House of Commons Hansard #181 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-55.

Topics

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear. I can tell the member that the present Prime Minister has taken a deeper interest in the softwood lumber dispute with the United States than any previous prime minister. At every opportunity, he has raised it with the president of the United States.

Everyone has given 100% effort and energy on this softwood lumber file. We have been working with the provinces and with industry. There is a consensus for the efforts we have made.

The problem is not in this House--

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

May 2nd, 2002 / 3 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Lyonpo Jigmi Y.Thinley, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I also draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of Mr. Jose Kusugak, President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I have a notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Ancaster--Dundas--Flamborough--Aldershot.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege to complain that contempt has been shown to parliament and my rights as an MP have been abused by the privacy commissioner when yesterday he chose to express his concerns about Bill C-55 by issuing a press release and giving media interviews before and without reporting those concerns to parliament as he is enjoined to do by sections 38, 39 and 40 of the Privacy Act.

I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that section 38 says that the privacy commissioner shall submit a report on the activities of his office once a year. Where a matter is of such urgency or importance that it cannot be deferred to the year-end report, section 39 gives the commissioner the option of making a special interim report to parliament. Section 40 says that these reports must be transmitted to the Speakers of the House and the Senate for tabling in those Houses.

In writing about Bill C-55 in the aforementioned press release, the privacy commissioner uses language such as “a dramatic expansion of privacy-invasive police powers without explanation or justification” and “practices similar to those that exist in totalitarian societies”.

These are extreme and troubling statements. Surely, if they truly do reflect the privacy commissioner's concerns, they are matters of importance and urgency that should have been reported to parliament as provided for in section 39. Instead, within not much more than an hour after the Minister of Transport opened second reading debate on Bill C-55, the privacy commissioner issued an elaborate press release to all major media by fax and other means, condemning a very specific aspect of one section of the bill. By late afternoon the commissioner, one Mr. George Radwanski, was being interviewed on national television.

Mr. Speaker, the direction in sections 38, 39 and 40 of the Privacy Act is clear. If the privacy commissioner has an important concern, he shall report it to parliament and he may do it any time depending upon the emergency of the matter. Not to do so, to choose to share his concern with the media first by a wilful and deliberate press release, is as eloquent a demonstration of contempt of this place as ever this House might see.

I remind you, Mr. Speaker, the privacy commissioner is an officer of parliament. The position is created by statute and subject to statute. To ignore both the intent and the spirit of the Privacy Act and his responsibility to report to parliament is unacceptable behaviour on the part of the privacy commissioner. The affront, I point out, is directed at both Houses in that the act requires the privacy commissioner to report to both the Speaker of the House and the Speaker of the Senate.

Furthermore, the reason why officers of parliament report to the Speaker is so that you can table the reports in the House. You do that, Mr. Speaker, so that MPs can access their expert opinions to better understand all aspects of legislation being considered in the House and in committee. The earlier such reports are tabled, the earlier and more completely the opportunity MPs and senators have to use them to positively contribute to creating the best laws possible for Canadians.

Mr. Radwanski's views on Bill C-55, by virtue of his position as a privacy commissioner, are exquisitely relevant to debate on a bill like Bill C-55. I was looking for and expecting to hear of them, though probably at committee stage. Instead I learned of his views when I was scrummed yesterday after question period.

“Had I read the press release”, I was asked. “Do you think the bill goes far beyond anti-terrorism?” I was also asked. Not only had I not read the press release, I had not even received it. It went only to the media--

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair has listened attentively and I must say respectfully to the hon. member that in my judgment the officer certainly always has and must have the ability to fulfill his obligations. I do not see where there has been a breach of the member's privileges. I will listen a little more, but I would ask the member to get directly to the question of privilege.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, I checked and I was unable to find any MPs who had received so much as an e-mail from the privacy commissioner outlining or even suggesting his concerns about Bill C-55.

I will skip over a bit if you wish, Mr. Speaker, and I say first that my rights as an MP were abrogated because I did not get timely access to the privacy commissioner's urgent views on legislation that was then before the House. If that is not an abuse of my ability to act as an MP, I do not know what is.

Second, my rights are being abrogated because the privacy commissioner is using his press releases and media interviews to pose as the champion of privacy at the expense of MPs. His message is consistent and clear. He must speak up to defend privacy because MPs cannot be trusted to do so. That is what he is saying.

In the privacy commissioner's press release, which I offer for your perusal, Mr. Speaker, you will note that the commissioner concludes by saying that his concerns are of the greatest gravity and it is his duty to seek explanation or amendments to the law. Amendments? Where is it written in the law that--

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Respectfully once again, I see no matter that would lead me to rule that there is a breach of privilege on this question at this time. I will consider that matter closed.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast
B.C.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the government House leader what the business will be for the remainder of this week and obviously next week? Could he possibly advise us when he expects Bill C-5 will be back before the House?

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, today and tomorrow we will continue with Bill C-55, dealing with public safety. If that is completed, we would turn to Bill C-47, dealing with excise.

Next week we will have the unusual pleasure of three days, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, as allotted days for opposition debate. On Wednesday we will return to business unfinished this week, including Bill C-5, species at risk.

I would like to designate Tuesday evening of next week as the first evening for consideration, in committee of the whole, of estimates, pursuant to Standing Order 81.4(a). I would also advise that consultations are ongoing with regard to holding certain take note debates on Wednesday evening of next week.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise the House that all votes under National Defence in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2003 be considered first on May 7 and all votes under Public Works and Government Services be considered on the next day so designated by the minister.

Also, at this time I seek the unanimous consent of the House to revert to the application for emergency debates.

I make this request because at 11 a.m. today the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled against Canada in the lawsuit filed by the U.S. softwood lumber industry. The U.S. ITC ruled that the Canadian imports of softwood lumber pose a threat of injury to the U.S. industry.

Today's announcement is a worst case disaster scenario for Canadian forest workers, communities and the industry and is a major hit for the Canadian economy. The Canadian federal government must take bold action and strong leadership at this crucial time.

There is no time to waste. A contingency plan announcement containing worker relief and tariff payment measures is required now. Up to 50,000 Canadians, because of this ruling, are at the risk of losing their jobs.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there consent?

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.