House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was veterans.

Topics

Jacques Cartier Bridge
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Jacques Cartier Bridge ranks second only to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge for the number of suicides annually. Recommendations have been made, not only by the coroner, but also by a group of experts, that the Federal Bridge Corporation install suicide barriers. The Corporation is opposed to this.

Does the Minister of Transport intend to get the Federal Bridge Corporation to re-examine the situation and comply with the task force recommendation for suicide barriers to stop this loss of human lives?

Jacques Cartier Bridge
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this is a problem with many of the world's bridges, particularly those in Canada. There is nothing to prove, however, that this will solve the problem.

In this case, moreover, it is the responsibility of the Federal Bridge Corporation to determine whether to install barriers on the Jacques Cartier and other federal bridges.

Shipyards
Oral Question Period

Noon

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, thanks to the corporate paid fishing trip for the industry minister, the $55 million contribution to Irving already fails the smell test. Add to that two more foul odours.

Before employees can receive their severance pay they must first vote to decertify their unions. Second, a diaper manufacturer is rumoured to be interested in the shipbuilding property.

Fish, diapers and offensive labour practices, it is the big stinky. Will the government table all the details of this truly odious agreement?

Shipyards
Oral Question Period

Noon

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, that is a pretty convoluted question.

Let us understand one thing. The situation that we faced, certainly when I was the industry minister, was that we were simply not succeeding on a competitive basis in that industry. We had a very modern yard and well-trained workers in Saint John with no work.

As a result of decisions taken in this year's budget we hope we will see productive labour return to the site of the Saint John yard. That will benefit greatly the people of that region.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on October 2, 2003, by the hon. member for St. Albert, concerning his claim that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner had overspent funds appropriated by the House. I would like to thank the hon. member for St. Albert for raising this issue, as well as the hon. government House leader for his comments.

In support of his charge, the hon. member for St. Albert cited the Auditor General's “Report on the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada”. The report notes that despite the requirement for organizations in the federal government to make financial statements that are complete, accurate and fair, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner had failed to do so.

Paragraph 111 of the report states:

We found that despite these requirements, the preparers of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner's financial statements for the fiscal year ending 31 March 2003--the Director, Financial Services, the Chief of Staff, and the Executive Director--knowingly omitted about $234,000 of accounts payable at year end.

The report concludes in paragraph 112 that:

The effect of the omission was to mislead Parliament by creating the impression that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner had spent only the amounts authorized by Parliament for the 2002-03 fiscal year.

On October 2, the hon. government House leader indicated that he would endeavour to verify that information communicated to the House had been accurate. On October 6, the hon. minister returned to the House to clarify the procedure the government uses in cases such as this. In his remarks, the hon. government House leader pointed out that the procedure for dealing with the overspending of an appropriation is well established both in Treasury Board guidelines and in the Financial Administration Act.

Subsection 37.1(4) of the Financial Administration Act states:

Where… a payment is made that results in an expenditure that is in excess of an appropriation,(a)the amount by which the expenditure exceeds the balance then remaining in the appropriation constitutes a first charge against the next appropriation of the immediately subsequent fiscal year;

The hon. government House leader stated:

Therefore, the $234,000 will be recorded in the Public Accounts for 2002-03 since that is the year in which the expenses were incurred.

This will result in reporting in the Public Accounts 2002-03 an overexpenditure on that vote, in this case Vote 45 of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, by approximately $234,000--

As hon. members are aware, funds requested in the estimates must be approved by Parliament. The government can only spend funds in the amount that Parliament has appropriated and only for the purpose for which the funds are appropriated. With respect to the oversight of government expenditure, House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 698 states:

First, Parliament must assent to all legislative measures which implement public policy and the House of Commons authorizes both the amounts and objects or destination of all public expenditures. Second, through its review of the annual departmental performance reports, the Public Accounts and the reports of the Auditor General, the House ascertains that no expenditure was made other than those it had authorized.

Both the hon. member for St. Albert and the hon. government House leader agree that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner overspent the appropriation in vote 45 for 2002-03 by some $234,000. That point is not disputed.

The hon. member for St. Albert contends that this will pose difficulties for the President of the Treasury Board. The government House leader counters that the situation will be dealt with in due course when the Public Accounts for 2002-03 are published in accordance with existing Treasury Board guidelines and the provisions of the Financial Administration Act.

As hon. members know, the role of the Speaker is a restricted one. House of Commons Procedure and Practice , p. 261, states:

Despite the considerable authority the Speaker holds, he or she may exercise only those powers conferred by the House, within the limits established by the House itself. In ruling on matters of procedure, the Speaker adheres strictly to this principle—

The question that I must address as Speaker is whether the rules or practices of the House have been infringed in any way. The timing of this complaint is somewhat problematic for the Chair since it anticipates potential difficulties. Thus, for example, the Auditor General has suggested that the House will be misled while the government House leader has assured the House that the item in question will be correctly set out in the public accounts. Even the hon. member for St. Albert seemed satisfied that the interim privacy commissioner is taking the necessary steps to ensure that this will be so.

On June 12, 2003, as part of its approval of the main estimates for 2003-04, the House granted the Office of the Privacy Commissioner $9.8 million as the appropriation for Vote 45. Members will no doubt want to inquire as to whether the $234,000 has been charged against that appropriation, as required by the Financial Administration Act.

While the Chair can find no evidence of a direct attempt to mislead hon. members, I find it regrettable that once again members have found it difficult to obtain the information they require from the estimates documents. Although the overexpenditure will be set out in the Public Accounts for 2002-03, those Public Accounts are usually not available to hon. members when they consider the main estimates for the subsequent year. I know that many members would find it useful to be informed of cases such as this before they have completed their consideration of the main estimates.

I congratulate the hon. member for St. Albert for his continued vigilance in these matters, which is a credit both to him and to the House. At the present time, however, I can find no grounds on which to find that any breach of our rules has occurred.

Oral Question Period
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Secretary of State (Western Economic Diversification) (Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for St. Albert, to whom you just referred, asked a question of me in the House yesterday with respect to one of my employees. In addition to the answer I provided to him yesterday, I have provided him with a detailed letter this morning setting out the comprehensive issues with respect to that employee.

Pursuant to the Standing Orders of the House, it is my wish to now table it in the House as it is a matter of interest to the House. I do so with two copies of the letter in each official language.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

York West
Ontario

Liberal

Judy Sgro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 35 petitions.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Comuzzi Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to table, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Transport. Pursuant to its order it reviewed the supplementary estimates under Votes 10a, 20a, 40a and 45. A copy of the relevant minutes of the proceedings of meeting number 38 is also tabled.

I want to thank all the members of the committee from both sides of the House for carrying out their duties and spending a great deal of time on scrutinizing government spending.

I wish I could also thank the Minister of Transport for making himself available yesterday during four hours of questioning, but at that particular time he failed to inform the committee that he was going to leave the House and make an announcement of $692 million for VIA Rail which had never appeared before the House.

I make that report on behalf of the committee.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present today.

The first is a petition submitted primarily from people living in the riding of Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant through their member of the provincial parliament and given to me to deliver on their behalf. It is a petition against the federal gun registry. It points out that the registry will not save lives and is costing billions. This raises to almost 11,000 the number of signatures I have submitted in various petitions relating to Bill C-68 and the gun registry.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition relates to stem cell research. It points out that adult stem cell research shows promising results and encourages parliamentarians to focus our energies upon promoting adult stem cell research and not embryonic stem cell research.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the third petition is one that has been circulated quite widely in my own constituency. It draws the attention of the House to the fact that Bill C-250 has the effect of placing dangerous restrictions upon freedom of expression in religion. I note, of course, that Bill C-250 is no longer before this chamber. It is, however, before the Senate and I am sure that members of that chamber will want to take note of the fact that this petition has been submitted.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I would like to present two bundles of 10 petitions each containing many hundreds of names from my riding of York West and from the greater Toronto area. The petitioners call upon Parliament to take all necessary means to maintain and support the definition of marriage in Canada as a union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Point of Order
Routine Proceedings

October 24th, 2003 / 12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order and apologize to the hon. members for interrupting, but I waited for the first appropriate opportunity.

I let my colleague from Thunder Bay—Superior North finish his presentation earlier, under Presenting Reports from Committees. This colleague made comments about the presence of the minister at the Standing Committee on Transport yesterday, and is clearly showing discontent with the announcement made by the Minister of Transport.

You allowed him that much leeway. What I would like to know is whether a member is allowed, under Presenting Reports from Committees, to voice a position contrary to the majority of, if not all the members of the Standing Committee on Transport.

I would appreciate your input on that, Mr. Speaker, because the last remarks by the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North should be withdrawn, because he was certainly not speaking on behalf of the committee as a whole.

Point of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Our hon. colleague from Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans is raising an interesting point; it is in order though and, as such, calls for a short clarification.

With respect to the substance of the member's point of order, I agree that it is unusual for a member to add comments about his opposition to a majority decision by the committee. This may raise a question for debate. However, it is not contrary to our rules. No rule specifically permits or prohibits it. It is the exception rather than the rule.

As far as our procedure is concerned, I indicated earlier that there is nothing to say it can or cannot be done. Therefore, I must say that this is more a matter for debate than one governed by our rules.

If any further clarification is necessary, I will gladly give the floor to the hon. member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans.

Point of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand very well what you are saying and you know how much I respect the institution that you represent. That said, I am not in any way challenging your decision. I simply want to make you aware of the following situation.

When the section “presenting reports from committees” is called, it is my understanding that the point of view of the entire committee is presented. The member who has the opportunity to table a report on behalf of a committee represents the consensus reached by that committee and if comments are added that he disagrees with—