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Results: 1 - 15 of 126
View Pierre Brien Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I will vote against this motion.
View Pierre Brien Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Agriculture attended the Union des producteurs agricoles conference, he got a pretty chilly reception for his presentation of the main funding thrusts for the new federal agricultural policy. This confirms farmers' fears, because the minister plans to have Ottawa make the decisions regarding Quebec's agricultural development.
Does the minister understand that he would do far better if he demonstrated some real flexibility and transferred the federal funds to the Financière agricole?
View Pierre Brien Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, the farmers of Quebec fear that they will be hard hit by the federal government's unfair policies, and by one more fight started by Ottawa because of its inflexibility.
When is the minister going to understand that the agricultural reality of Quebec requires tailor-made policies and that these policies must be administered within Quebec using tools developed by the farmers of Quebec that reflect their reality and their needs?
View Pierre Brien Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, members of the Bloc Quebecois will be voting in favour of the motion.
View Pierre Brien Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, members of the Bloc Quebecois will be voting against these motions.
View Pierre Brien Profile
Ind. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address the motion of the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, asking for a federal electoral constituency for northern Quebec.
The hon. member described in some detail what those who live on this territory go through. Theirs is a rather special way of life that is difficult for us to imagine, because we do not live on this huge territory. The conditions there are rather unusual, and the way of life is very different from the one we know.
I am well aware of this whole situation. However, we must take into consideration what the creation of an electoral constituency for northern Quebec implies. When I say northern, I mean far north. This region is north of the Abitibi, even further north of the Abitibi than the Abitibi is from Montreal. This is a very remote region and there is a domino effect.
The establishment of constituencies is a process based on vested rights and the Constitution. There is a mathematical formula and, currently, it provides that there must be 75 ridings in Quebec. Generally speaking, there is a principle to the effect that ridings must have a similar number of voters, give or take 25%. However, it is possible to make exceptions for certain territories.
In the case of Quebec, it seems rather obvious to me that the whole region located further north, from east to west, is a special case, just like a region such as the Magdalen Islands, where they also have a very distinctive population that is concentrated on a territory with its own specific realities. I am not saying that other regions do not have specific realities. We all have some in our various ridings.
Making an exception for this region would create a domino effect; there are 74 ridings left in the rest of Quebec. This raises questions, such as how to strike a balance.
For the Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik region, there are currently two ridings. I represent part of the Abitibi and the whole Témiscamingue region, while the hon. member opposite represents another part of the Abitibi and northern Quebec. Would this mean that we would have one riding for Abitibi—Témiscamingue and another one for northern Quebec? That is a possibility.
Otherwise, this creates a domino effect that would, and this is something I do not wish for, create rather arbitrary electoral boundaries, such as merging the Témiscamingue with the Outaouais. I would have a problem with that.
This may result in us having the Abitibi—Témiscamingue in one riding and northern Quebec in another, given the current number of ridings. Perhaps the debate must begin with a prior discussion on the number of ridings allocated to Quebec. This is a possibility that must not be ignored either, if we want to consider a number of characteristics.
Let us see the average number of constituents in Quebec. It is obvious that there are provinces where the number of constituents is higher; I am thinking of Ontario, for instance. But there are provinces where the average number of constituents is much lower than ours, such as Prince Edward Island, where the population is approximately the same as the RCM of Témiscamingue alone, which represents 20 to 25% of my riding.
I think that we have to be open-minded about such a proposal, while being aware of the domino effect. Within the current parameters, it would imply many changes elsewhere. Commissions were created to establish the new electoral map and are holding consultations; they will be in the Abitibi—Témiscamingue soon.
Unfortunately, I do not think that these commissions will go further north. I do not know if the member mentioned this in his speech, but I know that he talked about it to the chief electoral officer personally and even publicly, in committee. This has given rise to some questions in the rest of the Abitibi—Témiscamingue, that is whether we will have only one member of Parliament instead of two with such a proposal.
Personally, at first glance, I have nothing against it, but it deserves to be looked at more thoroughly, and I am convinced that he will present his arguments to the commission. However, I cannot help but criticize him a bit.
As we are debating this motion, he is publicly proposing to create four ridings in the area; I am now told it is three ridings. I do not know how we will bring all this together later on. We now are in the last straightaway and we will not be able to change position very often. The region will have to reach a consensus before the commission; failing that, the commission will impose its own. If there is no consensus, the commission will impose a new map. So there is a challenge to be met here.
I agree with the idea that the commissionaires may make exceptions for certain areas instead of them having to justify their exceptional character every time.
In Quebec, where are these areas? I am not sufficiently aware of the reality in other places in Canada to be able to engage in an exercise. However in Quebec, at first glance, the area that comes to mind is Bas-Saint-Laurent—Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine where there is a particular dynamic; it is a riding which deserves to be categorized as exceptional. The same goes for northern Quebec, and we should look into this.
Maybe we should build on this exercise, namely take two or three places that need to develop their specific characteristics and then we could work at creating ridings with the best possible average, taking into account regional realities, areas bounded by a traditional sense of community, areas defined by the boundaries of MRCs.
True enough, exercises are never perfect and we must take into account our political system since, for citizens to be equal, their votes must be more or less equivalent. So there should not be too many exceptions, but in some areas it is necessary.
Where more internal debate is needed, when there are territorial realities such as may be seen in large ridings, is when what is involved is the means at our disposal to do our jobs as MPs. For the voters, this is what counts, the services he or she gets from the MP's office in real life. And those services are many, in our area.
For those who may not know this, in the real world, passport services are provided through the MPs' constituency offices, in regions such as ours. In the peak periods from now through January, there is one person in each office who deals almost full time with passport applications and issuing passports.
Someone may point out that immigration business is done in Montreal. That may be true, but a lot of services are provided by the constituency office when there is no departmental office in the region. We are therefore the federal presence to many citizens.
For us, then, this is a more administrative, internal debate on the means available to us for doing our job. I remain convinced that the way budgets are distributed at this time does not reflect that reality properly.
In my case, for example, I should have had three constituency offices to start with. This was a campaign promise, but unfortunately I came face to face with reality once I got to Ottawa. I was unable to keep them operating that way, which caused a problem. I did, of course, manage to reach agreement with the municipalities to have their cooperation in providing services, but this is not sufficient to provide proper service.
At the same time, if funding cannot be allocated as we would like, we must at least have the means to do our jobs properly. There is no perfect indicator for that, but I am convinced that there is not such a great gap between MPs' current operating budgets, at any rate not as wide a gap as there is between citizens' expectations of us and what we can actually provide.
These are the aspects that I wanted to raise at this stage of the debate. It is not really in this House that this matter will be pursued, but rather before the electoral commission. That is where the decision will be made. Members of this commission will make their recommendations, which will then be reviewed by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Ultimately, the commissioners will determine what the new electoral map will look like.
When the commission comes to my area, I will certainly appear before it. I will also raise the matter that is before us today. I will also have the opportunity to appear on behalf of my party by submitting a national brief to the commission in which I will talk about the special ridings that could be created throughout Quebec.
That is where we are at now. I hope that this new map will be drawn in a way that reflects everyone's needs and everyone's reality. We must show some openness with regard to those people whose living conditions are very unique. I think that we have heard about that earlier. Northern Quebec deserves special attention, as do certain other regions to which I referred.
View Pierre Brien Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, the Quebec Medical Association, through its vice president, André Senikas, has said very plainly that it is concerned about the federal government's follow-up to the Romanow report, and is worried that as long as the squabbles and frustrations continue, the backlog and accessibility problems will increase.
Would it not be advisable for the federal government, in the best interests of the sick and out of respect for the Quebec Medical Association, to announce right away that it will drop the conditions that it was going to attach to new funding for health? This is the voice of reason speaking.
View Pierre Brien Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, while the secretary of state is thinking, there are people waiting.
Jennie Skene, the president of the Fédération des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec said last week that immediate efforts are needed for the sick, that Ottawa should provide available funding for health without any strings attached.
Is the federal government planning to keep on ignoring calls by Quebec's physicians and nurses, which echo the resolution passed by Quebec's National Assembly?
View Pierre Brien Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, after severely weakening the health care system by slashing funding, the Prime Minister is now saying that the federal government will be forced to impose conditions upon Quebec and the provinces for any reinvestments in health.
Does the Minister of Health, she who so loudly praises the virtues of cooperation, realize that the best way for Ottawa to avoid squabbles is to inject massive amounts into health, with no strings attached, as physicians, nurses, CLSCs, unions and all of Quebec's political parties are demanding in the best interests of patients?
View Pierre Brien Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, in Quebec the Romanow report has already rallied universal opposition. All stakeholders, whether in politics, the labour movement or the health care field, are worried on behalf of patients that the federal reinvestment has strings attached. The Prime Minister's statements confirm their fears.
Will the Minister of Health admit that imposing conditions, to which everyone in Quebec objects, also means a delay in federal reinvestment in health, whereas patients could benefit immediately, if there were no strings attached?
View Pierre Brien Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I think that there were two questions asked of you at the same time, and I would not like to see the second part neglected.
First of all, contrary to what the leader of the government in the House has said, I would point out that the invitation to the Thursday morning briefing was not issued Tuesday, but around 5 p.m. yesterday. That is, the end of the day yesterday. The timing is at issue.
The other point raised by my colleague for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie is of equal concern. How could there be two different briefings, one for opposition MPs and one for government MPs? This does not strike us as a desirable practice, let alone an acceptable one. I would like to see the Chair address the two points: the notice given and the way the sessions were organized differently for two groups of members of this House.
View Pierre Brien Profile
Ind. (QC)
Madam Speaker, there is a lot of interest in the issue being debated. I am not surprised to see how government members are trying to defend a system that has served them well until now by controlling just about all the proceedings of this House.
The Prime Minister's Office not only appoints ministers, but also controls Liberal members during the proceedings of this House and even of the committees. This means that the exercise taken part in by voters, which consists in choosing democratic representatives, loses some of its meaning, since the powers are concentrated in the hands of a single individual, namely the Prime Minister, since he has the authority to choose, alone, just about all the holders of senior positions.
What we have seen in practice—I have been here since 1993—and the way things have worked until now, is that committee Chairs report directly to, or are chosen directly by, the Prime Minister. This cannot be obscured by the arguments we are hearing today. I will return to this point in greater detail later on. Everyone who wishes to maintain the present system, however, makes no bones about saying “Yes, but there are criteria that have to be taken into consideration, such as regional representation; committee Chairs have to come from different regions, and so on.” This is a confirmation that indeed someone, somewhere, is carrying out the exercise of examining people against these criteria when it comes time to chose committee Chairs, whereas the Standing Orders stipulate that committee Chairs are to be elected by committee members. But here they are telling us, quite openly and unashamedly, “No, there have to be criteria to ensure a balance between the various regions of the country as far as representation is concerned”.
This is an out and out admission of what is being done, which is that someone, in this case someone in the PMO—although he can delegate this to the party whip, the leader in the House, or someone else—is the one to choose the person who will hold that position. Then the MPs are told “Be obedient, vote this way, or else”.
That is why the idea has come up that we now have before us, about selecting those who will chair the committees of this House, of which there are several by allowing parliamentarians who are on the committee to themselves choose the person who will head the committee, and to do so by secret ballot. This is specifically in order to decrease the possibility of reprisals.
I hear the Liberals' argument, the same one they used when this was debated in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. “Yes, but the public has a right to know”. There is nothing stopping a member from announcing publicly whom he has supported, but this can also preserve the ability of individuals to make choices without having to face the negative consequences inherent in so doing.
I do not think that the voters in my riding have expectations when it comes to the candidate that I would support as Chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I do not think that people would necessarily ask me this question if I told them that members selected the Chair by secret ballot. Obviously, the criterion that should influence our decision is competence. We will select the most competent person.
The opposition parties acted in such good faith on this issue that they even accepted an amendment proposed by the member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for Mississauga Centre, stipulating that committees would continue to be chaired by members of the government party. At the very least, we would have liked to discuss the fact that, with two exceptions, committees are always chaired by Liberal members. We could have argued that point. I am not saying that things are perfect elsewhere but, in other places, this is not how they operate. At the National Assembly almost half of the committees are chaired by opposition MNAs. This does not prevent the committees from doing their work.
While we are on this, there seems to be total confusion regarding the role of committee chairs. Liberal members who are not ministers or Parliamentary secretaries think that if they chair a committee, they will be a part of the government or the executive. This is not their role. It is ministers who are included in the executive branch. The role of House committees is to study matters, to delve into them, to study bills after second reading and to report to the House. Committees area accountable to the House, and not only to the cabinet.
Committees are there for us. We work for all of our colleagues. People cannot sit on every committee. That is why there is a limited number of representatives on each committee. They must do their work and be as neutral as possible.
If we want there to be a balance of powers, the committees must be able to say to the government, “No, this is the wrong direction and there should be amendments to this particular bill”.
When the individuals who chair these committees are appointed by the Prime Minister, it seems obvious to me that a large part of this exercise becomes meaningless, because the outcome is known in advance. The argument used by government members is that “Voters gave us a mandate to govern”.
That is absolutely true, but it does not mean that they gave them a mandate to do whatever they want. This is why opposition parties exist. This is why, following a general election, the government is part of an institution that includes members who represent various political views and who were elected by voters. We are elected as democratically as government members are.
The public expects us to play a role, to have a say. It also expects those hon. members who are not ministers to have a say in the parliamentary debates, to have real power and influence.
No one from the other side can convince me that they truly believe that hon. members, particularly government members, have enough power in this House regarding all the tasks that they must fulfill.
There is a huge gap between what the public expects in terms of the role of an elected member of Parliament, and the actual role or influence that we have here.
The democratic deficit is such that one of the candidates to the position of Prime Minister is going around saying that one of his priorities is to correct the democratic deficit. So, he agrees that there is indeed a democratic deficit. However, will it be only Liberal members who will make the changes that are required, and will these changes only be made when they are prepared to consider them?
There is a proposal before us. It is not an earth shattering reform; it is about electing committee chairs through a secret ballot. The Liberals are in a frenzy; they are holding special caucuses; they are divided on the issue. There is some arm twisting going on to ensure that this report will not be adopted. We also have before us a stalling tactic, that is a proposal to postpone by 15 days the adoption of this report and to ask the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to review the matter.
I have been here a number of years and we have had these debates in the past. It is not the first time that this issue has been raised, and I am not sure that Liberal members really want to examine it. On the contrary, I think they want to sway the few Liberal members who would like to support opposition members in their efforts to change the current way of doing things.
As a matter of clarification, let us be clear, the amendment before us, the Liberal amendment, has a very obvious strategic objective. It is asking that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs consider the matter for another 15 sitting days before reporting to the House.
As it happens, by then, the deadline for setting up committees will have passed. By some strange coincidence, by the time the matter is brought again before the House, all committee chairs will have been elected.
It is pretty obvious, as difficult to miss as an elephant, that the government's strategy is to avoid the issue, put the committees in place and select the chairs. We will reconsider the issue in 15 days, but it will no longer matter. It is an issue right now because the committees have to be struck.
I might add that opposition members have been extremely cooperative with the government side. I repeat, we acted in good faith. We have agreed to let three committees start working. Committees are already sitting because it was recognized that urgent matters needed to be considered.
I am thinking in particular of the Standing Committee on Finance, which is conducting pre-budget consultations, although it is open for debate what influence, if any, the participants may have. The fact remains that we agreed to let that committee sit.
The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs is also sitting. There is no need for lengthy explanations as to why; in the current context of international instability, we want the members of the committee to be able to consider, as they are doing this morning, issues as important as that of Iraq.
Also, the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, established by the House of Commons, is currently sitting.
We have shown good faith. We have allowed a number of committees to start their work. The funny thing is that, in the media, I have read and heard the government House leader complain that the opposition was preventing committees from sitting and doing their work.
For the benefit of those listening to us, we have no legislative agenda before us, or none to speak of. Even if all the committees were struck right now, there is virtually nothing before the House, to such an extent that, for the first time, last Monday—and I have been a member of this House since 1993—if we had not had a take note debate, there would have been nothing in government orders for discussion in this Parliament. That is a pretty big deal. There are major problems over there. I realize they are in a leadership crisis and there is a leadership race going on, but they are having trouble functioning with any effectiveness.
In the background of it all, of course, those issues are part of the current debate, but the institution must take precedence over any partisan or non-partisan issues or any questions regarding the personal interests of the next leader or the future of individual members.
What is being proposed is a change, which will mean that, regardless of which party is in power, members of the House will be free to elect committee chairs on an independent basis without any fear of reprisal.
What, practically speaking, will this change, as far as the general public is concerned? Someone might say “Yes, I am listening to you, and it is all very interesting, but what is that really going to change for the rest of us?” That is a very legitimate question.
 The public wants to see Parliament doing more debating of the priorities that concern them, they want to see Parliament having to deal with real and effective pressure. It is true that we have some powerful tools, such as oral question period and the committees, where we manage to get a certain number of things accomplished, but never as much as we could if the committees were far more independent, if they could do their real job, and if they were able to set their own agenda.
I do not mean to suggest that some of them do not do so, but there are not enough of them, and those who do are not given enough freedom. It is not right that members are pressured in this way. There will always be ways to influence people and ways to make them act in one way or another.
However ,when members who chair committees become accountable to their colleagues around the table, they will endeavour to work as effectively as possible for all of their colleagues, rather than simply working to satisfy the Prime Minister or the minister who got them the chairmanship of their committee.
This takes nothing away from the government's ability to make the choices it wants, subsequently. However, there will be credible public voices in Parliament that will have a say, committee reports will be more critical of government decisions and government members will be able to be heard more freely. All of this will give elected members more clout. At the end of the day, the government and the House will decide, but at least we will have a more credible and effective forum than we have right now.
Committee work may not be the part of our work that is the most closely followed, or the most glamorous, but it is nonetheless one of the areas where we spend the most time and energy.
Personally, I would like for this work to have more of an impact, out of respect for all those who spend so many hours defending their constituents and promoting the issues and concerns that affect them. Stronger, more accountable and more independent committees will improve the whole institution.
What we are proposing is a small step in this direction. As I already mentioned, we are not talking about a revolution, but a beginning. This will help improve the effectiveness of committees.
Other measures also need to be taken, but we cannot wait for large-scale general reforms that will never occur. A member of the Canadian Alliance made this proposal in committee. The proposal was studied and the report was passed by a majority of the members of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the courage shown by the hon. member for Mississauga Centre, who voted against her Liberal colleagues. She did so primarily as a matter of principle. She made it very clear that she did not do it to please the opposition. Her attachment to her political party is very strong and I do not question it. This is a woman who has fought for her principles, for things in which she believes. She did it first and foremost for these reasons. I am convinced that she is the object of all kinds of pressures, which does not make it easy for her. This is why I think she was very courageous to do what she did.
I wanted to mention this, because if more people were to follow her example, we would all benefit. Sure, we have our political disputes and we have diverging views on many issues. But, beyond this, I think that the hon. member deserves to be commended for her courage.
When we dispose of the matter, when we vote, regardless of whether that vote takes place today or in the coming days, when we deal with the amendment brought forward by the government, which is trying to prevent debate, I hope that this amendment will be rejected and that we will deal with the substantive issue of whether or not committee chairs should be elected through a secret ballot.
We will see if others show the same courage. It is easy to claim left and right to want to reform institutions and make parliamentary business work better. However, we have a tangible example here. We will see where Liberal members really stand in this debate. I hope that others will take this opportunity to support one of their own. I am sure that many Liberal members think the same thing. I hope they will voice their support. The more of them that speak up, the less they will have to fear reprisals.
Then again, many things about a number of other aspects of our system would need to be reviewed to ensure that intimidation is not the only way to ensure efficiency. Allow me to repeat the line that irked me the most among those used by Liberal members in committee. This proposal did not come out of thin air. Here is what I heard: “We are in government. We can do whatever we want”. This basically sums up what I heard.
How arrogant to think they can do anything they want. Our political system provides for some balance to try to divide power to some extent to ensure that all the power is not in the hands of a single individual. This is why we do not have a dictatorship. We have a democratic system so that we can see the forces at play. There is a role for the opposition to play, and one for government members who do not want to be heard only within their caucus.
I can see that they would make the necessary efforts within their caucus to influence positions taken by their party, but they also have a role to play and a responsibility to take within this institution. They must be able to do this freely. A potential appointment as committee chair, parliamentary secretary or whatever, under the current reward system, must not be the sole motivation. Substantive issues must be what people are concerned about in making a decision.
I sincerely hope that they will seize this opportunity now before us to take real action when it comes to change. I know that on this side of the House, with perhaps the exception of a few benches near the Speaker that are occupied by government members, members will vote against the amendment moved by the government to refer the report back to committee. In practical terms, referring the report back to committee amounts to not resolving the problem now, but putting it off until later, and if possible, forever.
Those who have followed this debate closely in recent days have seen how much energy the Prime Minister, the House leader and the whip have devoted to ensuring that this measure does not go through. This shows how much they want to hold on to control of everything that goes on here.
Again, we are not talking about establishing a mechanism that would disrupt the functioning of the government. We are talking about giving members more freedom, more autonomy. I have trouble understanding how anyone could oppose this. Those who would rather vote by show of hands are free to state publicly how they voted. However, we should allow those who prefer to cast their ballot in secret the opportunity to do so.
I will conclude by saying that there is a fine example of this in the House, with the election of the Speaker of the House. Like the chairs of the committees, which are an extension of the proceedings of the House, the Speaker of the House needs greater flexibility in order to be able to represent all the members properly. The position of Speaker of the House of Commons is an elective position, and the Speaker is elected by the members. This has positive results, in that we have greater confidence in the integrity of the position and the person occupying it since we are involved in the process. It is not true that he is elected by the opposition; we do not all vote the same way. In the most recent elections, some of our members voted for one candidate, while others voted for another. It was democratically decided however, with Liberal members voting for one or the other. We have confidence in the position because it is an elective one.
In closing, I hope that more members will show the same courage as the hon. member for Mississauga Centre and add their voices to those of opposition members to ensure that a step is taken toward making Parliament, and democracy within this institution, work better.
View Pierre Brien Profile
Ind. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I will begin by answering the last question. It is clear to me that, if members can vote by secret ballot, they will have more latitude to make the choices they feel are best.
The hon. member is very well aware that, in practice, the way things work is that members have to support the candidate hand-picked by the PMO. Consequently, it is not true that the choice is a free one when voting is held in committee. He knows that very well. I cannot believe he does not. It is possible in theory at this time for a member to vote freely for a chair, but in practice that is not the way it happens. We know very well that everyone can be identified and so they will have to live with the pressure that goes along with that, afterward.
I want to be clear, so I will take a typical committee as an example. It normally has sixteen members: nine from government, three from the official opposition, two from the Bloc Quebecois, one from the NDP and one from the Conservatives. So nine of the sixteen are Liberals. One of these is for the chair, which leaves eight Liberal members, and seven all together for the opposition. We are not talking about destabilizing the government in the formation of committees. If the Liberals remain united on the policies their party defends in committee proceedings,they are still in the majority. These proportions reflect the results at the polls.
There is no major change except that the person who will head the committee will do so with increased dependence on the committee members, not on someone from outside the committee who has chosen him. This will have an impact on the agenda, on the way the work is carried out, on the way the committees can express their opinions on government policies.
It is obvious to me that this is a positive step. It is the hon. member's prerogative to wish that we continue to vote by a show of hands, even to elect the Speaker of the House, or that we vote by rising one after the other. At least, the hon. member is consistent. Most of his colleagues are saying, “No, it is somewhat different for the position of Speaker of the House”. The hon. member is showing a degree of consistency. He does not want the Speaker of the House to be elected through a secret ballot.
The hon. member fears that a secret ballot—that is what he claims, but I cannot believe that he thinks that—will result in a loss of voters' confidence. I do not agree. Confidence is already eroding, and this goes for all parties, because voters feel that we do not have enough impact and influence on the government, that we must all follow party lines, with the result that we cannot represent their interests. The proposal before us would ensure greater independence for everyone, including opposition members, when the time would come to choose committee chairs.
It is not true that the seven members from four different parties are always going to choose the same person. Pending further study of the matter, we agreed to still have Liberals for chair, but it would not be the end of the world if more committees were chaired by opposition MPs. This does not prevent government members, being the majority, from still maintaining a certain consistency with their election commitments, if they feel a committee is headed in a direction that is not desirable for the public and not in keeping with their commitments. There will always be that freedom, but there would be someone in charge with greater independence.
The Standing Committee on Public Accounts does not have a Liberal as chair. I have not heard from them that it works any less well than the others, despite not having someone from the governing party in power. Are some of the hon. members questioning that approach as well, saying that it should not be done that way? We feel there should be more committees and that overall they should be less partisan. That should be the next step: make them more independent and less partisan.
The first step, as proposed today, is to ensure that the person who chairs a committee is chosen by the membership and that the selection is by secret ballot.
What is there here that does not make sense? What is there in it that is so harmful? Everything will continue to operate, but many of the MPs on the committees will be able to take part. The ones who spend the most time in committee are not the ministers. The ones who are so fiercely opposed to the measure proposed today are not the ones who are generally in attendance.
I am sure that, if the vote involved only members who are on a committee, the outcome would be different than if the ministers or the Prime Minister voted, because the latter is going to twist a lot of arms to keep the change from happening. To those who really work on committees, this is a step in the right direction if the way the institution works is to be improved.
Once that has been done, we will start working on the next step.
View Pierre Brien Profile
Ind. (QC)
Madam Speaker, the members of the Bloc Quebecois will vote no on this motion.
View Pierre Brien Profile
Ind. (QC)
Madam Speaker, the members of the Bloc Quebecois are in favour of this motion.
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