House of Commons Hansard #7 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was speech.

Topics

Auditor General
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

It is most unhelpful for the member to suggest who he believes or who he does not believe. I know he would not want to suggest anything else. Perhaps he will put his question directly and avoid that kind of reference in his remarks.

Auditor General
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

I will put my question directly to the Minister of Canadian Heritage. What does it take to light a fire under her to get the job done right all the time?

Auditor General
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Vancouver Centre
B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Secretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry the hon. member thinks it is unacceptable to have implemented all of the auditor general's recommendations.

Asbestos
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Gérard Binet Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am a little ways away and there is a lot of noise.

My question is for the Minister for International Trade and has to do with the safe use of asbestos.

The asbestos industry and its workers in Canada are being threatened by the arbitrary and unjustified decisions by a number of countries to ban asbestos, thus breaching the rules of international trade.

What is being done, and what does the Government of Canada intend to do to ensure that the rules of international trade are respected? Is the World Trade Organization the only avenue open to the Government of Canada to protect the asbestos industry and its workers?

Asbestos
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Frontenac—Mégantic for his interest in this matter. I also wish to congratulate him on getting elected, and welcome him to the House.

In October of last year, we appealed the ruling by the WTO panel on chrysotile asbestos. The panel should hand down its ruling sometime in March.

I would emphasize that our government worked hand in hand with the industry and the Government of Quebec on the wording of the appeal, and we can be proud of this close co-operation.

Young Offenders Act
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are growing increasingly more concerned over the violence associated with youth crime. Over the past three decades violent youth crime has increased by over 300%.

Since 1993 the government has promised substantive reform but it has failed to deliver. The minister's recycled act is simply the same old book with new covers and will be impossible to enforce. What is the point of introducing an act that cannot be enforced?

Young Offenders Act
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should know better than most in the House that the act will be enforced.

The act is based upon three fundamental values shared by Canadians regardless of where they live. First, we prevent youth crime. Second, we hold young people accountable. Third, we make sure we rehabilitate them and reintegrate them into Canadian society.

The hon. member should know that is the only way we will truly create a safer and more secure society.

Young Offenders Act
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Ontario attorney general says that the new youth justice act is bad news because it does not deal with the reality on the streets, in the courts and in the hospitals.

The Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario attorneys general say that there was a failure to consult on the bill. If the minister has been consulting, why is she not listening?

Young Offenders Act
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we have consulted on this legislation. We have been consulting for some three years and we have listened.

However, if the hon. member is suggesting that we on this side of the House will simply accept the solution of the attorney general of Ontario for youth crime, which seems to be let us put more young people in jail for longer, I am sorry but he can forget it.

Water Contamination
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the water in the municipality of Shannon is contaminated and the source of this contamination appears to be on the Valcartier military base.

Yesterday, the Government of Quebec announced the measures it intends to take to rectify this situation.

Given that the pollution appears to originate on the Valcartier military base, does the minister intend to work with the Government of Quebec to identify its specific source?

Water Contamination
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Haliburton—Victoria—Brock
Ontario

Liberal

John O'Reilly Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, DND officials are aware of the contamination in the municipality. There remains a number of questions about the source and severity.

DND is very concerned about the health and welfare of the residents of Shannon and other communities near Valcartier. As a landowner, employer and community member, the department is working closely with provincial and local authorities to ensure the safety of area residents, many of whom are current or retired Canadian forces members and civilian employees of the Department of National Defence.

Presence In The Gallery
Oral Question Period

February 6th, 2001 / 3 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Honourable Tim Stevenson, Minister of Employment and Investment of the province of British Columbia.

Presence In The Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege related to a committee. I want to point out that last March the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs studied a matter dealing with confidentiality of the work of legislative counsel. In fact the matter was referred to the committee by the House.

During a series of committee meetings, which started on March 28, 2000, the committee heard from a number of witnesses. In fact, on March 30 two employees in the office of legislative counsel, namely Louis-Philipe Côté and Diane McMurray, appeared as witnesses before the committee at the request of the committee.

Before making any statements, one of the witnesses asked:

Is the committee in a position to offer any safeguards against future reprisals for our wish to fully assist the committee in its deliberations with respect to the rights and privileges of members of Parliament as they relate to solicitor-client confidentiality?

In an examination of the transcript of that meeting, it is clearly evident from the witnesses' testimony that they alleged—and I want to emphasize alleged—chastisement and harassment for a period of some four years prior to this event before the same committee of the House. In fact, there was an harassment complaint laid by them at the committee on March 30, 2000 which had still not been resolved.

In the course of the discussions that ensued among committee members regarding the request for the granting of protection, the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough stated:

On this point, Mr. Chair, I would strongly urge you to give them certainly the assurance that they will if they tell the truth, which I fully expect they will, there is going to be no backlash or effect on their jobs or any sanction or any interference with their careers by virtue of coming before this committee—

After an examination of the transcript of that meeting, it was very clear and evident that the committee had afforded to them the protection of the committee.

It is extremely interesting to note that after their appearance these witnesses, as employees of the House, were shuffled. In fact, during early April they were told one would be seconded to the Library of Parliament and the other would be seconded to the Senate effective April 18. That was about two and a half weeks after they appeared before the committee.

There were a number of complaints later regarding this. On April 16 it was agreed that the two of them would go on sick leave for a short period of time. On June 9 they offered to return and were told no. They were put on leave with pay, notwithstanding their offer to work immediately.

In September, with a view to returning to work, the harassment charge, which was outstanding, was withdrawn. Again, they requested to return to work. They were not working, they were being paid but they were not allowed to return to work. It appears that they were ready, willing and able to return to work but they were being denied.

On Friday, October 13, after approximately four months of not working but being paid, and just as the election writ was descending, they received individual letters of termination. They were fired.

I want to suggest that the shotgun firing failed to relay or specify in any way specifics. There were no details or particulars. There was nothing but allegations and a push out on to the street. There was no severance package and no specific reasons. There was just a forced exit out onto the street on the eve of the election.

Beauchesne's 6th Edition, article 853 on page 237 states:

Every witness attending before the House or any committee thereof may claim the protection of the House in respect of the evidence to be given.

It is patently clear that this privilege was requested by these witnesses. It is patently clear it was given to these two people. That having been done, I would submit that the House cannot, should not and will not tolerate this type of interference with witnesses who have appeared before it.

I would also submit that their careers have been poisoned after 26 years of collective service to the House. I would also submit that if these dismissals are allowed to stand, we will never again see or hear an employee before a committee giving any evidence. I would have to ask who would blame anyone?

Finally and most importantly, I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, the temporal connection between their appearance before the committee, their workplace shuffle, the secondment and then out the door and their ultimate firing on the eve of the election call is far too coincidental to be ignored.

In closing, I submit that this is a prima facie question of privilege and I await your ruling as to whether I can put the question.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this question of privilege. I am sympathetic to some of the points raised by my hon. colleague. I think many members of the House of Commons are asking for increased resources, especially in legal counsel.

It seems that some of the institutional knowledge and the historic understanding of how we do business has been lost because these very experienced lawyers are not here to serve us daily. Therefore, I understand the need to have increased resources in the legal department. It is something that the Board of Internal Economy and members should be concerned about. I hope they will continue to raise the issue of how best we can serve all members of parliament on both sides of the House who do not have access to the government resources.

Let us hope that the promise in the throne speech that talked about increasing research dollars for the library also includes legal services to members in a way that helps us to do our jobs most effectively.

However, I have a problem with raising personnel issues on the floor of the House of Commons. I hope we can come to a speedy resolution or even an understanding of all the complexities that go into this sort of an issue.

When these two employees of the House appeared before the standing committee and asked for protection of the House, we did not understand that there were outstanding grievances between management and the employees about the working conditions and different things. We ended up hearing a kind of a rehash of the ongoing problems for which we did not have the background knowledge to deal with. In my opinion, it was not appropriate for the standing committee to hear the grievance process. It is not what the union agreement calls for. We should not handle a grievance process, in a public forum, on the floor of a committee or on the floor of the House of Commons.

Individuals certainly have the right of protection before a standing committee when they bring testimony and they should be allowed to speak freely. However, there is a question which needs to be asked before their testimony is heard. If it deals with an issue that has proper process in place, as long as the process is going ahead, then we should allow the management, the union and the representatives to move that forward.

Although I am sympathetic to many of the concerns raised by the member, especially in regard to resources to members in the area of legal services, I do not think that we should try to solve it on the floor of the House. I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that you also take that into consideration in your ruling.