Interventions in the House of Commons
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View John Herron Profile
View John Herron Profile
2004-05-13 15:25
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in this tribute to a man who, for over 30 years, spanning four decades, has dedicated his life to serving the public interest.
Canada is a complex country. It has been said that if other countries suffer from having too much history, Canada has too much geography. All that geography makes our great country a place in which diverse and sometimes divergent views and interests coexist and in fact flourish.
Throughout his political career, the right hon. member for Calgary Centre strove to understand that diversity and bridge those divides.
The son of a newspaper man from High River, Alberta, it would have been easier for him to be a man of his roots. Instead, he became a man of the world, always reaching out to the other, whoever the other happened to be.
The right hon. member learned to speak both of Canada's official languages. He named the first woman to serve as foreign affairs minister and the first black cabinet minister. He has always been an ardent supporter of human rights. He fought Canada's fight against South African apartheid. He was instrumental in Canada securing an acid rain treaty with the United States, and he welcomed the Vietnamese boat people.
The constitutional accord he negotiated would have, for the first time, recognized aboriginal peoples in our basic law. In each case there was a political risk and a political price to pay.
Not all of these initiatives were in fact successful but together they speak to his unwavering commitment to make this country a place anyone can call home, no matter their history, no matter their background.
He spoke of Canada as a community of communities long before the concept was fashionable. Indeed, our recent history has shown how truly prescient his vision was.
When I was young, I observed the right hon. member, who served our country as party leader, prime minister and then secretary of state for foreign affairs. He played a role, in a number of ways, in my decision to enter politics. His commitment to Canada and his protection of the public interest are an inspiration to us all.
Too often political pundits, media commentators describe what we do in this chamber in terms of winners and losers. That is, of course, important to our system. At its core, our system is in fact adversarial. It starts, after all, after an election, but that, dear friends and colleagues, does not tell the whole story.
At its best, politics is about making the big play in the interest of Canada. In an age of careful political leadership and government by opinion poll, the right hon. member for Calgary Centre stands out as a man who in every circumstance tried to make the big play.
Far removed from the back rooms, focus groups and polling questionnaires, he had a vision and he made his case to Canadians in public places, but more often than not in this House of Commons. He is a fierce opponent in question period and a formidable debater. On occasion, Mr. Speaker, you may have recognized that he is capable of being a tad partisan as well, but his motives were never in question. At all times and in all things he was motivated by the desire to make Canada a better place.
I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to acknowledge his wife and partner in this long political journey, Maureen McTeer, and my friend, Catherine. Political life, as we know it, is hard on families: long hours, time away, stress and hectic schedules, but their approach has always been a team approach. His achievements are their achievements as well.
This House of Commons and indeed this country will always be in the right hon. member's debt, both for the things he did and for the things for which he stood. He has taught me a great deal about the country that we serve and I think we all collectively are better parliamentarians for having known him.
Thank you, Joe.
View Joe Clark Profile
I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that I preferred these parliamentary tributes when they were about someone else but I appreciate deeply the tribute that the House has paid. I thank my fellow Albertan, the Deputy Prime Minister, for her remarks. I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition and, more particularly, his very engaging son, Benjamin.
I would of course, like to also thank the leader of the Bloc Quebecois. He is right, we do not see eye to eye when it comes to certain basic issues relating to Canada, but I think that we both, myself as much as he, appreciate each other's sincerity of commitment to our objectives. He is a little less bilingual than I, but these things happen.
My colleague, my friend and, dare I say, former youth member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, when there was such a thing, has now, I am pleased to see, confessed his collaboration or the collaboration of his party with the Liberals in bringing down my government in the beginning of our life.
I have to express a particular appreciation to my friend and my colleague in the other part of the Progressive Conservative caucus in the House of Commons, the member for Fundy—Royal. I admire him as a parliamentarian and an individual, and I very much appreciate his words today.
Mr. Speaker, I think this will be one of the least controversial interventions of my career. I want to begin my remarks where I began my career, which is with the men and women who elected me in the four constituencies in two provinces which it has been my privilege to represent here in the House of Commons.
I am immensely grateful to the voters of that spectacular but short-lived riding of Rocky Mountain in Alberta; the riding of Yellowhead, which I had the privilege to serve for so long; and the riding of Kings—Hants, from which the Deputy Prime Minister comes as does her now colleague, the current member for Kings—Hants; and of course my constituency of Calgary Centre.
I want to express my thanks to literally thousands of other individuals in Canada and abroad, in this House and outside, who have helped me in good times or in bad times or in both.
Everyone here knows, and it has been acknowledged, just how much members of Parliament owe to our families. That is always true but I have to say that in no case has it been more true than in the case of Maureen McTeer and of Catherine Clark.
Maureen sought election here herself, in a difficult constituency and time. She would have been a formidable presence in this House of Commons. It may also be appropriate for me to say, and this is perhaps the most controversial thing I will say today, that Maureen, Catherine and I, under fire, have learned something about family values.
The spokesman for the NDP referred to the defeat of my government in 1979. I have had the privilege of several dramatic moments in this House. I will not recite each one of them.
I remember clearly how that defeat came about after a vote on our budget in 1979. On that vote, the Liberal Party wheeled in every member who could draw breath. They literally evacuated the hospitals. Members of Parliament, on whose desks cobwebs had grown, showed up miraculously to vote. The present Prime Minister should have seen it because I learned that night that just because a member of the Liberal Party might be worn out, battered and beaten up, he can still come back to haunt you.
Now, almost everyone who serves here leaves with a larger vision than they brought. The diversity of Canada becomes a personal experience which lifts most of us beyond the natural Canadian boundaries of region and language and local experience.
The real privilege of working here goes beyond service to our constituents or to our country. In an age of invention and uncertainty there is no other profession so consistently subject to change and to surprise. In an era where people are always learning, there is no better school than public life.
I learned the other official language here, learned it in my fashion. That helped me understand that the distinct society is not a dead phrase in a constitution, but the living reality of most of French-speaking Canada, and a defining feature of our history and our future.
Serving in this Parliament became my passport to communities and realities I would otherwise never have known so well: aboriginal Canadians, Canadian Jews and Canadian Arabs confronting ancient tensions, farmers seeing their way of life threatened, the transforming imagination of our artists and scientists.
But this Parliament is more than a school. It is a place to act. It is the principal place where the Canadian community can act together.
This House can reflect our country at its worst or at its best. I have been here for both experiences. At our best this House of Commons defines the public interest of Canada. That happened, I believe, when we argued for and against specific constitutional changes in at least two Parliaments; when we argued for and against a free trade agreement; and when we acted together, as others have mentioned, as a Parliament in a practical campaign against apartheid.
In such debates there are bound to be deep disagreements, because that is in the nature of a diverse country that is continent wide with roots and interests reaching literally everywhere. That very diversity makes it imperative that there be a place where broad public interest can be expressed. There are plenty of voices for private, regional or special interests. At our best in this House of Commons, the whole community can find its Canadian voice.
I have been honoured to serve here. Maureen and I look forward to the next chapters in our lives. I hope my colleagues in the House are able to draw as much satisfaction from their public service as I have from mine.
View Joe Clark Profile
Mr. Speaker, my question for the Prime Minister is about HIV-AIDS funding within Canada.
I commend his international initiatives, but he knows that HIV-AIDS is a major issue at home too. He knows that last year the Deputy Prime Minister said “it's important to at least double” domestic funding “on an annual basis”.
Will the Prime Minister honour the word of the Deputy Prime Minister and “at least double” domestic funding on HIV-AIDS?
View Joe Clark Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the President of the Treasury Board is in the House for this point. In an earlier incarnation, he chaired a standing committee of the House of Commons that looked at the issue, which was a subject of exchange between myself and the Deputy Prime Minister the other day in the House.
The issue fundamentally is the degree to which the so-called arm's length foundations, which were established for good purposes to which I will come, should operate free from the normal instruments of accountability to the House of Commons.
I should say at the outset that I certainly do not question the value of these foundations. I do not question the idea that there needs to be some separation between the normal influences on governments and parliaments, partisan and short term influences, and the long term goals with which these foundations are seized. There is no doubt that it had to be done, and that something out of the ordinary had to be done in the establishment of these foundations. Therefore, the purposes are not at issue.
However, it ill-behooves the Deputy Prime Minister to respond as she did in the House in terms of the defence of the purposes of these foundations, when what is at issue is not their purposes but their accountability to the House of Commons.
The foundations, which include Genome Canada, Canada Health Infoway and a range of others, were set up, as I say, with a good purpose; to maintain a distance on issues that were too sensitive to be left to simple partisan consideration.
In setting them up in this way, the result has been that there is absolutely no accountability to the House of Commons. They are not subject to the audit by the Auditor General. It is true that they can choose to have an audit, but they are not subject as most agencies of government are to an audit without choice by the Auditor General of Canada. They are not subject to access to information regulations. They are not in most cases subject to the provisions of the Official Languages Act. They are not subject to any kind of intervention by a member of Parliament, or indeed by a minister, if something goes wrong.
I understand the reasons why they were set up in that way. I am not suggesting any malign intent. I am however suggesting that there is a fundamental principle at the base of this Parliament. The purpose of Parliament is to control all spending that occurs in the name of the Government of Canada.
Whether it was by design or by accident, we have established here a system amounting to billions of dollars a year in which major decisions regarding the public policy of Canada in issues of particular importance to our future are taken in flagrant disregard of the principle that Parliament has the right to hold government agencies accountable for public spending.
This issue can be resolved today if the President of the Treasury Board will rise in response to this point and give an undertaking to the House that his review of accountability of government will include a serious examination of ways by which we, on the one hand, retain the independence of these foundations and, on the other hand, respect the fundamental principle of their accountability to Parliament. I do not pretend that it is easy, but I am absolutely certain that it can be done. All it requires is a will.
Before I take my seat, I should raise a defence of this practice that was made to the committee by the president of one of these outstanding foundations. The president said that even though they were not required to, they tried to respect the rules of accountability. That is not good enough. Trying is not good enough. What one chair of a foundation might do one day does not impose an obligation upon subsequent chairs in subsequent years. There needs to be a rule.
I hope the President of the Treasury Board will indicate that there will be a rule henceforth.
View Joe Clark Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for those concluding remarks. I will be gone, I assure people of that.
The purposes here are not at issue. The minister said that the purposes of the foundations were vetted by Parliament when they were established. He knows that these are matters of such enormous complexity and that they were whipped, which is to mean that there was not the kind of scrutiny that would normally justify a $7.5 billion annual departure from the rules of parliamentary accountability.
What I am interested in hearing is that there will in fact be a deliberate review of this arrangement with an eye to finding some procedure that is consistent both with the independent actions of the foundations and the fundamental principle of accountability to Parliament. I would like to receive that now.
I would like to receive from the minister some indication that there will be regular reports to the House as to the nature of the consideration that he and his colleagues are undertaking. It seems to me that a simple place to start would be to make these foundations accountable not by choice but by requirement to the audit of the Office of the Auditor General.
View Joe Clark Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am voting no to the motion.
View Joe Clark Profile
Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Deputy Prime Minister that is supplemental to those put by the member for Medicine Hat.
The Auditor General has automatic access to the books of government agencies and departments. She is denied automatic access to so-called arm's length corporations like Health Infoway, Innovation Canada, Genome Canada and others.
Why the double standard? Why does the government not fight the democratic deficit by giving the Auditor General automatic access to those entities which she seeks?
View John Herron Profile
View John Herron Profile
2004-04-27 18:02
Mr. Speaker, I shall vote against this motion.
View John Herron Profile
View John Herron Profile
2004-04-27 18:13
Mr. Speaker, I would like to vote in favour of this motion.
View John Herron Profile
View John Herron Profile
2004-04-27 18:15
Mr. Speaker, I will be supporting the motion.
View Joe Clark Profile
Mr. Speaker, I draw to the attention of the House the signing by a Calgary company, Canadian Nexen, of the first community water project in the Middle East under the UN secretary-general's new global compact initiative. The pilot project in the rural village of Rassib in Yemen will be a model for other communities.
In rural Yemen only 17% of the people have access to safe water. Hygiene practices are poor. Sanitation and waste disposal facilities are inadequate. Children are particularly susceptible to water-borne diseases.
The agreement was encouraged by the government of Yemen and was signed in Sa'ana on April 24. Canadian Nexen will contribute up to $1 million U.S., and the UNDP up to $500,000 U.S.
As a corporate citizen, Canadian Nexen sets high standards for Canada and the world. Now it is taking the lead in making the UN's global compact initiative a reality, fighting poverty and improving the basic health of thousands of people in a part of the world where Canada can make a significant difference.
View John Herron Profile
View John Herron Profile
2004-04-21 14:18
Mr. Speaker, I would like to mark the passing of a most exceptional former member of the House of Commons: Stan Darling. He served the residents of Parry Sound--Muskoka with distinction for nearly half a century.
For 30 years, Stan Darling served as a municipal councillor. At the young age of 61, he was first elected to the House of Commons as a Progressive Conservative member of Parliament in 1972, serving the residents of Parry Sound--Muskoka for an additional 21 years, retiring in 1993 at the age of 82.
He was an admired and respected figure within his community and in the House of Commons, yet his greatest legacy can be seen in the lakes, rivers and ponds that we have today. For over 10 years he served as a crusader in raising the issue of acid rain to national prominence. His relentless pursuit resulted in a momentous accord with the United States on acid rain, resulting in dramatic reductions of emissions of sulphur dioxide both north and south of our border.
Canadians and our environment are both better today because of Stan Darling's contribution to public life.
View John Herron Profile
View John Herron Profile
2004-04-21 18:03
Mr. Speaker, both Progressive Conservatives will be voting yes on this motion.
View John Herron Profile
View John Herron Profile
2004-04-21 18:29
Post Progressive Conservatives will support the motion, Sir.
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