House of Commons Hansard #105 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was edc.

Topics

Anti-Terrorism Legislation
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated before, I look forward to the work of the House committee of which the hon. member is a member. I look forward to the report of the Senate pre-study committee. In fact, I know that it will have very useful advice and recommendations for us in relation to the areas the hon. member has identified as well as other areas.

Airline Industry
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, in response to a question about assistance for air carriers, the Minister of Transport confirmed that this assistance would be limited to national carriers, thus excluding small regional carriers in Quebec, which are no less affected by the events of September 11.

Does the Minister responsible for regional development intend to try to convince the Minister of Transport to extend his loan guarantee program to Quebec's small regional air carriers?

Airline Industry
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that in the aftermath of September 11 the airline industry was particularly hard hit and, as an economic generator, had to be helped. That is why we announced the $160 million of direct compensation. We have also agreed that there would be a limited program of loan guarantees for the five major airlines covering 95% of all passenger movements in Canada. We intend to make that the limit.

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. The Canadian Wind Energy Association indicates that it cannot get financing for its projects in Canada and that a lot of the financing is going to the United States.

Will he consider adding some incentives and tax breaks in the budget that is upcoming in December?

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to members of the Canadian Wind Energy Association yesterday. I informed them of course that the Government of Canada has $1.1 billion worth of initiatives on the table already. I further informed them that their action plan, a very thoughtful action plan, for the future of renewable energy in this country would be considered very carefully by this government in future business plans to deal with climate change.

Lumber Industry
Oral Question Period

October 30th, 2001 / 2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, on October 4 the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade told the House that the U.S. had suspended the Byrd amendment. He was wrong. When I asked about anti-dumping coming down tomorrow by the U.S., he called that question hypothetical. I suggest the parliamentary secretary better wake up. Right now the Canadian forest industry, because of the Byrd amendment, is paying the U.S. forest industry directly. Canadians are subsidizing Americans.

What is the plan of this government? Canadians right now are facing significant job losses in the tens of thousands. What is the government doing to stop--

Lumber Industry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade.

Lumber Industry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

London—Fanshawe
Ontario

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is great to see that the opposition has finally woken up and asked a question on softwood lumber for the first time in weeks.

The Byrd amendment is potentially a very harmful and disruptive measure for the international trading environment. That is why Canada, along with Mexico and nine other countries, is challenging the Byrd amendment at the WTO. We fully expect to get a favourable ruling in that case.

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, the nuclear propulsion reactor in Nanoose, B.C. is about 40 kilometres or one to two minutes by jet from the Vancouver International Airport. This floating nuclear reactor operates at a high power density, uses more enriched uranium nuclear fuel, almost weapon grade and has smaller meltdown margins than land reactors.

In the sea there are no concrete walls or steel walls. What procedures are in place in B.C. to protect against a terrorist attack on a nuclear propulsion reactor?

Terrorism
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, first, there is elaborate collaboration between Canada and the United States with respect to nuclear security. Second, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission took steps immediately on September 11 to heighten security to protect all Canadians.

Those steps were accelerated on October 19 with further measures to ensure that the Canadian public interest would be protected.

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 a former colleague, the Honourable Chris Axworthy, Q.C., Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs for the province of Saskatchewan.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the confusion arising from today's exchange that I had with the Minister of National Revenue, he first said that they were going to be providing guns and then he said they were not going to be providing guns.

I would like you to pay particular attention to the blues and to the television transcription of the event so we can be sure that this confusion is enshrined in Hansard .

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sure the hon. member would not want the Speaker to sow any seeds of confusion anywhere and in fact would do everything possible to avoid confusion.

I thought that was the point of the hon. member's point of order, but I am sure we will take what he said under advisement and the appropriate authorities will heed his sound, sage advice.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege in relation to the failure of the Minister of Justice to respect the tabling requirements, enacted for the benefit of this House by the Parliament of Canada, in section 119 of the Firearms Act and chapter 39 of the Statutes of Canada, 1995.

Section 117 of the Firearms Act confers on the governor in council extensive regulation making powers in recognition of the significant impact which the exercise of those powers can have on Canadians. Parliament also adopted a provision requiring the Minister of Justice to table any proposed regulation before both houses for referral to an appropriate committee of each house before the regulation can be enacted by the governor in council.

Section 118 of the act precludes the adoption of any proposed regulation before the expiry of certain deadlines to ensure that members of both houses have an adequate opportunity to examine and report on the appropriateness of the regulation under the Firearms Act.

This background information makes clear that parliament attaches a great deal of importance to members being fully informed and involved before the governor in council is allowed to make a regulation under section 117. It is against this background that the exceptions to the rule must be assessed.

Section 119 of the Firearms Act provides for two cases in which the governor in council is allowed to make a regulation without the Minister of Justice having first tabled the text of the proposed regulation before both houses. The first exception is where the minister is of the opinion that the changes made by the regulation to an existing regulation are immaterial or insubstantial.

The second exception applies only to regulations made under certain specific paragraphs of section 117 and where the minister is of the opinion that the making of the regulation is so urgent that the requirement in section 118 should not apply.

In both these instances subsection 119(4) of the act provides that where the Minister of Justice forms the opinion that a regulation should not be tabled in draft form, the minister shall have a statement of the reasons he or she formed that opinion laid before each house of parliament.

It has come to my attention that between September 16, 1998, and December 13, 2000, a number of proposed amendments to regulations made under the Firearms Act have not been tabled before parliament as required by section 118 of the act.

The relevant instruments are those registered under the designation SOR/98-468 to SOR/98-471, SOR/99-109 to SOR/99-111, SOR/99-453, SOR/2000-224, SOR/2000-225, SOR/2000-259, SOR/2000-385, and SOR/2001-9 to SOR/2001-12.

In four of these sixteen instances the reason for which the amendment was not tabled was that the Minister of Justice formed an opinion that the regulation was so urgent that section 118 should not apply. In the other twelve cases the regulations were not tabled pursuant to section 118 because the minister formed the opinion that the changes made were immaterial or insubstantial.

As far as I could determine from the records of the House, the minister has not complied in those 16 cases with the duty imposed upon her by subsection 119(4) of the act to table a statement of reasons supporting her opinion that the section 118 requirement should not apply.

On October 17, 2001, my colleague, the member for Yorkton--Melville, rose on a point of order to request that the same minister observe the statutory tabling requirement in the case of yet another regulation which was registered as SOR/2001-336.

There is a fundamental distinction between the point of order raised by my colleague and the question of privilege I raise today. It is my contention that the minister's failure to table the required statements in relation to the instruments I have identified is a breach of the privileges of the House. This conclusion would not change even if the minister were to table the required statements today, tomorrow or the day after.

In failing to table the required statements the minister is not only breaching an order of the House as expressed in its statute but has also deprived members of their ability to verify that her reasons for exempting these regulations from the application of section 118 are sound and proper.

There can be no excuse for the minister's cavalier disregard of the statutory duty she owes to the House. Each of the regulations in question states in its preamble that the minister will lay a statement of reasons before each house as she is required to do by section 119 of the act. This is not a case where the minister was unaware of her duty.

Mr. Speaker, your predecessor was called upon in 1993 to rule on a similar question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River. The issue at that time concerned the failure of the minister of finance to table an order made under the Customs Act as it was his statutory duty to do. The member for Scarborough--Rouge River stated that he entertained no doubt that:

--the minister's failure to table a document required to be tabled by this House, whether intentional or accidental, tends to diminish the authority of the House of Commons and is something that might reasonably be held to constitute contempt by this House.

Speaker Fraser ruled on April 19, 1993, that a prima facie case of breach of privilege had been made and allowed the member to move a motion referring the matter to the Standing Committee on House Management. In his ruling Speaker Fraser reiterated that:

The requirements contained in our rules and statutory laws have been agreed upon by this House and constitute an agreement which I think all of us realize must be respected. Members cannot function if they do not have access to the material they need for their work and if our rules are being ignored and even statutory instruments are being disregarded.

The Speaker said he found it particularly disheartening that the government failed to table documents within the prescribed time and did not do so until after the matter was raised in the House. The Speaker noted that the tabling was a statutory requirement and quoted the member's comment:

It is difficult to conceive of any command of this House that could have more legitimacy than one contained in a law passed by this House.

The Speaker also agreed that disregard of a legislative command, even if unintentional, was an affront to the authority and dignity of parliament as a whole and the House in particular.

It should be noted that the statute in this case does not specify a particular time within which the minister must table a statement of reasons before both houses when a regulation is made without having first been laid in draft form before the House.

Does this mean that tabling of such a statement may be made at any time? Can it be years after the making of a regulation? The answer to both questions is no. In the absence of a specific tabling deadline the obligation of the minister must be understood to be an obligation to table her statement of reasons within a reasonable time following the enactment of the regulation made in reliance on subsections 119(2) or 119(3) of the Firearms Act.

It may be that reasonable people might disagree on whether a particular delay in tabling is reasonable or not in the circumstances. However, it is equally certain that no reasonable person would consider that a delay of two or three years is reasonable or was contemplated by the statute.

In any event the questions of whether or not a particular delay in fulfilling a tabling requirement was reasonable and whether there has in fact been a breach of the statutory duty imposed by subsection 119(4) are clearly at the heart of this question of privilege.

These are questions that the House itself will deal with in reaching a decision on the question of privilege.

At this stage, we are not concerned with a substantive determination of the question of privilege but only with a determination of whether or not the facts I have laid before the Speaker appear to give rise to a legitimate question of privilege. That is the only issue before the Speaker and, based on the ruling by your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the House should be allowed to deal with the substantive issue of privilege.

In closing, I believe that a review of this precedent will show that the repeated failure of the Minister of Justice, whom, by the way, I have given a notice to today, to table a statement of reasons in 16 instances for a period of over two years, beginning some three years ago, constitutes a prima facie breach of the privileges of the House.

Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to move an appropriate motion but I will seek advice from you. Should I table the motion today or later on when you so desire?