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Bob Rae’s speech to the House during the debate on Bill C-38

Posted by Bob Rae on June 18, 2012 | No Comments

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the chance to participate in the debate on Bill C-38. The theme of my remarks is “How have the mighty fallen”.

Those of us with some sense of history and memory can recall the spirit that brought Reform into this House. It was the spirit of parliamentary accountability. It was the spirit of free votes. It was the spirit of constructive dissent. It was the spirit of recall. It was the spirit of bringing the executive to heel. It was the spirit of letting Parliament be free and letting Parliament be sovereign and letting Parliament be powerful.

How have the mighty fallen on that side of the House, from those basic premises of a Reform Party led by the likes of Preston Manning, who stood in this place, not in the front row but among the members because he did not want to be seen as any different or better than any of the other members.

I say to my colleagues that they should look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves “Where was the Reform Party spirit in this legislation, an omnibus bill that, like a Mac truck, drives through parliamentary sovereignty, drives through the power and ability of Parliament to control the public purse, ignores any scrutiny by committee and denies the rights of members to dissent?”

The poor member over there from Kootenay—Columbia had four hours of freedom, four hours of conscience, four hours of power, where he told his constituents that if he had his way he would split the bill. We can only imagine the woodshed to which that member was taken. We can only imagine the number of young enthusiasts in the Prime Minister’s Office who tied him up to a chair and made him watch the speeches by the Prime Minister over and over again. They would not have taken the masking tape off his mouth until he had promised that he would never express independence or dissent again.

On this side, we say “Shame on the Conservative Party.” Shame on a party that has lost its way, that has lost its principles, that has tied up its members and denied them the right of conscience and the right to speak. That is the great irony of ironies.

Who would have believed that it would be the spiritual successors of the Reform Party that would in fact be denying Parliament, tying it up in knots, insisting on our voting on 70 different pieces of legislation, totally gutting all of the environmental legislation, passing a brand new environmental assessment act in just one clause.

It was the greatest conservative, who is also a great liberal, Edmund Burke, who reminded us that society is a contract not only of the living but also between those who have died, those who are living and those who are yet to be born.

When we look at the importance of the environment to a genuine conservative movement, a movement that wants to conserve, contrast that with those who want a pipeline in every backyard without any kind of environmental hearing, who have a Minister of Natural Resources who takes off after individuals who appear before an environmental inquiry, where we have legislation that takes away the protection of the fish habitat from the basics of our legislation, and that also, as has already been said by my distinguished colleague from Cape Breton, deprives the poorest of seniors in the future of access to old age security and the guaranteed income supplement.

That is what has happened to the Conservatives. They are not real Conservatives because they do not want to conserve the thing that matters most to us: our environment, the thing that we have to pass on to the next generation. That is what they are changing.

This government is prepared to deny Parliament all the rights we have had for years: the ability to study a bill, the ability to change it and the ability to amend it. Above all, in this Parliament, every MP should have the right to his or her own conscience, the right to make decisions and the right to act independently.

I can say that that is what the Liberal Party of Canada is committed to.

If we are serious about democracy, then we have to be serious about the environment.

By way of contrast, regarding the comments made over the past several weeks by the leader of the official opposition with respect to the question of the environment, with respect to the so-called Dutch disease, and with respect to the issue of how we need to go forward, I want to make this very clear: The Liberal Party is committed to sustainability. We are committed to the principle of sustainability over time. We are also committed to the principle of development. Nothing is gained for Canada when we pit one region of the country against another. Nothing is gained for Canada when we say that those provinces that are rich in resources are somehow responsible for the difficulties and challenges facing those provinces with less.

I have been in this House for a while and I can recall and know the impact these divisions can have on this federation of ours. It will do nothing for us as a country if we say, even as a momentary proposition, that the success of one region of the country or one province is somehow being purchased at the expense of others. That is never going to be a way to build a country. A country cannot be built on resentment. A country cannot be built by way of saying that those who are successful must somehow be torn down. We do not agree with that. We do not share that perspective.

That is why I believe that at this moment in Canadian history, there has never been a time when the message of the Liberal Party has been more important for all the people of the country. I am very proud to say that this message has to come through loud and clear. Yes, we want development, and we want it to be sustainable.

I can say to those people who are being laid off at the Round Table on the Environment and the Economy to come to us. We want to talk to people about these issues. When I talk to the leaders of the business community in Alberta, they want a clearer price for carbon. They want to have a clear indication of what it is going to cost them to build and to rebuild. They know that perfectly well.

This is an issue where we need to bring people together, where we need to reason together.

This is an issue we need to unite the public on. There has been enough division. We do not want any more division. We do not want a world where the Leader of the Opposition sees the Prime Minister when he looks in the mirror and where the Prime Minister sees the leader of the official opposition when he looks in the mirror.

Are the members of the official opposition free to express themselves? I doubt it. Are they free to have an opinion that differs from their leader’s? I doubt it.

In contrast, I can say that my MPs are free to make their own decisions. They are free to choose how they will vote. They are free to speak. I can assure everyone that all our caucus meetings are a great expression of the principle of democracy, a profound, open and, I must say, liberal democracy.

Therefore, when we see Bill C-38, it is impossible in 10 minutes to go through all of its aspects and all of its different parts. It is grotesque in the way it attempts literally to drive a truck through basic principles and institutions that have been critical to the good governance of the country. Whether it is the round table, the inspector general for CSIS, or whatever the institution may be, a genuine conservative does not drive a truck through these institutions. One protects and preserves and improves them.

One does not cut down, one does not destroy and one does not divide simply for the sake of division. One does not polarize simply for the sake of polarization.

This country needs to come together in an important way.

I want to express my appreciation to the Speaker tonight and my dear colleagues who are speaking so well on this issue and have provided leadership. We will be voting not just once, not just twice, not just three times, but 160 times against this terrible piece of legislation.

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  1. Avatar of Martin Showell Martin Showell said on

    Great speech Mr Rae – eloquently stated.

    But…question…the speech starts “Madam Speaker”…isn’t the current speaker of the house Andrew Scheer?

    • Avatar of Justin Irwin Justin Irwin said on

      Considering this speech was made during the C-38 debate, I expect that Mr. Rae delivered it while the Speaker himself had stepped out and been replaced, temporarily, by a deputy.

  2. Avatar of P. CLIFFORD BLAIS P. CLIFFORD BLAIS said on

    It’s a long way to Tipperary, it’s a long way to go…, but we will get there, I am promissing you ! Parliament will come back to it’s duty of: ” PARLE LIBREMENT ” as Mr John Turner pointed it so well at our lunch meeting today in Montréal Economic Club presentation.!

    Comme Mr John Turner nous l’a si bien rappeller ce midi, le Parlement est une institution oû les descendants Normans ont obligé le roi d’Angleterre à signer La Grande Charte qui permit au peuple d’avoir son mot à dire avant de passer les lois !

    M. Harper n’est pas un roi, mais il se comporte comme un autocrate !

    Vive le parlement et fin aux autocrates !

    Long live to Parliament as you well so described Mr Rae and this too shall passed, this autocratics way of governing !

  3. Avatar of David Momotiuk David Momotiuk said on

    Mr. Rae, thank you for posting this.

    You are correct to assert and conclude that… “If we are serious about democracy, then we have to be serious about the environment [and the internet].”

    A wonderfully poignant speech that can now also be found at:

  4. Avatar of Bernice  Graham Bernice Graham said on

    Wonderful speech as usual. You are so knowledgeable and have a way with words that says it all so we don;t get lost with the spin stuff and rhetoric. Keep up the fight ,,,the Right win in the end!

  5. Avatar of Bernice  Graham Bernice Graham said on

    Great speech keep up the good work and have a rest over the summer if you can. You will need your strength to fight THEM off come Fall. Seems like there is another big omnibus bill to come. The Righteous win in the end

  6. Avatar of Nita Varma Nita Varma said on

    at 16:13 of the clip a member of government states “It’s too late”. He’s interrupting Mr. Rae speaking on the government’s obligation to look into complaints from the public stating they were given misinformation from parties posing as Elections Canada. The degree to which this has happened in Canada is unprecedented. It was a national occurrence and included incidents of the elderly being given misinformation regarding the location of their voting stations. People that cherish their right to vote. The government once elected has an unbiased duty to the people of Canada. Instead of Mr. Harper or even the member of government that made the comment responding in alarm at the occurrence of voter suppression tactics and the size of this occurence….where they call for an independent public inquiry on behalf of the people under authority of vested powers granted by Parliament to do so….Mr. Harper was neither concerned nor felt it was an event that required action on his part as PM. Initially he claimed Elections Canada would handle it. I watched the Elections Officer on CPAC during a committee meeting field questions from members of government. The questions were mainly about the validity of the last election’s results…and not much about what the best course of action would be to act on behalf of the many Canadians that were targeted by parties attempting to suppress votes. This government while enjoying a majority government…seems alarmingly uneducated as to its many “other” duties of unbiased governance. It’s like a doctor accepting a position to work in a clinic…but feeling there is no need for proper charting..and no need to report to various other entities dependent upon his findings…he doesn’t feel he needs to fully disclose all findings to the patient..that’s a breech of public trust that generally is the basis for loss of right to practice. The fact Mr. Rae has to explain that to the government…and finds no open agreement is “without” conscience. It is the government’s duty to inform the public of environmental concerns in an unbiased manner. It is the duty of the government to use the many public offices serving beneath it to ensure best practices and standards allow for public well being. Unbiased means your “mandate” as the elected government is to carry out duties of office in an unbiased manner. Mr. Harper is using government time for campaign rather than responsible governance. Who pays ? Everyone in this country wondering if they can even place a vote without illegal interference…because the government upon discovery that voter suppression tactics had entered Canada felt it an issue “too late” or not something they were obligated to investigate in an unbiased manner to maintain the integrity of federal elections in Canada. If a patient takes the wrong medication because of error in the carrying out of information…there are not too many people in this country that would accept a response of “too late” as reason for not properly investigating on behalf of public safety. Elections Canada Office had its funding cut in the budget implementation B-38. Harper believes unbiased intitutions like the National Energy Board…National Roundtable of Environment and Economy…interfere with private sector development and thus hold back economic prosperity. From his “own” governance in the office of greatest public trust PMO…it would seem private interests need unbiased offices to absolutely maintain integrity of safety and well being of the public. Unbelievable and pretty close to unforgivable that Mr. Rae even has to make this speech. Educating members of government as to their duties and obligations to the people of Canada…beyond what serves them best. Knowing right from wrong in Parliament matters because of the vastness of its responsibilities to all levels of society on a national level…acting in a partisan manner truly is an act of negligence. (that’s putting it kindly..because we all know voter suppression is organized crime)I’m not normally into politics…but with this government nobody can afford the mistake of not knowing what’s going on. Media one minute sound bytes do not inform…we need to hear the speeches and unfortunately see for ourselves.

  7. Avatar of Nita Varma Nita Varma said on

    He’s such an excellent speaker. We need that watch dog of clarity like never before. We have a government that has a majority. And are witnessing what happens when a majority government has a leader that condones lying ( condones considering it free speech). The lack of conscience that gives rise to such opinion should have everyone regardless of which party they support deeply concerned. Matters of State are as about as serious as it gets. I’ve watched Ministers carrying portfolios of immense responsibility (Tony Clement) sit in our good House of government and not answer questions directly…not for one day or two…but weeks. Imagine your doctor ignoring a question and not feeling they are obligated to you in any fashion to answer…and to find that regard amusing. They’ve used their majority to abuse the power of strip the rights of Canadians to be aware of government activities…to know the truth regarding the spending of our monies. If any probing hits upon an area of incompetency…or contempt of Parliamentary traditions that stand to hold integrity of government…that stand to hold “public trust”…this government considers it good politics to keep Canadians in the dark. It’s not just unacceptable….it’s placing the ability for Canadians to be safely governed at risk. If government is not open to public inquiry…to public accountability as is the duty of opposition, media, public offices…we are placing our trust in a governing body that is not confident in its own ability to govern..and to govern with full openness and dedication to truth. Instead of making use of the tremendous resources as its availability…the input on legislation from opposition members that often have excellent expertise with which to contribute…members of all levels of society, scientists, healthcare workers, fisheries, RCMP..that appear in committee meetings…all are silenced so that agenda based legislation is passed with least resistance. What happens when that is seen as the main objective…rather than conscientious mature deliberation ? People in Attawapiskat pay, people that have dedicated their lives to monitor our lakes, oceans, industry practices, food contamination, travel safety, border security pay…people dedicated to finding best practices in our public healthcare system pay, people suffering from unecessary drug shortages pay (Health Canada ignored warnings of the incident)..all members of society pay that count on the many levels of responsible governance…in this clip Mr. Rae has to go through extraordinary levels of debate to not address legislation…but to provide reason as to the importance of the truth being spoken in the House. It’s a sobering, concerning reflection of just how wide Mr. Harper’s actions have been within Parliament to silence dissent…from the many powerful offices that are constituted to ethical codes of of conduct that allow for reason to hold public trust. Ability to act from conscience means when the General Auditor or Parliamentary Budget Officer, or members of the opposition find areas of governance that need to be addressed so that public trust or even the legitimacy of a government is maintained….are silenced or discredited for speaking the truth…we have to realize this is not a partisan issue…but truly a national issue of the most serious kind. Please listen to the end…he has to go through the be able to prove indeed one of the most important issues we face is the right to be told the truth by our own government. “When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it’s rapidly losing its moral authority to govern.” — Stephen Harper

    We need to stop following media commentary..and spin. We need to appreciate the calibre of individuals such as Mr. Rae that have the Parliamentary experience and expertise to provide a voice we badly need in Parliament today. He’s done an extraordinary job since the get go…he’s not who media says he is…he should best be assessed by not his marketability by but the intelligence and conscience with which he acts. I hope the Liberal Party is smart enough to take good care of this one….he advocates not only for openness and inclusion to all Canadians…but advocates for truth.

  8. Avatar of Bernice  Graham Bernice Graham said on

    re Nita Vama’s last sentence in her first comment, “but with this government nobody can afford the mistake of not knowing what’s going on. Media one minute sound bytes do not inform…we need to hear the speeches and unfortunately see for ourselves.”

    This to me is one of the most important statements in her great comment. I agree 110%, but, because I am one of the 3 million or so hearing impaired/deaf persons in Canada I cannot “hear” the speeches without Closed Captioning. For 19 months now I have been fighting the Harper government to gain access to all of the House of Commons’ sessions. No access and no responses to many emails to various CPC MPs. So, what is the answer to this problem?

    I have written a blog which relates my story of this struggle to obtain full access to our Government that every hearing person enjoys. Please read it and pass it along. I need support as maybe in the Fall someone will open their ears and do something!

    P.S. I hate the term “Harper’s” government but that is what it has become as the CPC MPs are nothing but puppets being led around by their money bags


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