House of Commons Hansard #137 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tobacco.

Topics

Human Resources
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, it is important for us as a government to ensure the future of our social safety net. It is important also that we use the technologies which are available today to run the most efficient operations we can.

Canadians will continue to be very well served through the reorganization of the local human resources department. We will have personnel help in over 300 offices across the country that will actually be delivering it. We will have 6,000 automated kiosks that were not available before to serve Canadian citizens.

The office in Peterborough is a very important centre for us as a government. It will continue to serve clients and senior citizens of Peterborough for a long time to come.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the hon. Ross Ginn, Deputy President of the Legislative Council of Tasmania, and Mr. Anthony John Benneworth, Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly of Tasmania.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I received a letter from the hon. member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie regarding a question of privilege. I will listen to the hon. member and then I will hear the points of order raised by other members.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

March 4th, 1997 / 3 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we saw in Quebec's major newspapers an advertisement in which Health Canada refers to "the act", and I mean the government's anti-tobacco "act".

First, this advertisement is false and affects the privileges of this House. Indeed, the ad suggests that the House has passed Bill C-71. The fact is that, while the government did its utmost to gag the opposition regarding this issue, the act has yet to be passed.

The Speaker of the House made an interesting ruling on October 10, 1989, regarding a similar situation concerning a GST ad, when the legislation had not yet been passed. The Speaker ruled, and I am quoting page 4461 of the Hansard :

-if your Speaker ever has to consider a situation like this again, the Chair will not be as generous. This is a case which, in my opinion, should never recur. I-remind everyone within the Public Service that we are a parliamentary democracy, not a so-called executive democracy-

In 1989, when the Liberals formed the opposition, they had welcomed the ruling made by the Speaker of the time. Therefore, I am asking the Minister of Health to apologize in this House, on behalf of his department, for the false advertisement which he authorized and paid for with taxpayers' money.

Moreover, I believe I can get the support of the House in asking the Minister of Health to pay back to taxpayers the costs of his false advertising. The minister should use the taxpayers' money to make young people aware of the harmful effects of tobacco.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you. If you deem that the issue raised is indeed a question of privilege, I am prepared to table the usual motion. But first I will listen to what you have to say.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we certainly did not have, or at least I did not have, notice of the particular question of privilege that has just been raised. I certainly have not had a chance to check with my colleague, the Minister of Health, or any other relevant minister on the substance of the allegations made by the hon. member.

I was wondering, Mr. Speaker, if we could have your permission to have this question of privilege stood for a day or two while the allegations are checked into. This would make it easier to argue the point and ask you to make the most appropriate ruling.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government House leader is a man of experience who surely does not need 24 or 48 hours to recognize something that is quite obvious. I therefore ask for leave to table a copy of that advertisement.

I am prepared to hand it over to him right now, and I suppose the House leader will understand it as soon as he reads it, since he was in this House in 1989. At the time, he advocated a reprimand, to ensure that taxpayers' money cannot be used deceitfully in advance under a false pretenses.

Thus, I table this document and ask that it be passed on to my colleague. With his experience, he will understand at once.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

For any member of the opposition to table any document we need unanimous consent of the House. Is there unanimous consent?

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, when there is a question of privilege in this House, I usually reserve judgment for a few hours.

I am sure the hon. member for Laurier-Saint Marie would want to see the document. I did not see the document the Minister of Health handed over. I would like to see the document also.

With the agreement of the House I will wait until the Minister of Health or a spokesperson of the government has a chance to give us some information. At that time I will review all the documentation and if it is necessary I will get back to the House.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I respect your decision, unless the government House leader has come to the same conclusion as I did after reading the document I just sent him. If you ask him, maybe he has come to the same conclusion. This is obvious to me.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

As I understood the hon. government House leader, he had not been apprised. This is my interpretation. He has said he does not want to answer in the name of the Minister of Health.

At this point on this question of privilege I will wait until I have more information.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, as you know the House rules are set by precedent. Earlier today during question period you referred to some questions that would appear to come close to encroaching on the orders of the day. I think you also indicated that you would intervene if you believed that the questions encroached on the orders of the day.

Beauchesne's citation 428 (v) says a question must not "anticipate an order of the day or other matters" and (r) says a question shall not "refer to debate or answers to questions of the current session".

Citation 428 of Beauchesne's refers to written questions. I am asking you to advise the House on any guidelines you feel are appropriate that would give direction to the opposition parties that formulate questions, so that we can abide by the rules and know exactly what the rules are when we formulate questions in so far as they may or may not encroach upon the orders of the day.

There does appear to be a different interpretation by the Reform Party compared to the Bloc Quebecois on what is and is not allowable and our assumption of what you would or would not allow as far as questions are concerned.

Therefore, since there is nothing specific in Beauchesne's or in the standing orders that would give us specific direction regarding oral questions, I ask that you come back to the House to give us guidance.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

The request of the hon. member is a reasonable one in the sense that although the Chair can surely give an opinion

on the general direction of questions, I want to give colleagues every latitude in answering questions. When the questions were posed today I listened very attentively that they did not encroach on or refer to the specific bill.

The preambles give me a great deal of difficulty. I have appealed to the House before that if your preambles could be quite concise and then you get into the questions, I am better able to respond. I try as much as possible to listen as you get down to the question or at least to know the direction in which a member is leading. If I feel that a preamble is taking us irrevocably toward a specific section of a specific bill I will intervene.

I would hope on days such as today where Bill C-71 is being debated all day that hon. members would consider perhaps a different line of questioning. I always leave that to members. In my view if a question is of a general nature and not hitting on the bill directly I would tend to allow the question as I have today.

However the point is well taken. I commit myself to reviewing all the questions asked today in question period to satisfy myself and perhaps satisfy the House that the questions were indeed in order. If I find upon reflection that I perhaps was a bit too lenient I will come back to the House and give that direction.

I prefer to give a general direction to members because you know what want to ask and I try to give you as much room as I can. I commit to coming back to the House if it is necessary.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-71, an act to regulate the manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of tobacco products, to make consequential amendments to another act and to repeal certain acts, as reported (with amendments) from the committee; and Motions Nos. 2, 4, 5 and 30.