House of Commons Hansard #55 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was claims.

Topics

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the labour force survey results for the month of January have now been released by Statistics Canada.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development Canada please tell the House what the latest figures mean for Canadians and for the labour force as a whole?

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Shefford
Québec

Liberal

Diane St-Jacques Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, after an exceptional year in 2002, with an increase of 560,000 jobs, the Statistics Canada figures released today indicate that the rate of unemployment continues its downward trend, and was 7.4% in January.

This news is all the more positive, when we consider that, since October 1993, there have been 2.8 million jobs created, there are 365,000 fewer Canadians unemployed and the unemployment rate has dropped 3.8%.

This is reason for optimism as far as future employment prospects are concerned. This government will continue to encourage strong participation in the Canadian labour market.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

Noon

Canadian Alliance

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment.

The new, unproclaimed species at risk law is already throwing guide outfitters out of work in my riding. Healthy caribou herds in the Itcha Ilgachuz Mountains of western B.C. have been lumped in with the red listed herd of the Cariboo Mountains even with over 500 kilometres between the two herds and no cross migration.

The government has ruled that this western herd cannot be hunted this year even though it is healthy and growing.

Why is this healthy herd being lumped in with a weak herd so far away and why is the environment department not co-operating with British Columbia to reclassify this healthy western B.C. herd of caribou?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

Noon

York South—Weston
Ontario

Liberal

Alan Tonks Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the species at risk legislation is proactive legislation that acts in stewardship models with people who have the herds and where they have been infected, working with provincial health authorities. Where there is a deleterious impact that has been described, it will be taken into consideration. That is the approach that we use.

I would suggest to the member that he take it up further with provincial health authorities and with agricultural authorities.

Human Resources Deelopment
Oral Question Period

February 7th, 2003 / noon

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, in order to prevent a shortage of specialized workers, Quebec has developed important labour training tools. However, it is still short $200 million that the federal government refuses to provide under the Canada-Quebec agreement.

Given the considerable flexibility in the Employment Insurance Act for reinvestment in labour training, does the Minister of Human Resources Development intend to begin negotiations with the Government of Quebec to transfer all of the money set aside for labour training?

Human Resources Deelopment
Oral Question Period

Noon

Shefford
Québec

Liberal

Diane St-Jacques Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the Government of Canada is doing everything in its power to help with training. It is acutely aware of the problem. The money has already been transferred to Quebec City and approximately $600 million per year could indeed help this problem.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

Noon

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, tax season is here again and the government has still done nothing to plug the outrageous tax loophole where businesses can deduct fines as a business expense.

The minister said that most of the claims were denied but she knows full well that they succeed on appeal and that is why the Supreme Court said that Parliament must change the act to deal with the issue.

Why will the government not amend the Income Tax Act to ensure that no one in the country will ever again get a tax deduction for breaking the law?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

Noon

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member acknowledges, this is a matter that has been dealt with by the courts in a way that reflects the fact that there may be circumstances that sometimes would result in the courts deeming that an expenditure of this nature is properly deductible. That is something that the courts have decided.

We will be looking at other issues related to the Income Tax Act. When I table the budget on February 18 the hon. member will be enlightened concerning them.

Presence in gallery
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

I would like to draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the ladies' gallery of this year's recipients of the Mathieu da Costa Award: Alana Poon, Hanna Crump, Chloe Hamilton, Gerard De Fancesco, Danny St. Jacques, Sarah Beaupré, Kara Chan, Kristin Blackmore and Kylene Cachelin.

Presence in gallery
Oral Question Period

Noon

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence in gallery
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

I have notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

Noon

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, for members of Parliament to do their jobs effectively we need to operate on the basis of good information. That information is often provided by the minister responsible for our critic areas, in this case the Minister of Health.

Giving the minister and her department full credit, they do provide us on a daily basis with the media clippings, reports from across the country.

The reason I bring this forward today to the floor of the House is that I think there was a deliberate attempt by the minister and her department to withhold information from individual members of Parliament, and I refer to those clippings.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, we are debating the so-called health care accord reached with the first ministers. It has been an important subject and in fact the number one topic on the minds of most Canadians.

Today, when I received these clippings they were unusually thin, fewer pages than what we normally get. In fact, on the front page of these clippings provided by the department it says “all FMM (first ministers meetings) related clips are provided in separate package with limited distribution”.

That limited distribution is restricted to the government side of the House. None of the health critics on this side of the House received that distribution of clippings, which we need to get the information required to question the minister.

Mr. Speaker, you know full well that the minister has been very much confused on how much money is going into this new package in terms of dollars for provinces and dollars for the aboriginals. She was floundering the last couple of days, so there is a deliberate attempt.

I will quickly go to Marleau and Montpetit and read to you, to the public and to this place the responsibilities of a minister:

In terms of ministerial responsibility, Ministers have both individual and collective responsibilities to Parliament.

Further on it states:

The principle of individual ministerial responsibility holds that Ministers are accountable not only for their own actions as department heads, but also for the actions of their subordinates; individual ministerial responsibility provides the basis for accountability throughout the system. Virtually all department activity is carried out in the name of the Minister who, in turn, is responsible to Parliament for those acts.

That is us, Mr. Speaker.

I contend that it was deliberate on the part of the minister's staff to withhold those clippings from us on this side of the House to effectively to our job, because there is egg all over the Prime Minister's face and the minister's face on this accord.

In addition to that, I think you will find, Mr. Speaker, on the evidence that I am providing, a prima facie case of breach of privilege of individual members.

Again I will quote from Marleau and Montpetit, on page 52, chapter 3, Privileges and Immunities. It states:

The distinctive mark of a privilege is its ancillary character. The privileges of Parliament are rights, which are “absolutely necessary for the due execution of its powers”. They are enjoyed by individual Members because the House--

And this is most important, Mr. Speaker:

--cannot perform its functions without unimpeded use of the services of its Members; and by each House for the protection of its Members and the vindication of its own authority and dignity.

This place only works when we have good opposition. Governments get sloppy and lazy when that opposition is not there. Knowledge is power. We need to have that knowledge to do our jobs. We should not be denied information on the most important issue on the minds of all Canadians, which we get on a regular basis, and this is not just me speaking as one individual member of Parliament. I have consulted with all the health critics, with the exception of one who I believe was absent today, but none of us received those clippings.

Members on that side of the House got those extra clippings. That put them at a distinct advantage over us in this place.

Mr. Speaker, I expect that you will see that there is a prima facie breach of privilege and I would request that you turn this over to the appropriate committee for an investigation.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, to pretend or to state that this is somehow privilege is overstating the facts at the best of times. Talking about the absolute rights and necessities of Parliament in order to function and to illustrate a portion of the clippings as being part of that is stretching it at the best of times.

If the member feels he has not received the complete material which he is normally getting, I have no idea of the size of the clipping file in that particular ministry. There are many people who do that around here. I know I have intervened as a Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons in the past, with my colleague House leaders of other parties, when a critic was not obtaining such information. I would definitely be prepared to do so again if necessary.

I think the hon. member would want to bring that to the attention of his House leader and I will gladly look into it, but it is not privilege. Speaking of privilege, the ringing that is going on right now is something that probably is.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that we in the NDP concur with the comments that have been made by the hon. member from the Conservative Party. I have checked with our health critic. He did not receive the full package of information.

I would make this point. It is not as though that information is not available. Clearly on the top of the document there were contained some clippings; it made reference to an additional package of information that was available to some members, government members presumably, in limited distribution and was not made available to all members of the House, particularly the health critics.

Believe me, it is hard enough to do our jobs as critics around here, to stay on top of what is going on and to be aware of the news that is emerging. To know that information has been assembled but simply is not being distributed and is being withheld from certain members of the House really does infringe upon the right of members in the House to be able to do their work in a proper, equitable and fair way. I would urge you to consider the arguments that the member has made.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Let me thank the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest for raising the matter, and of course for his intervention the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, and last but not least the member for Vancouver East.

I would deem at this time that the information being referred to of course is not government information as such. It is public information that is available to anyone through the media networks, in this case newspaper clippings, whatever the case may be. That in itself is a substantive matter to differentiate between what could be government information or what is “public” information. Certainly I know that there is a tradition, somewhat of a practice, among government departments, ministers and opposition members, particularly critics, to make these clippings available.

I am pleased to hear from the government House leader that he will look into the matter. I would hope that the matter can be resolved internally among the parties. Should it not be to the satisfaction of members raising the question on the opposition benches, certainly I would be prepared to hear the matter at a later time if necessary.

I also have a point of order from the hon. member for Laval Centre.