House of Commons Hansard #104 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aid.

Topics

Airline Industry
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, when I made the announcement last Thursday, I clearly stated that the assistance had to be limited to the five largest carriers: Air Canada, Air Transat, Sky Service, WestJet and Canada 3000.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment.

Delays at the Canada-U.S. border not only inhibit trade but affect the environment. A 30 minute delay at the border equates to hundreds of tonnes of additional greenhouse gases per annum. Why has the environment minister done nothing to address this concern?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, as indicated by the Deputy Prime Minister, the government has done a number of things to try to get changes in the policies at the border, particularly on the American side, so that we can in fact expedite the movement of goods, people and vehicles across the border.

There is no question that there is additional air pollution related to the delays. That said, the fact is the problem will minimize when we get the border cleared. That is our fundamental problem and it is what we are working on. I took this matter up with my American counterparts when I visited Washington.

Infrastructure Program
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance.

Today the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has called on the federal government to make a major investment in infrastructure across the country in areas such as drinking water, rapid transit, the environment and housing.

I want to know what the minister's response is to this request from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Can we expect a major announcement with regard to infrastructure in the budget, which will stimulate the economy and create thousand of jobs in the country at a time when jobs are needed?

Infrastructure Program
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, the government in the forthcoming budget is focusing on national security, but obviously the necessity of protecting the basic infrastructure of the country is something we will always look at.

I point out that there is a major infrastructure program going on both in terms of roads and the environment. The Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Transport have spoken about this extensively. The minister in charge of CMHC has spoken about housing. All of that has arisen out of extensive discussions with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Anti-terrorism Legislation
Oral Question Period

October 29th, 2001 / 2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, in light of the concerns of some Canadians about civil liberties, some groups have called for exemptions from Bill C-36.

Could either the minister of Indian affairs or the justice minister tell us whether native people across Canada will be exempted from the provisions of Bill C-36 as some of their leaders are calling for? A simple yes or no would suffice.

Anti-terrorism Legislation
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I find the question somewhat strange. Bill C-36 is very clear. It is directed at terrorist activity.

In fact there is no discussion in and around any particular group or organization. The legislation focuses on one thing and one thing only. It is terrorist activity.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, farmers in Canada are waiting with great anticipation for the fall budget expected in December. The Liberal government has a record of stumbling from ad hoc agriculture program to ad hoc program, weighted down in bureaucracy with no long term vision.

Will the Minister of Finance finally commit in this budget to implementing a long term sustainable agriculture policy that farmers will be able to rely on?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings
Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, at the June federal-provincial-territorial ministers meeting there was unanimous agreement by all ministers present, all the provinces, all the territories and the federal government to move forward with an agricultural action plan, a policy framework for agriculture to move in a direction, as we said in the last throne speech, beyond crisis management.

I can assure the House that with the consultation with the industry, with the provinces, with colleagues on this side of the House and with the support of colleagues on the other side of the House we will move in that direction.

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, in media reports over the weekend the United States is musing about using tactical nuclear weapons in the war against terrorism.

My question is for the Deputy Prime Minister. Will Canada in the strongest way tell our allies in the United States that under no circumstances will Canada accept the use of tactical nuclear weapons in any case?

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member did not provide any evidence to show that what he is saying is a fact. I am not aware of any activity of that sort. There are international conventions about nuclear weapons which I am sure members of the alliance are sticking with.

By the way, to answer further a question by another member of the hon. member's party, I am advised that the United States may be using cluster bombs but only on military targets and the assertion of the NDP member earlier should be withdrawn.

Genetically Modified Organisms
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, the Minister of Health came out in favour of mandatory labelling for genetically modified organisms. Recently however, the government voted down at second reading a bill sponsored by one of its members which moved in this direction.

Can the Minister of Health tell us if he is still in favour of mandatory labelling for GMOs, given his government's position on this issue?

Genetically Modified Organisms
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings
Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is fully aware of the fact that four ministers on this side have written the chair of the health committee to ask her to bring in members from a number of different committees to have a discussion around the topic of food labelling in Canada. We look forward to the results and the comments of that committee.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege to charge the Minister of Transport with contempt. The minister has brought the authority and dignity of the House into question and has breached the new procedure that was established by the adoption of the first report of the modernization committee.

On Thursday, October 25, while the House was in session, the minister held a press conference to announce a $75 million bailout for Canada 3000. While this brand of disrespect is not uncommon for the Liberal government, I believe that this is the first time that such an act has occurred since the adoption of the first report of the modernization committee. At page 4 of that report the committee states:

Concerns have been expressed that government announcements, regarding legislation or policies, are increasingly made outside the House of Commons. While this is by no means a recent phenomenon, it continues to be a source of concern. The Committee is recommending two initiatives to address it.

First, it is important that more ministerial statements and announcements be made in the House of Commons. In particular, topical developments, or foreseeable policy decisions, should be made first—or, at least, concurrently—in the chamber. Ministers, and their departments, need to be encouraged to make use of the forum provided by the House of Commons. Not only will this enhance the pre-eminence of Parliament, but it will also reiterate the legislative underpinning for governmental decisions.

The committee recommended that the government make greater use of ministerial statements in the Chamber and that the House leaders be advised in advance of these statements.

I was not advised of this announcement. When I stood in the House on Thursday and asked the Thursday question, the government House leader had the opportunity right there and then, but failed to do so.

There was no reason why the Minister of Transport could not have advised the opposition and there were no procedural difficulties preventing the Minister of Transport from making his announcement in the House. I am certain that all parties would have extended every courtesy to the minister if he had chosen to respect the House and make his announcement here.

It is important to know that the House adjourned early on that day for lack of business. It adjourned early last Monday and Friday and it adjourned early on Friday, October 19, and on Monday, October 22, so wherein lies the problem with debating these issues on the floor of the House? A $75 million bailout is no small change. Where does the minister think the authority to spend the $75 million comes from?

The government and its departments are continuously making a habit of mocking the parliamentary system in this manner. We have had the deliberate leaking to the media of contents of Bill C-15 and, more recently, of the anti-terrorism bill, Bill C-36.

One of the reasons the modernization committee felt it necessary to address the issue was that in the last two parliaments the government got away with mocking the legislative process at every turn, belittling the role of members of parliament. I will cite a few of the more serious examples.

On Thursday, October 23, 1997, the government announced that provincial and federal governments had constituted a nominating committee to nominate candidates for the new Canada pension plan investment board. The nominating committee was provided for under subclause 10(2) of Bill C-2. The House had not yet adopted Bill C-2.

On January 21, 1998, the minister responsible for the wheat board met in Regina to discuss the rules for the election of directors to the Canadian Wheat Board's board of directors, as proposed in Bill C-4, an act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act. Substantial amendments to Bill C-4 tabled at report stage by opposition members were scheduled for debate in the House. While the House debated how many directors should be farmer elected versus being government appointees, the minister was holding meetings as though the bill was already law.

When the Canadian millennium scholarship fund was being established, a published article in the Toronto Star announced that Yves Landry had been named as the head of the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. Mr. Landry was quoted as saying “I am only one member of the board and my job is to be a facilitator”. There was no legislation before the House setting up the foundation, nor had the budget announcement allocating $2.5 billion in revenue to the foundation been adopted.

The Minister for International Trade announced on March 30, 1998, the establishment of a Canada-China interparliamentary group. At that time, the House had not set up a Canada-China interparliamentary group.

Finally, the date of the last budget that was delivered in the House, so long ago we have probably forgotten, was announced by the Prime Minister outside the House.

Each disrespectful act we allow to stand unchallenged becomes a precedent that serves afterwards to justify more acts of disrespect. The modernization committee recognized this and felt it necessary to make a statement.

The adoption of this report outlined what standard the House expected from ministers in this regard.

On page 119 of Erskine May there is a reference regarding a select committee that was appointed to inquire into the conduct and activities of members and to consider whether any such conduct or activities amounted to a contempt of the House and whether any such activities were:

--conduct...inconsistent with the standards the House was entitled to expect from its Members.

The minister cannot claim ignorance because the House pronounced itself on this issue through the adoption of the modernization committee report. When the Minister of Transport made his announcement outside the House on Thursday, October 25 while there was still an opportunity to make it inside, his conduct was clearly inconsistent with the standards the House was entitled to expect from him. As a consequence the minister is in contempt of the House.

The other related parliamentary tradition that the government likes to forget about is the issue of and respect for the doctrine of ministerial responsibility.

The Minister of Transport and the rest of his colleagues, and particularly the Minister of Justice, should review the definition of ministerial responsibility from page 63 of the 22nd edition of Erskine May. It states:

—ministers have a duty to Parliament to account, and be held to account, for the policies, decisions and actions of their departments...it is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament—

Where can we find the truthful and accurate information regarding the decision to hand out $75 million to Canada 3000? Not in Hansard of Thursday, October 25. Where it was found was in the Globe and Mail of October 26.

I am beginning to think that being held in contempt in the House is of little concern to the government. Let us look at the example of the Minister of Justice who was held in contempt for leaking to the media the contents of Bill C-15.

When I appeared before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to review another charge of contempt involving the minister, I pointed out that we no longer respect, to the same degree as in the past, the principle that ministers have a duty to parliament to account and to be held to account for the policies, decisions and actions of their departments.

I cited the example from 1976 involving the Hon. André Ouellet, the then minister of consumer and corporate affairs. Mr. Ouellet made a comment on the acquittal by Mr. Justice Mackay of the sugar companies accused of forming cartels and combines. As a result, Mr. Justice Mackay cited him for contempt of court. He was found guilty of the charge and resigned his cabinet post over the incident.

A charge of contempt by the House should be considered just as serious, if not more serious, as a contempt charge in a court. Unfortunately the Minister of Justice chose not to take responsibility in the time honoured tradition of ministerial accountability, as did Mr. Ouellet.

Getting back to this case, I will conclude my remarks by saying that had I had an opportunity to respond to this announcement by the Minister of Transport I might have asked the minister why he can justify giving Canada 3000 $75 million but cannot spend one dime on the softwood lumber industry that lost millions of dollars over a trade dispute with the United States. Thousands of people are out of work as a result and thousands more are expected to lose their jobs.

Also, what about the farmers who suffered through this summer's drought?

These are some of the questions we might have asked if the minister had given us an opportunity, but we did not. The minister might want to talk about timing, about how the House was not sitting. It was not sitting because the government chose not to have it sitting. It adjourned early. We have adjourned early too many days over the last little while.

Certainly I saw the minister on television that night at 7 p.m. The House adjourned early,and I cannot remember if it was 3 p.m. or 4 p.m., but surely he must have made the decision earlier in the day. He could have spoken to the government House leader and made sure it was put on the agenda so that we could have done it in the House and it could have been done properly.

Mr. Speaker, if you find that we have a case of privilege, I am prepared to move the proper motion.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I did have the opportunity on Friday to discuss the matter with my colleague from the Alliance Party. I am grateful that he raised it today because I could not state the reply on Friday. I will describe the actions taken on Thursday and then deal with the substance of his point.

First, everyone knows that since September 11 issues dealing with airlines are ones that are breaking fast. The problems are occurring rather rapidly and therefore require rapid response.

The hon. member talks about not being available to make a ministerial statement at the appropriate time. I am sure he would have given unanimous consent to revert to statements by ministers on Thursday afternoon had he known. He questioned the integrity of my colleague the House leader for not having informed him during the usual Thursday question that he knew this was coming.

My colleague the House leader did not know the statement was being issued because the final decision on the matter was only taken at 5.30 that day. We felt it was absolutely appropriate to call a press conference at 7 o'clock. The news media was not happy. I was not happy and the hon. member was not happy.

At the earliest opportunity there was final cabinet approval for the compensation package for Canada 3000. We called the press conference so that shareholders, employees and passengers of Canada 3000 would all know what the rules were before the opening of the stock market on the next business day.

I have been in the House off and on for quite a while, like the hon. member. We were here in the early 1970s when ministers made routine statements and were questioned by the opposition. That is something I have always been in favour of. It is certainly something I would never be opposed to.

I was a member of the procedural committee in 1982-83 that brought forward a lot of the reforms of today including the period of questions and comments after debate. That was done to involve members in debate. We do not want to hear only from members with set questions and set answers. We want to encourage the thrust and parry of debate.

My hon. colleague laments the fact that he never had the chance to have this debated on Thursday. He says he would have raised a number of questions. He went on a few minutes ago to tell the House what the questions were with respect to softwood lumber.

He did not raise the question on Friday morning. He did not raise the question this afternoon in question period. He instead chose to make a procedural point for partisan gain. I am very sorry about that. I have great respect for the House leader of the Alliance Party and cannot believe he is resorting to these kinds of tactics.

I will use the example of the hon. André Ouellet. We were both in the House when this happened in 1975 or 1976 regarding the sugar case. It had nothing whatsoever to do with statements by ministers. The hon. member should not impugn motives by raising that particularly serious case in this context.

I am sure the hon. member knows this full well. Far be it from me to cast aspersions or impugn motives by saying he wants to use the debate for a spurious question of privilege that is not a question of privilege. It is a point of debate that he should have raised on Thursday or Friday in question period or today in question period. He chose not to do so. He was silent today in question period.

I will quote from Beauchesne's fifth edition, section 264 which states:

The option of a Minister to make a statement either in the House or outside it may be the subject of comment, but is not the subject of a question of privilege.