House of Commons Hansard #139 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tobacco.

Topics

Privilege

March 6th, 1997 / 10 a.m.

The Speaker

Order. Before we proceed to the orders of the day I am now ready to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for York South-Weston on Wednesday, February 19, 1997 concerning the availability of budget documents prior to the budget presentation made by the Minister of Finance on Tuesday, February 18, 1997.

I want to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the hon. member forSt. Albert, the hon. member for Kootenay East, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance for their comments in this matter.

In his submission, the hon. member for York South-Weston argued that many of the provisions of the budget had been announced by the government prior to the speech of the Minister of Finance and that budget documents were available approximately 15 minutes before the minister rose to make his budget presentation. He contended that these two actions were in marked contrast to previous practice.

The member also maintained that the privileges of members of the House are impinged upon when information is released prematurely. Finally, he asked the Chair to review the whole matter of the budget lock-up.

Since the beginning of this Parliament, hon. members have witnessed an important change in the budget process. On February 7, 1994 the House adopted amendments to its standing orders which included the insertion of new Standing Order 83.1 to provide for so-called "prebudget consultations" by authorizing the Standing Committee on Finance to consider and make reports on proposals regarding the budgetary policy of the government.

Accordingly, the Standing Committee on Finance has engaged on three occasions in a process of public consultation, during which its members were authorized to travel and to listen to the concerns of Canadians. Pursuant to Standing Order 83.1, the committee tabled three reports: the first on December 8, 1994, the second on December 12, 1995 and the third and most recent on December 5, 1996.

On the issue of budget secrecy, perhaps it would be helpful to remind all members of what Speaker Sauvé pointed out in a decision she gave to the House on April 19, 1983 at page 24649 of the Debates :

-budget secrecy is a political convention. So also is the practice whereby the minister presents his budget in the House before declaring it in any other public forum.

I agree with Speaker Sauvé. It would not be proper for the Chair to get involved in the interpretation of budget secrecy, nor the matter of the lock-up.

As for the issue of privilege with respect to the matter raised, let me quote again Speaker Sauvé. In a decision which can be found in the Debates of November 18, 1981 at page 12898 she stated that:

-a breach of budget secrecy cannot be dealt with as a matter of privilege. It might constitute a very important grievance for members. Such action might have a very negative impact on business or on the stock market. It might cause some people to receive revenues which they would not otherwise have been able to obtain. All of these are possible consequences of breaches of budget secrecy, but they have no impact on the privileges of the member. They might do harm-irrevocable in some case-to persons or institutions, but this has nothing to do with privilege.

Speaker Fraser was also asked to rule on budget secrecy. On June 18, 1987, at page 7315 of the Debates he mentioned:

Budgetary secrecy is a matter of parliamentary convention. Its purpose is to prevent anybody from gaining a private advantage by reason of obtaining advance budgetary information-The limits of parliamentary privilege are very narrow and it is not a responsibility of the Chair to rule as to whether or not a parliamentary convention is justified or whether or not the matter complained of is a breach of that convention. That is a matter of political debate and not one in which the Chair would wish to become involved.

I concur with both Speakers in that a breach of budget secrecy has nothing to do with parliamentary privilege. Therefore, in the case presently before us, the Chair cannot determine that the hon. member has been in any way hindered in the performance of his parliamentary duties.

Consequently, it is my decision that there is no prima facie case of privilege.

I thank the hon. member for York South-Weston for raising his matter.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed 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 official languages, the government's response to six petitions.

Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin for the Minister of Industry

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-85, an act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985 and the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Sault Ste. Marie
Ontario

Liberal

Ron Irwin on behalf of the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-86, an act to amend the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act and to make a consequential amendment to another act.

(Motion deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present today. The first petition suggests that Bill C-33 was debated with undue haste and will undermined the natural family. This petition is from people in my constituency of Macleod.

Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition points out that the GST on books is unfair and that there was a promise to remove it from reading material.

Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, the final petition points out that the white ribbon against pornography week be given more coverage here in Parliament. I agree with all these petitions.

Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ronald J. Duhamel St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a number of petitions here.

The first petition deals with profit from criminal activity. It is being denounced by these constituents and they point out there ought to be absolute certainty that this does not occur.

Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ronald J. Duhamel St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is similar commentary with respect to pornography and its negative effects on society. It is not only denounced, it is in fact suggested that this should not be happening because it is extremely dysfunctional and degrading to women, children and others.

Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ronald J. Duhamel St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, the third petition wants to ensure that there are no increases in taxes on gasoline. The petitioners feel that it is already too high.

The fourth petition is with respect to reading materials. These petitions want no GST on reading materials, something that I have advocated for some time. They also suggest that reading and learning materials could be zero rated.

Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ronald J. Duhamel St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, the last petition calls on members of this House to make upgrading of the national highway system possible. I am pleased to provide my support for all these.

Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Simon de Jong Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of presenting a petition on behalf of the

Canadian Council of Railway Operating Unions. This petition is signed by communities all the way from Windsor, Ontario to Revelstoke, British Columbia.

What the petitioners are pointing out is that the viability of the CCROU as an effective bargaining unit for the members has been undermined as a result of the government's interference in the collective process via the maintenance of the Railway Operation Act, 1995.

What they are asking for is that Parliament and the government restore meaningful collective bargaining to the process. They call on Parliament to recognize the importance of free and unfettered collective bargaining by enacting a bill which would restore the union's right to strike and with it the company's right to lock out.

Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Simon de Jong Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of introducing another petition signed by petitioners mainly from Fort Qu'Appelle and the Balcarres district.

These petitioners point out that there are still over 30,000 nuclear weapons on the earth. They point out as well that the continuing existence of nuclear weapons poses a threat to the health and survival of human civilization and to the global environment.

They call on Parliament to support the initiation and conclusion by the year 2000 of an international convention which will set out a binding timetable for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions today. The first petition comes from Regina, Saskatchewan.

The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that our police officers and firefighters place their lives at risk on a daily basis as they serve the emergency needs of all Canadians. They also state that in many cases their families are often left without sufficient financial means to meet their obligations.

The petitioners therefore pray and call on Parliament to establish a public safety officers compensation fund to receive gifts and bequests for the benefit of families of police officers and firefighters who are killed in the line of duty.

Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition comes from Calgary, Alberta. The petitioners draw to the attention of the House that managing the family home and caring for preschool children is an honourable profession which has not been recognized for its value to our society.

The petitioners therefore pray and call on Parliament to pursue initiatives to assist families that choose to provide care in the home for preschool children, the chronically ill, the aged or the disabled.