House of Commons Hansard #130 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was system.

Topics

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Winnipeg North—St. Paul
Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Science

Mr. Speaker, laying wreaths at Remembrance Day is indeed a beautiful Canadian tradition. It shows our continuing respect and tribute to veterans and their comrades for their service to our country.

Indeed, the policy has been changed, but let me assure members that should they wish additional wreaths, they should please send in their requests. There will be no charge for any number of wreaths that they request.

Fisheries
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, the fisheries minister is stubbornly refusing to end the race based fishery on the west coast. In fact the government is appealing two court rulings which state that the Indian only fishery regulations are offensive and illegal. Both judges characterized the regulations as discriminatory and the government's own polling shows that Canadians do not support special race based privileges for Indians.

Why is the minister refusing to scrap the racist Indian only fishing scheme?

Fisheries
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I assume the member is an expert on racism because he speaks to it often.

I want to assure him that once we heard from the court, we ended the pilot sales agreement. The decisions are now under appeal and therefore I will not discuss them. However we have been able to negotiate a selective fishing agreement with one native community.

We always look for ways to incorporate the native communities in the commercial fishery in a way that respects their culture and their rights.

Fisheries
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The Chair has notice of a question of privilege. The hon. member for Laval Centre.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

September 30th, 2003 / 3 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, during oral question period, the Prime Minister did me the great honour of quoting a few lines from a speech 20 lines long.

Most certainly, that quote will have struck a sour note for both those here in Parliament and those listening to us.

I would therefore ask for permission to read in its entirety the twenty or so lines from which the Prime Minister took his words.

Mr. Speaker, before discussing this appointment, I would like, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, to acknowledge the work of Bruce Phillips who, in spite of often extremely difficult circumstances, did a professional job. Mr. Phillips can only be praised for the impartiality and common sense that he displayed

At this point, I think that the Parliament of Canada and all Canadians and Quebecers want the Privacy Commissioner to be someone with good judgment and with the ability to objectively evaluate the facts before him

We congratulate Bruce Phillips and we wish him a new career that will allow him to use his skills for the benefit of society.

As for the appointment of Mr. Radwanski, anyone taking the time to read his resumé can only agree that this man has a very extensive knowledge of Canadian politics. He is most certainly a brilliant person, a person with a superior intellect.

We all know, however, that these qualities are important but do not necessarily provide all the rigour required to hold an office that must be totally exempt from any partisan behaviour. The Bloc Quebecois will not approve this appointment for the simple reason that Parliament must be allowed to ask questions to a candidate to the position of Privacy Commissioner.

This is another appointment made by the executive branch of government and it could be perceived as a political appointment. I believe the government—the one that is still in office—would definitely not want to give that impression. I humbly suggest that the government order that this candidate be called by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to answer the questions of members of Parliament. In my view, this is the least we can ask in a parliament that claims to be the most democratic and the best one in the world

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, members can endlessly read excepts from Hansard in the House, the fact remains that an option is available to members who a not satisfied with a minister's answer, and this includes the Prime Minister. This option is not to dream up a question of privilege, but to move the question to adjournment proceedings and, at that time, to read whatever they want in support of their position. That is the procedure to follow, and these are rules we have all unanimously approved in this House.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

No doubt, all hon. members, including the minister of state, appreciate the clarification made by the hon. member for Laval Centre. However, as the minister of state indicated, this is more of a question of privilege of a personal nature. The hon. member gave clarifications, putting an end to the debate for the time being. All hon. members always appreciate clarifications.

We have another question of privilege by the hon. member for Delta—South Richmond.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John M. Cummins Delta—South Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my compelling case I would like to bring to your attention a couple of passages from Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada , in particular pages 226 and 227, where he notes:

--contempt of the House has no limits. When new ways are found to interfere with our proceedings, so too will the House, in appropriate cases, be able to find that a contempt of the House has occurred.

At page 235, he states:

What constitutes an improper means of interfering with Members' parliamentary work is always a question depending on the facts of each case.

According to a Speaker's ruling from March 21, 1978, at page 3975 of Hansard , it states:

If the Speaker feels any doubt on the question, he should...leave it to the House.

The member is entitled to receive the benefit of the doubt.

That being said, over the past couple of years there has been increasing concern about the ability of the Coast Guard to perform its functions. Much of the information that outlines the impact that these cuts have had have come from concerned members of the Coast Guard.

Now in an effort to stem the flow of information to parliamentarians, the commissioner of the Coast Guard has ordered all staff members who talk with a member of Parliament to report their conversations within 24 hours. This effort at intimidation is intended to shut down the flow of information to myself and other concerned parliamentarians.

The directive that went to employees immediately raised concerns. Let me quote a September 2 memo from one Coast Guard manager. He said “I am getting inquiries about this form. It appears they are being denied access to their elected member of Parliament and feel this is violating their rights. Please provide me with more clarification on what is the intent of this form and when it should be used”

I think the reality here is that the rights of members of Parliament are being impeded, so to speak, by this order by the commissioner of the Coast Guard.

Surely, as I indicated, many of the issues and concerns that have been raised over the past year about the inadequacies of the Coast Guard and its inability to perform its functions have come from members of the Coast Guard themselves who are concerned about the public's safety.

There is no whistleblower protection, no protection for these members if they come to us as members and seek our assistance and try to assist us.

The commissioner of the Coast Guard is attempting to intimidate Coast Guard staff and, in effect, is preventing myself and other members of Parliament from carrying out our duties.

Mr. Speaker, if you find that there is a prima facie case of privilege I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to respond to this question of privilege that the hon. member has raised.

It seems to me that if in fact the Coast Guard might have told its employees not to speak to members of Parliament and that if they did they would be penalized, then my hon. colleague might have the basis for a complaint in this regard.

However the fact that a department or agency has asked its employees to inform their superiors if they want to raise an issue with a member of Parliament about the operations of the department, I do not find that nearly so striking or alarming and I do not think it raises a question of privilege.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I believe the member from the Alliance Party, who raised the issue, does have a very serious concern that could easily be a breach of members' privileges.

As members of Parliament we deal with public servants everyday. We depend on them and certainly we can say that in most cases we get tremendous support and response from them. However, when instructions are given from above, from management circles, from directors or from ministers, where they are basically told “If you are contacted“--and this was the gist of the form as I have seen it--“by a member of Parliament, please note it and the topic and advise us immediately”, then it would certainly create awareness in some person working within the lower levels of any department, the frontline personnel who deal with many of our concerns.

I really think there is intimidation there. I believe our privileges are being interfered with and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider it seriously.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

In his comments the hon. member for Delta--South Richmond indicated, as did the hon. member for St. John's West, that some of these employees may have felt intimidated. I have no doubt that may be the case but even if I were to find that it was, how does that impact on the privileges of members of this House? That is the issue that I feel I have to deal with as Speaker in making a ruling.

Despite the very able arguments of the hon. member for Delta--South Richmond, I am not persuaded that the privileges of hon. members are in any way impeded because these persons may have felt some intimidation in that they had to report meetings they had with MPs.

The Standing Committee for Fisheries and Oceans, in its work, is free to call these people and ask them questions. Once called before a committee they can be required to testify under oath. Therefore there is no question that the committee and members have full access to the information they need through other avenues than having private meetings with members of the Coast Guard. The committee can make its own decisions in this regard. It is master of its own proceedings and members can take full advantage of that and get the information they need

Therefore I am afraid I cannot find any question of privilege raised in the matters before me today.

On a point of order, the hon. member for Fraser Valley.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday you asked for additional information on the point of privilege I had raised in the House regarding the release of the Public Service Commission audit on the office of the privacy commissioner, and I would like to bring a little more information to your attention.

In the report is a brief description of the background that triggered the audit. The report states:

As a result of an assessment of the risks to the integrity of the staffing process at the OPC, the PSC will undertake an audit of staffing and recruitment at the OPC. This audit has been initiated to address concerns raised by the PSC’s Thematic Review on Competency and Fairness, the PSC’s assessment of departmental staffingperformance, in addition to a formal request from the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates regarding the OPC’s staffing practices and its management of staffing.

The audit's terms of reference clearly indicate that they were supposed to report to Parliament. The terms of reference are as follows:

The audit team will report to the Commission on its findings, conclusions and recommendations with an objective to provide a final report to Parliament, in both official languages, by September 30th, 2003, consistent with the intention of the Office of the Auditor General. Investigation reports, if required, are subject to the Privacy Actand will, as a result, be provided to those directly involved after they are finalized.

Mr. Speaker, I would just bring to your attention that, although initiated by the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, the request was made that this information be brought to the attention of Parliament. The fact that it was released first to the media, then to the public and then finally to Parliament, to me is at odds with not only conventional practice but also at odds with the direct request made by the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates earlier.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member for Fraser Valley for his additional assistance on the point. I will keep it in mind when preparing the ruling that I am hoping to give very shortly on this important matter.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

When the House broke for question period, the hon. member for Surrey-Central had 10 minutes remaining in the time for questions or comments in respect to his speech. Questions or comments?

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River.