from your rulings, your advice, your guidance and your patience. From the deepest part of my heart, thank you so much for all you have done for me over these past several years and I hope this is not the last time we see you in this place.
For the last time, let me say, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to four petitions.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
2011-03-25 12:43 [p.9269]
Mr. Speaker, I also want to pay my respect to you in your capacity as Speaker and wish you all the best in the future.
I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, in relation to its study on the issues surrounding security at the G8 and G20 summits.
View Hedy Fry Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Hedy Fry Profile
2011-03-25 12:43 [p.9269]
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 14th report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women concerning violence against aboriginal women.
This is an interim report.
Mr. Speaker, if I may be permitted to congratulate you on your sterling record and to say what a joy it was to know you as a colleague and a friend.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2011-03-25 12:45 [p.9270]
Mr. Speaker, before I table my report, I would like to use this occasion also to thank you for all the work you have done and the help you have provided. It was a great privilege to travel with you in May of last year. That is a trip that I am sure will be in my memories for the rest of my years and I appreciate that.
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development concerning Bill C-530, An Act to amend the Northwest Territories Act (borrowing limits). The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John McKay Profile
2011-03-25 12:46 [p.9270]
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in relation to its study on the effectiveness, management and operation of the expenses incurred for the G8 and G20 Summits.
Mr. Speaker, may I thank you as well for your guidance and insight over these many years. We will miss you.
View Joy Smith Profile
CPC (MB)
View Joy Smith Profile
2011-03-25 12:46 [p.9270]
Mr. Speaker, you are just awesome. It is wonderful to have known you and continue to know you. I think you will go down in history as one of the best Speakers that this Parliament ever had. Thank you.
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 16th report on the Standing Committee on Health in relation to the main estimates 2011-12, votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 under health.
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