House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

Border Crossings
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, while the U.S. government has announced massive investments to enhance the Champlain border crossing, in the State of New York, the Canadian government has been neglecting the Lacolle border crossing, to the point of seriously compromising the free movement of goods.

How does the government explain investing $300 million in the Windsor border crossing, in Ontario, while allowing the situation in Lacolle to deteriorate? Is this another instance of double standard?

Border Crossings
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, there is no double standard here. In fact, we are investing in border security and border crossings all over the country.

The Canada Border Services Agency makes an assessment on an ongoing basis as to the border services required and operational decisions are made accordingly.

Ukraine
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Ukraine's supreme court dismissed as fraudulent the second round of the presidential election that took place November 21 and has called for a rerun on December 26.

What exactly is the Canadian government doing to help ensure that this rerun is fair and transparent?

Ukraine
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Papineau
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Etobicoke Centre for his very good work on this file. As we have recently announced, we will be sending up to 500 observers to help ensure a free, fair and democratic election in Ukraine. Our observer mission will be sent under the banner of Canada Corps, which is being managed by my colleague, the Minister of International Cooperation.

Canada is promoting a new multilateralism. Canadians want to play a leadership role in the international community. Canada Corps will be a key mechanism, mobilizing Canadians who want to make a difference in the world.

Economic Development
Oral Question Period

December 13th, 2004 / 3 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, one year ago, the Abitibi-Consol plant closed its facilities in Port-Alfred. Despite numerous verbal commitments made by Liberal ministers, we are still waiting for the financial involvement of the federal government in a possible recovery plan for the company.

Considering that the government was able to announce a $500 million initiative for Ontario's automobile industry despite a lack of concrete projects, will it pledge to provide financial support to any recovery plan that Consol might unveil in the coming months?

Economic Development
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. Like all members in this House, we are very disappointed by the situation in La Baie. However, we are waiting to see some projects. It is impossible to evaluate projects that we do not have before us. Unfortunately, as we are speaking, no recovery plan has been submitted to Canada Economic Development.

Securities Industry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is getting harder and harder to keep track of broken Liberal promises. We only have to look at the Minister of Finance today on the Nortel file. Today more promises on a national security commission, 11 years of dilly-dallying, meanwhile pensioners and investors are losing millions.

Why does corporate cronyism run so deep in the Liberal ranks that it allows corporate corruption to trump human compassion and any sign of decency by the government? When will the government stand up and protect the hard-earned dollars of Canadian pensioners?

Securities Industry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we have of course taken action with amendments to the law, working with accountants and auditors in terms of the functioning of that profession, working on stronger corporate governance and so forth. I have also mentioned the need for the idea of a national securities regulator. I am very pleased to have today the clear, unequivocal support of the New Democratic Party for that important notion.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, during question period the member for Souris—Moose Mountain, in his question, made reference to my appearance on CPAC. I would like to make two points.

First, it is not true. I did not appear on CPAC on the show to which the member referred. The second point I would like to make is that I never said what the member attributed to me in any forum whatsoever. I just wanted to make sure that the record shows that the member was incorrect in attributing any of his comments to what I may or may not have said.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

That is correct, Mr. Speaker. I made the wrong reference. I meant to refer to the deputy leader of the government and not the House leader, and my apologies to him.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank both hon. members for their clarification on this point.

The Chair has received due notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Delta--Richmond East.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege in relation to an answer to a written question, which answer was tabled in the House on December 8. The response in the House was, in my opinion, a deliberate attempt to mislead the House, an infraction defined by Speaker Jerome in 1978.

The question was first asked on February 3, 2004. It was asked again on October 5, 2004. The question was as follows:

With regard to the environmental and economic issues posed by the development of salmon farm aquaculture sites in bays and inlets along the coast of British Columbia...what...diseases or parasites have been found at salmon net pen sites in each of the years 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003, and what was the location of each farm site having these diseases or parasites--

A response was prepared for the minister by February 17, two weeks after the question was first asked. It was prepared by Dorothee Kieser, a well-known fish health pathobiologist and was as follows:

Canada has no list of reportable fish diseases.

Because there are not reportable diseases, DFO has no regulatory capacity for requiring farms to report disease outbreaks. Nor does the Department have a routine monitoring program to check on the status of disease outbreak on farms. While such monitoring is done by a provincial agency, DFO does not obtain that information.

The department also does not maintain a surveillance program to detect pathogens/parasites in wild stocks or detect a change in the rate of infection/infestation. Hence there is no ability to state whether diseases in wild stocks are “new” or whether there is a greater prevalence of pathogens in wild stocks.

According to a departmental document received under access to information, Sharon Ashley, the acting director general of the executive secretariat determined that the scientist's answer for the minister was too negative. The directive demanded that Sharon McGladdery, the senior science advisor for aquatic animal health, prepare a more positive response to this question. That response given in this House on December 8 was:

This information is collected by the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, whose veterinary services are responsible for aquaculture fish health surveillance and diagnosis.

A question was asked about a matter pertaining to the mandate of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, that is, the protection of wild fish and their habitat. An answer was prepared by the department's senior fish health pathobiologist who advised that the department was not fulfilling its constitutional mandate to protect wild fish and their habitat.

The answer was deemed too negative. A senior bureaucrat in the minister's executive secretariat found the answer too negative and ordered the preparation of a more positive response to this question. The more positive response is the responsibility of the province, according to the minister.

The minister's answer in Parliament is a serious attempt to mislead Parliament. The truth is that matters affecting the health of fish in the marine environment is the direct responsibility of the Department of Fisheries under statutes enacted by Parliament and is the sole responsibility of the federal government under the Constitution.

The original response prepared by the scientist clearly stated the department's failure to fulfill its obligations. The sanitized response would have us believe that the matter was the responsibility of the province.

In 1978 Speaker Jerome stated:

--in order to found a question of privilege, the allegation would have to be not simply that the House had been misled, but had been deliberately misled.

--an allegation that the House had been misled without deliberateness does not constitute privilege on the face of it.

The minister's December 8 response is not merely a sin of omission, it is one of commission, of deliberateness. The response was rewritten to deliberately remove the embarrassing truth.

I placed the question on the order paper recognizing it was one that required detailed study by Department of Fisheries scientists because I wanted a scientifically accurate answer. In sharp contrast to the answer prepared for the minister by the Department of Fisheries scientist, the minister's answer given in Parliament is devoid of the embarrassing factual material. The minister's answer is devoid of the facts that had been deemed too negative by the director general of the executive secretariat.

The minister's answer was a deliberate attempt to mislead Parliament.

DFO scientists carefully prepare an accurate response to the written question. It should not be acceptable to the House that the response be rejected by senior staff in the minister's office because it is too embarrassing for him to give to the House.

Something less than the truth is not merely embarrassing, it is wrong. The direction given to produce a positive response as opposed to a truthful response to my question is an affront to the House.

Mr. Speaker, should you rule that I have a prima facie case of privilege, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion to send the issue to a parliamentary committee.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Delta—Richmond East for his interest in this subject.

I had a chance to be on the fisheries committee with him for a number of years. He is very knowledgeable about this industry. He has a great interest in the whole question of salmon aquaculture and I know the government appreciates his comments.

It is incorrect to say that the minister misled the House. What had happened in Question No. 5 the member had posed as he read it to you, Mr. Speaker, and I do not propose to reread the question or the answer, but the question he posed is more appropriately directed to the province of British Columbia and the provincial ministry which in fact collects the data that the member is interested in.

The member uses access to information to get working copies and internal memos of different answers that are being prepared for the minister's signature. The answer which was tabled in the House as signed by the minister is complete and reflects the fact that the member's question should properly be directed to the province of British Columbia. In fact in an effort not to induce the House in error or to mislead the House, the government felt that it was appropriate to refer the member for that specific portion of his very detailed question directly to the provincial ministry which in fact collects this data.

If some internal working documents that were being prepared by various officials may have had different versions of particular facts, the ultimate decision as to what is tabled is made by the minister who has very high regard for the House. In fact the minister has had the job which I presently have. He understands how important are questions on the Order Paper. I have discussed this with him a number of times. The only intention was to provide the member with a clear direction of where he could go to get the most accurate information.

The Government of Canada normally does not provide in written answers to questions information which is properly collected by a provincial department. The information, as the member noted, is collected and monitored but it is done so by the province of British Columbia. That is exactly what the answer to the question reflects.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have just heard about this issue, but in my view this is not a question about fish and it is not a question about the member; this is a question about the right of parliamentarians to have full, complete, objective, unedited information available to them so they can make good decisions about important issues like the fishery. Clearly there was information within the purview of the federal government which the federal government did not want to release because it was, in its own words, too negative.

Why should members of Parliament be sheltered by the government from information that is germane to the issues before us because the government does not want it to come out? That is essentially what happened here. Now it is passing the buck. The real issue is that it would not give us as parliamentarians information that it had because it thought it was too negative. Those are the government's own words. That is in the memo.

I think this is an extremely serious matter because if the government can do this about British Columbia salmon, then it can withhold information from the rest of us that it thinks is too negative.

I am put in mind of a situation that arose in the U.S. where the auditor general for the social security fund was told by the Bush administration not to provide Congress with certain information about the social security system when Congress was dealing with these issues. That hampered members of the Congress from making good decisions about an important issue like social security.

There is a wide variety of matters before the House and before members of the House and committees of the House that can be extremely adversely affected if the government is allowed to get away with withholding information because it deems it too negative for the rest of us to know about. I strongly object to that course of dealing. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to intervene, to put a stop to this kind of sanitizing and editing by a government that does not want to make full disclosure.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank hon. members for their submissions on this point. I will take the matter under advisement. I want to review the answers given. The hon. member for Delta--Richmond East was kind enough to deliver a copy of the summary of his argument with the questions on it, which I have had a chance to go through. I will go through them again and come back to the House with an answer on this matter in due course.