House of Commons Hansard #127 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was benefits.

Topics

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

The Chair heard a question of privilege from the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville concerning the form of the supplementary estimates (A) tabled recently. The hon. government House leader, I understand, wishes to make further submissions on the matter, as he indicated he might yesterday, bringing additional information to the House on this question.

I therefore call upon the hon. Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Privilege

10:05 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Chair accepted my offer to provide the House with additional information on the question of privilege by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville concerning the supplementary estimates for the Canadian Firearms Program.

As we all know, the Canadian Firearms Program was transferred from the portfolio of the Minister of Justice to that of the Solicitor General of Canada this past April 14. It is now necessary, therefore, to seek authorization from Parliament to transfer the funding to a new organization, now to be called the Canadian Firearms Centre.

As the Solicitor General has explained already, there is no new money involved, only a transfer of funds already approved in Parliament.

The transfers are accomplished in two ways: either through a $1 item to provide the necessary authority to transfer the funds from one vote to another, in other words, from the Minister of Justice--

I think the Speaker probably would want to hear these points, but I can yield the floor to the hon. member if he has something intelligent to add.

Privilege

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

I would like to add something.

Privilege

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

--and then to the Solicitor General and a new organization created; or, in this case, because we have a new organization, the vote wording authorizes the transfer of $111.4 million, including $10 million for the operating budget carry forward. I will get to that point later.

There are two issues here: One is the transfer within this fiscal year; and the second is the transfer of funds from the last fiscal year to this fiscal year in the operating budget carry forward. Both have already been approved by Parliament, so there is no money.

The member for Yorkton—Melville has suggested that the $10 million for the Canadian Firearms Centre identified in the 2003-04 supplementary estimates (A) is, what he considers to be, new funding. Let me explain why this is not correct.

There is a longstanding practice with respect to operating budget carry forward from one fiscal year to another of up to 5% of a department's main estimates operating budget based on lapses reported in the public accounts.

Each year, to encourage sound management practices, every department is allowed an eligible operating budget carry forward based on lapsed operating resources from the previous year which have been obviously approved by Parliament. They were in the estimates, otherwise they could not be carried forward to the next year had they not been there to begin with.

In the 2001-02 supplementary estimates (A) the operating budget carry forward totalled $540 million--every year there are large quantities of them, all annotated in the way that were described--for 70 departments and agencies. In the 2002-03 supplementary estimates (A) the operating budget carry forward totalled $629 million for 87 departments and agencies. There are quantities of those in the estimates all the time.

If the Speaker would like actual examples of this to show that this the existing practice of the House, I have quantities of them here. For instance, page 36 of the 2002-03 supplementary estimates (A) has: operating budget carry forward, vote 1, $19 million for agriculture--and I will not enumerate the other dollars, just the millions involved; page 38, operating budget carry forward $13 million; page 46, Canadian Heritage department carry forward $1.6 million; in Canadian Heritage, National Battlefields, operating budget carry forward, vote 65, $340,000; and, of course, the Canadian Heritage National Film Board, $2.3 million on page 50.

Those are various examples of the carry forwards that have been made.

Each carry forward does not involve new expenditures. The carry forward is a carry forward of last year to this year within the 5% allowable amount of funding previously voted by Parliament.

The practice that I have just described encourages managers to use good management and planning rather than to use up funds in their budgets. The business of trying to encourage departments not to spend excessively in the month of March and so on was debated years ago.

When we came to power in 1993, it was established that there could be this carry forward of funds already voted. I am sure we all remember that and I think people on all sides of the House supported that initiative. We are not debating whether carry forward is a good or bad idea. I think Canadians generally think it is a good idea. The House has already said it is a good idea. We have adopted it several times in estimates and have done so for a number of years.

The principle of carry forward has two criteria: first, it must be stipulated in the estimates that it is being done, understanding that it is not new money; and, second, there must have been funds carried forward, in other words, already voted on in the previous year.

As we know, the item in question is identified as a carry forward, therefore voted on in the previous year, which means it has already been voted on and therefore is not new money. It is within the 5% allocation, otherwise it would not have been a carry forward, therefore, not new money. It is funding already approved.

Privilege

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

That's Liberal thinking. No wonder we can't follow it. That's Liberal thinking.

Privilege

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but the hon. member still is having difficulty understanding. I will do my best.

There is an option of drawing down the carry forward from a previous year's funding in either the first or the final regular supplementary estimates. Carry forward calculations for each program must be provided to and agreed to by the Treasury Board for the inclusion in the supplementary estimates.

I also, as a minister, sit on the Treasury Board when we go through this exercise.

I would emphasize that this is a longstanding and accepted practice. I have just given a number of examples where that is the case. I have identified the actual examples.

The $10 million in the supplementary estimates (A) represents the operating budget carry forward from 2002-03, which has already been approved by Parliament, and therefore does not represent increased funding for the Canadian firearms program.

In this case, the Canadian Firearms Centre is accessing a portion of the Justice's eligible operating carry forward budget for funds already approved by Parliament. This $10 million was for the operating expenditures that were planned for 2002-03 for the Canadian firearms program, which were unable to be completed until 2003-04 but already voted on.

As I have indicated, in April of this year the Canadian firearms program within Justice was transferred from Justice to the Solicitor General within what is called now the Canadian Firearms Centre. This is why the $10 million from the Justice operating budget carry forward is being sought in these supplementary estimates for the Canadian Firearms Centre.

To conclude, there is no issue of new money here. It is simply a transfer of funds already approved by Parliament for Justice. The clerks no doubt will examine this carefully and make a recommendation to our Speaker and the Speaker will arrive at his own conclusion.

It reflects the longstanding, well-established practices for the estimates. There is no question of privilege.

No doubt the House will anxiously await the apology to the Solicitor General for what has been said.

Privilege

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I think most people listening to this are probably more confused than they were before the hon. minister rose to try to answer the question, because it is very clear, on page 88, that this is a new appropriation.

I want the Speaker to rule on this in the context of, and I think this is the key question here, will this amount in vote 7a be treated procedurally as new money? I believe that is what you have to rule on, Mr. Speaker. In other words, will we be allowed to oppose this amount on the last allotted day? That is what we need to know. Will the members of the justice committee be allowed to reduce this amount if that is in fact the case? I am sure the government will have some kind of opinion on this as well.

The other thing I would like to add is that what the minister has just said only applies to schedule 2 departments and agencies, according to our research. I do not believe the Solicitor General or the justice department is a schedule 2 department. It only applies to agencies such as the CCRA or Parks Canada, things like this.

That is what I would like to advise the Speaker of in addition to what the minister has just said in reply. It is pretty clear to me that in the supplementary estimates (A) this $10 million under the heading of “New Appropriations” is clearly there and it is not a $1 amount.

Privilege

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

I want to thank the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville for the thoroughness with which he has pursued this matter and the government House leader for the submissions he has made this morning. Both members have been very helpful to the Chair and I will certainly get back to the House in due course with a ruling on this matter. I will be doing a little research of my own, and I thank both hon. members for their submissions on this important.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian branch of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie and the accompanying financial report. The first report is on the 29th regular session of the APF, held at Niamey, Niger, from July 4 to 10, 2003.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the hon. of presenting two reports this morning from interparliamentary delegations.

Pursuant to Standing Order 34, I have the honour to present to the House a report from the Canadian branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association concerning the 15th seminar of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association which was held in the Cook Islands from August 16 to 23.

I also have the honour to present to the House a report from the Canadian branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association concerning the 42nd Canadian regional conference which was held in Victoria, British Columbia from July 12 to 18.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates entitled, “Meaningful Scrutiny: Practical Improvements to the Estimates Process”. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-452, an act to amend the Criminal Code (proceedings under section 258).

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce my private member's bill which would make it easier for police officers and Crown prosecutors to make drunk driving charges stick. My bill, an act to amend the Criminal Code (proceedings under section 258), is intended to aid in the prosecution of drunk drivers.

After all that has been talked about, drunk driving is still the leading criminal cause of death in Canada today. Statistics Canada figures state that four Canadians are killed everyday as a result of alcohol related crashes and another 200 are injured. Just as alarming is that although impaired drivers get behind the wheel an estimated 12.5 million times every year, most are never stopped by police.

Even when they are caught, Canada's Criminal Code makes it so difficult to gather evidence against these drivers that many officers just do not bother to lay charges. They do not believe that their work will result in convictions. This has to change. We have to stop the needless waste of lives caused by drunk driving. My bill would help to achieve this.

The bill would increase the time frame within which samples could be taken to determine alcohol levels. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the bill would allow the courts to use sample results as proof of blood alcohol levels. It would place the burden on the accused to dispute the results--

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member, but this was to be a brief explanation of the bill and not a speech on its virtues, which I know the hon. member will want to extol on another occasion when he has the debate on second reading.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition from my constituents. The petitioners call upon Parliament to reject any request to change the traditional definition of marriage, family and spouse and to continue to affirm the importance of the family as the foundation of Canadian society and that nothing in the future will change its fundamental role in society.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on behalf of some constituents of mine in Nanaimo—Cowichan who are still very concerned about Bill C-250 in that it suppresses the freedoms of religion and free speech in our society. The petitioners are hopeful that the Senate will appreciate their point of view.

I therefore present this petition on their behalf.