House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was mines.

Topics

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I appeal to you, my colleagues. I want to hear what is being said, so I would ask you please to refrain from heckling.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, before the election was called, the government sought interim supply to last through the election period. In so doing, it obtained the consent of this House for the functioning of Parliament both during the election period and in the subsequent period. This is something that has seldom been done before, if ever.

Second, immediately after the election and contrary to what had been done in many previous parliaments, if not all of them, no Governor General's warrants were issued although those would have been totally appropriate and in conformity with the Financial Administration Act. Out of respect for this House everything was done to do things in a timely fashion and in order to avoid the use of Governor General's warrants.

I would like to add there was co-operation of members on all sides of the House, and the House leaders in particular, who saw fit to arrive at a formula whereby we could debate supply and provide for the number of opposition days and arrive at the day at which we will have arrived tomorrow, which is the final day for debating supply and the subsequent appropriation bill. This was done with the consent of all parties and I thank all hon. members.

Fundamentally it was the will of the government to adhere not only to the rules of the House, but to ensure that certain vehicles such as the use of Governor General's warrants were avoided in order to show nothing but the highest of respect for the institution. Although as I said, the use of such warrants would have been permitted.

The part IIIs of course do not form the principal element of this issue. As I indicated previously they are a rather recent invention. As a matter of fact, last year they were not even tabled at the same time as the estimates. They were tabled at some point later so that additional information could be put in the part IIIs in regard to subsequent years and in conformity with one of the campaign commitments that we made prior to the 1993 election. We believe that this formula has allowed members to participate more fully.

I want to address a few of the issues that have been raised in detail by the hon. member. It has been said that the wheat board item should be set aside because appropriation is being sought where according to the opposition no government bill setting out the details has yet been passed. A similar argument is being made about vote 15 for the Immigration and Refugee Board. The same is alleged with regard to Environment Canada vote I.

I would like to suggest two things. First is that every one of these bills that is before the House where necessary has a royal recommendation regarding the crown's prerogative to spend money. Second is that of course this could not be done without having proper supply.

To that extent I want to indicate first that this is not an expenditure in itself. This is merely an action by these estimates providing for the funding for the expenditure. The expenditure itself will only come if and when the legislation is passed. Of course the money would not be spent either without the bill or the attending royal recommendation if such is required under a particular act.

There is another thing which I believe is quite important for the Chair to consider. Those very same expenditures were voted on in the interim supply last March. I submit to the Chair that if this argument on the part of the opposition is all that valid, we have to wonder why it was not valid according to the same sources and the same people only a few months ago.

If the House had no problem in voting interim supply on the exact same wording as part IIs last March, I submit that the House is equally qualified to vote on these same estimates as they are when it votes on these estimates presumably late in the day tomorrow.

It could very well be that the President of the Treasury Board might want to add to the comments I have just made. Nothing I have said should be equated with my speaking on his behalf.

On behalf of the government generally, in terms of how these estimates were put together, I do believe that they were constructed in a good and appropriate way according to the customs of the House and not only that, but according to the way the House voted on many of the same items only a few months ago, namely in March 1997.

That is the submission I wish to make to the Chair. I ask the Chair to consider that the point made by hon. members across is not valid and that the estimates as they are presently printed are in order and should be disposed of at the appropriate time which could be tomorrow.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two or three points I would like to raise on this same point of order. I can tell that all members of the House realize the importance of this point of order not only to the government but to the opposition and to Parliament itself. This cuts to the very core of why we are here, which is to approve legislation and the funding required to carry it out.

If we follow through on the government's request, to follow the logic of the government House leader, he says that just because we approve the estimates is no big deal because nothing happens until the legislation is passed. If that is true, then the entire estimates process is a sham.

We approve the estimates in good faith assuming that the government will follow through on the spending contained therein. To bypass the estimates process, which is to scrutinize it to make sure that the money is spent where and when it is authorized and so on, is truly putting the cart before the horse. The expenditures are being approved before legislation is in place to give the government the authority to do so.

Second, I would point out that the goodwill arrangement and the negotiations that go on between the government and opposition parties with respect to supply days is carried out in good faith. Again that is irrelevant to this argument today, which is that supply cannot be voted on unless the legislation has been approved. We can negotiate in good faith and arrange days for debate. There is a supply day tomorrow but that is irrelevant to the point of order which is before you today, Mr. Speaker, which again comes down to which comes first, the law or the estimates?

Third, earlier in this Parliament, Mr. Speaker, you ruled on a point of order that I brought forward with respect to the creation of an investment board by Bill C-2, which is a bill not yet passed. Although you ruled at that time that because no money had been spent the bill was not contradicting my privileges as a parliamentarian, you did admonish the government. You said words to the effect that you took this very seriously. You admonished the finance department and those responsible for putting these types of things together. You said that they were pushing the edge, and I realize I am ad libbing here. They were right at the edge and you said that you took it very seriously. You said that this was not the first time it had happened and that you hoped it would not happen again.

Tomorrow if you allow the estimates to proceed as tabled, we will not only be near the edge, we will be down in the abyss, at the bottom looking up at what used to be a very noble procedure where laws were put in place and then appropriations were given.

Mr. Speaker, I would urge you to look at the arguments presented by members on this side of the House today. To not do what was asked by the hon. member for St. Albert would be to neuter the role of parliamentarians in their attempts to bring all the light which is necessary to bear on the estimates process.

Mr. Speaker, I urge you to realize that the line has been crossed. I urge you to make the proper decision tomorrow, which I hope will be that these estimates votes be deleted from tomorrow's voting.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

Is the hon. government House leader rising to present new information?

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to comment pursuant to the last remark that was made and not comment on anything that was said previously pursuant to how you instructed us. Commenting only on what the hon. member has just said and adding new information to that, the reverse of what the hon. member has just stated would be totally illogical.

If one could ever conceive that this government would pass all kinds of legislation and royal recommendations inherent involving the spending of money and provide no funding within its estimates for the programs it was planning to deliver, this would essentially mean that all of us would be legislating and no program could ever be put together in the same calendar year. You would have to provide funding only for subsequent years because you would never be providing funding in order to make it happen. A situation like that would be totally irresponsible and unworkable.

Conversely, if governments were to plan to spend money in legislation and never have anything in the estimates in the same year to provide for it and to go ahead with it right away, it would be the same people across the way challenging the government. They would be indicating, and probably quite correctly, that in fact the government is undertaking new expenditures for which it has received no authority under appropriation. It cannot be both ways.

I do not believe the last point raised adds to the point made before by the hon. member. What has just been stated now adds to the credibility of the government and the way in which the estimates were put together.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. I have just a couple of quick points, if you would indulge me.

The first is that in reply to the statement previously made by the hon. House leader of the government, I was under the impression that the reasoning behind the practice of supplementary estimates, not the main estimates, is to ensure the government has a vehicle in which it can bring forward legislation and actually get it under way in the same calendar year.

Second, just briefly on the issue, it is a longstanding tradition that ministers appear before the standing committees. Speaking as the chief opposition critic for the minister of agriculture, the minister responsible for this first disputed item, vote 1, policy and farm programs, has not given the opportunity to members of Parliament and me as the critic to question him about that expenditure. Had that happened perhaps some of this could have been avoided.

I am informed a large number of ministers have not appeared. Now with the seventh and last supply day being tomorrow, as was indicated by agreement effectively if ministers appear subsequently they will not actually be debating the estimates or have any effect on whether those estimates can be reduced following their cross-examination at committee.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have one small point again in rebuttal to the government House leader.

Much legislation died on the order paper when parliament was dissolved last April and that included the main estimates. The main estimates were reintroduced without any changes whatsoever on October 1. However, because the government did not reintroduce the legislation that died, it was obvious its agenda had changed.

If the government's agenda had changed, if its decision about what was to be spent and what was not to be spent had changed, surely it had an obligation to the House to amend and introduce the estimates to reflect its agenda after the election, not the one before.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

The Speaker

To say the least an interesting point of order has been raised. I will surely take into consideration the information and the opinions of both sides.

I will take all the information and I will do my own study of it. I will return to the House not today but hopefully in very short order. I will take all these things into consideration and report to the House after I have reviewed everything.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of information. I presume you are telling us that you would report back to the House prior to the vote on the estimates tomorrow night.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

The Speaker

My intention would be to do as much research as I can, but I am sure the hon. member would not want me to make a decision if I did not have all the information I could possibly have in front of me. I will endeavour to do that and hopefully I will be able to do that.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are saying in effect that a vote on the current estimates is quite frankly illegal. It would be inappropriate for the House to vote on the estimates as they stand.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

The Speaker

I will take all of this into consideration in trying to make my decision. I will make a decision not based upon the pressures of time necessarily, although it is a factor, but I will base my decision on the material I can gather to make a decision for the House that I will not have to overrule or overturn some place down the road. I want to be sure of my grounds.

Order In Council Appointments
Routine Proceedings

November 24th, 1997 / 3:50 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, a number of order in council appointments which were made by the government.

Pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 110(1) these are deemed referred to the appropriate standing committees, a list of which is attached.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both officials languages, the government's response to six petitions.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Bertrand Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table the first report of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs.

May I take this opportunity to thank the members and staff of both committees, defence and foreign affairs, who travelled to Bosnia and saw firsthand what a great job our troops were doing not only in keeping peace but also helping so many citizens to pick up the pieces and to rebuild their lives. They have made a great impression on the international community and have made Canadians everywhere proud and happy to live in such a beautiful country.

I am pleased to table the report which was adopted unanimously by all parties that were in agreement that our presence in Bosnia should be continued until June 1998.

In closing, I also wish to extend an acknowledgement of extreme gratitude to the troops, embassy staff and Canadians who greeted us with open arms and made sure that our visit was complete and all inclusive.