House of Commons Hansard #151 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was driving.

Topics

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I was ready to rule on a question of privilege raised yesterday by the hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River but then I was notified that the government House leader wished to intervene. He has done so and I want some time to take the suggestions he has made to the Chair under consideration before I make my ruling on this matter.

I understand that some hon. members--and the hon. member for Mississauga South has expressed this--wish to move expeditiously. I propose dealing with the matter as quickly as I reasonably can and I hope to come back to the House tomorrow with an answer to the issues raised by the government House leader. I think it is important that they be dealt with at least in part or whatever parts I think reasonable when I come around to making the ruling on this, but I will move expeditiously.

I think that disposes of the question of privilege.

Now, is there unanimous consent for the member for Mississauga South to move his motion?

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Message from the Senate
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bill, to which the concurrence of this House is desired, Bill S-10, an act concerning personal watercraft in navigable waters.

Pursuant to Standing Order 135(2), the bill is deemed to have been read the first time in order for a second reading at the next sitting of the House.

(Motion agreed to and read the first time)

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to raise a point of order on answers I have received from the Minister of National Revenue over the last three days.

One of the primary reasons question period exists is so that elected representatives can bring the concerns of their constituents to the attention of the government and ministers of the Crown, and so the government, through ministers, can respond to those concerns. Canadians ought to have the right to expect those responses to be given in good faith and that they can trust the response is the position of their government.

We can all accept from time to time that there will be mistakes or that the information required is not available. This why we on this side of the House understand and respect it when a minister says that he or she does not have the answer but that he or she will look into the matter.

On Monday, I asked a question on a matter of very great concern to my community dealing with a facility already under construction in my riding for the inspection of U.S.-bound trains. This facility would require trains to slow down substantially, causing further traffic tie-ups in my community, as well as security risk issues. The minister told the House, and I will quote from Hansard :

I can assure the member opposite the actions that are being taken are both appropriate and well considered.

The very next day on the same subject, the minister told the House, and again I quote from Hansard :

I can tell the House that no project has been approved—

After that question I asked one of my staff to go immediately down to the site. They took pictures of the actual construction equipment that is operating and continues to operate today on that site, and somebody has approved that work.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

That sounds to me like a debate. The hon. member for Windsor West clearly has a disagreement with the answers he has received but he knows he has wonderful remedies under the standing orders for this and that he can ask for a late show debate on the evening of his choice.

I am afraid that to get into an argument about whether or not a question or an answer is accurate is something that he cannot do under the guise of a point of order. He has to have some procedural problem here and, on the face of anything I have heard so far, there does not seem to be one.

I would invite him to submit a question for a late show debate at the earliest opportunity. I think he asked a question today, if I am not mistaken, so maybe he can do one before 4 p.m. which I believe is the deadline. I think that is the appropriate way to deal with this matter.

On another point of order, the hon. member for St. John's West.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, there is a real possibility that the House of Commons will be in the state of suspension after this week. It is widely rumoured that the Prime Minister will stop the House from meeting with the use of prorogation of the session.

We all know that the Auditor General has in preparation a major report covering a number of matters. If Parliament is prorogued the report would remain secret until a new session is convened. Under the Constitution that could be a year from now.

Each of the sections of the Auditor General Act governing the reporting of the Auditor General to the House contains the instruction for the conveyance of the report from the Auditor General to the Speaker and from the Speaker to the House of Commons.

It is what the Speaker does with the report that should concern each of us.

In various sections of the act it states:

--the Speaker of the House of Commons shall lay each such report before the House of Commons forthwith after receiving it or, if that House is not then sitting, on any of the first fifteen days on which that House is sitting after the Speaker receives it.

There is an obligation on the part of the Speaker to table any report. It is a matter of practice rather than statute that a report is kept confidential until it is actually tabled.

On numerous occasions we on this side of the House have argued that the House should be the first recipient of such reports in order to protect the rights of members to see the reports and to be able to respond to them inside or outside the House.

I stress that this is a matter of practice and this has been reinforced by many assertions that premature disclosure of such a document is contemptuous to the House.

However we know that the House has the ability to waive any claim if it wishes and, in this case, I think most Canadians would agree there is greater public interest to be served by getting this report into the hands of the members and the wider community, including the public servants and departments touched by the Auditor General's report.

Simply put, it is not in the public interest to have this report remain secret because of a claim that the House of Commons requires to see it first.

Certainly the House will want—and the act requires—the report be tabled and be received officially into the records of the House. That action triggers certain things, including the referral of the report to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts under the authority of the Standing Orders.

However it is only practice that keeps the report secret between the time it is received by the Speaker and the moment the Speaker tables it.

I am not prepared to argue that the Speaker should unilaterally release the anticipated report. I do argue that the House should give an instruction to the Speaker to make the report public if Parliament has been prorogued.

While there is an assumption that there will be a new session of this Parliament, this is only conjecture. The election could be called at any time and this report would remain secret from Canadians until after an election. This is not in the public interest.

There is a remedy, Mr. Speaker. Without altering the Speaker's statutory duty to table the report in any new session and this is important the report should be tabled in the new session so that the automatic reference to the public accounts committee is not compromised or laid open to question. Without altering the duty to table, the House could waive its claim to the right of first access and the Speaker could be empowered to make the report available to members and the public when it is received.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I ask for unanimous consent to move that notwithstanding any practice of the House, when the Speaker receives the report from the Auditor General during a period when Parliament has been prorogued, the Speaker shall cause the report to be made available to members and the public immediately; and that the House, in this instance, hereby waives its undoubted right to confidentiality of the report until it is laid before the House.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for St. John's West has, frankly, pulled a fast one. He has made a speech in support of a consent motion that he said was a point of order. I thought he was going to suggest a point of order that required some kind of ruling from the Chair, but clearly he did not. He came up with a motion at the end instead.

While I enjoyed the hon. member's argument, I thought he was going to make some cogent argument that dealt with the rules of the House and invite a ruling from the Chair but he did not.

Therefore this is not a point of order at all. However is there unanimous consent for the hon. member to move his motion?

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I am afraid there is no consent. I hope the next time he will tell us that is what he is going to do at the beginning and face the consequences rather than make a speech.

National Defence Act
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to section 96 of the Statutes of Canada, 1998, chapter 35, I have the pleasure to table, in both official languages, the first independent review by the Right Hon. Antonio Lamer, PC, CC, CD, of the provisions and operation of Bill C-25, an act to amend the National Defence Act, and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

I also have the honour to table, in both official languages, a second document on the comments by the Minister of National Defence with respect to the first independent review of Bill C-25, an act to amend the National Defence Act, and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

International Labour Organization
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Bramalea—Gore—Malton—Springdale
Ontario

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to article 19 of the International Labour Organization constitution, member states are required to introduced new ILO conventions and recommendations to the competent authorities.

I am pleased to submit to the House, in both official languages, two copies of the Canadian position with respect to recommendation 193, a protocol to convention 155, and recommendation 194 adopted by the International Labour Organization conference in June 2002.

Westbank First Nation Self-government Agreement
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Miramichi
New Brunswick

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the Westbank First Nation self-government agreement signed October 3, 2003.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

November 5th, 2003 / 3:30 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 26 petitions.