House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nuclear.

Topics

Forest Industry
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is just plain nonsense. That is the Trudeau Salmon Arm salute to British Columbia all over again.

The government is prepared to let a vital industry in B.C. die. Where is its responsibility? Why does it show such ignorance toward British Columbians and why is it prepared to let 25,000 forest industry workers in B.C. lose their jobs?

The senior minister from Saskatchewan apparently knows where B.C. is. Why does he not tell the rest of his government about it and get some help for the problem they have out there?

Forest Industry
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman asks why the Government of Canada is not doing its job. The responsibility of the Government of Canada here is delivering the science.

We delivered the science in 1995. We have not received a request from the provincial government, which indeed is the government responsible for forest management practices. We have not received a request from that government for further assistance at this time.

Ken Hechtman
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, freelance journalist Ken Hechtman, from the Montreal weekly The Mirror , has just been captured in southeastern Afghanistan. Information about him is distressing and contradictory.

Could the Minister of Foreign Affairs bring us up to date and tell us how successful the representations made by his emissaries in Afghanistan have been thus far?

Ken Hechtman
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I have nothing new to report today. We have tried to find out more by sending two representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs based in Islamabad to the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan to try to obtain information.

At this point, there is very little available. We are also trying to maintain contact with the family, which, obviously, is very worried about the situation, which is very serious.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Secretary of State for Children and Youth. Would the minister inform the House on what the government is doing to ensure that aboriginal people have the training and skills development they need to participate in the labour market?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Western Arctic
Northwest Territories

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Secretary of State (Children and Youth)

Mr. Speaker, human resources development administers the five year $1.6 billion human resource development agreement with aboriginals which began in 1999 and is aimed at assisting aboriginal people to prepare for, find and maintain employment.

Under the strategy HRDC has signed 79 aboriginal human resource development agreements with first nations, Inuit, Metis and urban aboriginal organizations across Canada. They are meeting as we speak, from November 29 to December 1, to plan for future strategies and maintain their employment opportunities.

Immigration
Oral Question Period

November 29th, 2001 / 3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister. This fall the immigration minister initially said she needed Bill C-11 to speed up the process and fix the system. Then she flip-flopped by contradicting herself and said she already had the existing tools to detain where there was any security risk. Now she claims we need Bill C-42 to fix the mistakes of Bill C-11.

Given her acrobatics as a serial flip-flop artist, does the minister want to give us her preview of what next week's position will be and, moreover, will she just admit that Bill C-11 was a very bad bill from the get-go?

Immigration
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, nothing the minister of immigration says or does could match the flip-flops in the hon. member's question. The measure with respect to Bill C-11 and Bill C-42 was not to fix Bill C-42. It was to advance the bringing into application some of the most effective and meaningful parts of Bill C-42.

If the hon. member were serious about protecting the security of Canadians and their rights, he would be supporting the bill instead of coming up with his ridiculous question.

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 His Excellency Jean-Jack Queyranne, Minister of Relations with Parliament of the Republic of France.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Leeds—Grenville
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Jordan Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege arising from the debate of yesterday afternoon. I want to thank the table clerks and the clerks of the committee on procedure and House affairs who helped me in haste to put together the facts of this question of privilege.

In his remarks concerning Bill C-36, the Leader of the Opposition made repeated references to the findings, proceedings and evidence of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs concerning the matter of a breach of privilege brought to the House by the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast. The Chair will know that the matter was referred to the standing committee and the report was tabled this morning by the chair of that committee, the member for Peterborough.

As a foundation for my argument I draw the attention of the House to page 884 of Marleau and Montpetit:

Committee reports must be presented to the House before they can be released to the public...Even when a report is adopted in public session, the report itself is considered confidential until it has actually been presented in the House.

It goes on to say:

It is not in order for Members to allude to committee proceedings or evidence in the House until the committee has presented its report to the House.

I would argue that the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition contravened both conventions. On the first issue he twice referred to the fact that the committee concluded that there was no breach of privilege. The reference from the House required the committee to recommend on that issue and the issue of the alleged breach. That finding was the essence of the report. It was the committee's response to the reference from the House.

The committee did go in camera for a portion of the discussion so the notion that confidentiality was expected could not have been misinterpreted. On the larger issue of when and why committees go in camera, a practice that I think all members try to minimize, a major factor is the confidentiality protections that public proceedings enjoy as laid out in Marleau and Montpetit.

To take elements of the proceedings out of context and bring them to the floor of the House, using the argument that they were technically not part of the in camera discussions, may very well result in a dramatic increase in in camera activities by committees. In addition, the context of the member's criticism leaves no doubt as to the inference he was making. On November 28 the Leader of the Opposition stated in Hansard :

—why did the committee conclude that no breach of privilege occurred?

Marleau and Montpetit specifically included findings from public meetings to reinforce the fact that the finding is not the conclusion of the committee until the report is tabled in the House. Members are prohibited from cherry-picking aspects of the process without the context of the full and complete report. The hon. member continued his critique of the committee:

Then for some reason the committee decided to abandon its responsibilities in the incident related to Bill C-36.

I would argue that the responsibilities he refers to being abandoned were not fulfilled until the report was tabled in the House. That happened this morning. He continued:

I do not know how the committee will explain why it concluded that no breach of privilege had occurred when it tabled its report.

In fact the report had not been tabled. As I understand it, it was delayed at the request of the Alliance Party.

The words in context of the member were a conscious criticism of the findings of the committee, again before the actual findings were tabled. The member chose to exploit findings of the committee to potentially strengthen his political argument. The finding of no breach was a fait accompli. He referred to it in the past tense. He went on to disagree with and criticize the Liberal members of the committee in the House for that finding.

The only issue I take exception to is the timing. He should have waited until the finding was tabled in the House like all other members of this place. By pre-empting the finding and the reference that it was the final conclusion of the committee prior to the chair tabling the report this morning, the Leader of the Opposition, an officer of the House, showed contempt for the rights and privileges of all members of this place.

On the second issue of the reference to evidence and proceedings the transcript is clear. The member repeatedly described evidence and the voting pattern of the committee on a number of motions that were dealt with. I rose on a point of order at the time to object to the content of his remarks but was told it was a matter of debate. I would appreciate some clarity on this issue from the Speaker.

I put the issue in your capable hands and learned mind, Mr. Speaker. Should you find there is a prima facie breach of privilege I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member's question of privilege cannot be taken seriously for two reasons.

First, everything the Leader of the Opposition said came from a public meeting of the standing committee on November 22, including the motion to report to the House that a breach of privilege had not occurred. I invite the Speaker to review the proceedings from November 22 and compare them to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. Any mention of the report by the Leader of the Opposition was in the context of a request. Again, if you review the leader's request and the report, you will see that they do not match.

Second, the member's question of privilege is out of order because the proper procedure to raise a question of privilege involving a committee is to bring the matter before the standing committee. If the standing committee concludes that a breach has occurred, it could report the breach to the House. I refer the hon. member to page 128 of Marleau and Montpetit:

Speakers have consistently ruled that, except in the most extreme situations, they will only hear questions of privilege arising from committee proceedings upon presentation of a report from the committee which directly deals with the matter and not as a question of privilege raised by an individual Member.

I bring your attention to the fact that the hon. member was in the House affairs committee earlier this day and did not raise the matter whatsoever. The hon. member does not understand the parliamentary procedure and definitely does not understand privilege. It is evident today in the manner in which he raises the issue and by his behaviour at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs when dealing with the question of privilege regarding the premature disclosure of the contents of Bill C-36.

During the public proceedings of the committee the hon. member, as the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary, led his Liberal members to shut down the opposition, gag the privy council and sweep the matter under the carpet. His members made the lamest excuses to discontinue the study such as it costs too much to investigate the matter, the committee has gone far enough and it is too difficult a task.

If the hon. member wants to talk about contempt he should look no further than at his behaviour and efforts today. He should take note of another aspect of parliamentary privilege. Page 26 of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada declares:

“One of the first and greatest of its privileges is free speech and one of the advantages of legislative bodies is the right of exposing and denouncing abuses by means of free speech”.

If any privilege is under siege today it is the right of a member to speak freely in the House and expose and denounce the abuses of the government. The premature disclosure of the contents of Bill C-36 is one example. The lack of action to deal with the matter is yet another. The government use of closure on Bill C-36 is yet another example.

The member's attempt to question the right of the Leader of the Opposition to speak freely in the House is conclusive evidence that the government's contentious behaviour regarding the proceedings on Bill C-36 is pathological. I ask the member and the House to consider the report in question and the Deloitte & Touche findings which my leader referred to. The report stated at page 11:

The disquieting aspect, however, is that a small portion of the article contains or alludes to information, which, at the time prior to the tabling of the bill itself, was classified secret and was subject to protection as a confidence of cabinet.

In addition, my leader made reference to the fact that it was disclosed to the committee that the PCO had the Deloitte & Touche report edited prior to its delivery to the committee. The opposition smelled a rat and moved to use the authority of the committee to obtain a copy of the unedited report. However the member, probably acting on the instructions of the PMO, led his Liberal majority once again to vote the motion down.

All this took place at a public meeting. I invite the Speaker and the public to examine those minutes, not just to clear the air but to expose the disrespectful and contemptuous actions and behaviour of the Liberal government in this cover-up.

It is no wonder that the contents of Bill C-42 were also leaked to the media prior to being tabled in the House. Why should any government official be deterred from leaking information to the media ahead of parliament when the majority in control of the House is too weak-kneed and complacent to take any corrective action to avoid it? There is contempt here today, but you will not find it on this side of the House. You should look to your right.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it will be up to you to ultimately decide this question. I have not had an opportunity to examine what the Leader of the Opposition said, but if it turns out he was quoting from a committee report that had not yet been tabled in the House then in fact he would have been doing something that was inappropriate and inconsistent with a lot of complaints his party and mine and others have made about the releasing of committee reports before they are tabled in the House.

On the other hand, if he was referring to information that was in the public domain, that was available in the course of a public meeting and that was part of the public proceedings of the committee, people may not like it but I do not see it as something that was reprehensible.

It will be up to you to examine the record to see whether or not the Leader of the Opposition was behaving in a way that was inconsistent with good practice in the House and inconsistent with what the Leader of the Opposition and his party have condemned on occasion. I would urge you, if the latter is the case, to rule accordingly.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am the chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and I do not particularly want to engage in this debate, but as it is the committee on procedure and House affairs it might be useful to you if I were to lay out how we handled this matter.

On October 15 when the House leader of the official opposition raised the question of privilege you referred it to our committee. On October 18 we had our first public meeting on this matter. Our witnesses included the House leader of the opposition and the Minister of Justice. On November 1 we had another public meeting and the witnesses then were from the Privy Council Office. They described to us the inquiries which were in progress.

On November 21, following some hundreds of interviews, all members of the committee received copies of the documents circulated by the Privy Council Office. These included the Deloitte & Touche report and a comparison which an official of the PCO provided between the National Post article and various ministerial public announcements.

On the day following, November 22, there was another meeting of the standing committee and we had witnesses again from the Privy Council Office. The meeting was mainly held in public but we went in camera for members to be able to direct the chair and officials on the drafting of a report.

Members of the committee who supported this and I have gone to a great deal of trouble to avoid in camera meetings, except where they are absolutely necessary. On November 27 we had another public meeting. The report was agreed to and it was agreed that there should be dissenting opinions attached.

On November 29, today, and a day later than I had originally intended, at the request of the official opposition I tabled the report. Mr. Speaker, I thought those facts would be useful to you.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the opposition House leader made an interesting argument essentially attacking me personally. I want to point out to that member that if he wants to attack my credibility that is fine. However I am standing here protecting the rights and privileges of 301 MPs and I will not let him run roughshod over those rights and privileges. There is no absolute right of free speech in this place if it infringes on the privileges of members of the House.

I brought this issue here and I would argue it is the appropriate forum for it. I do not feel that his counterargument that I am in contempt is treating this issue with the respect it deserves.