House of Commons Hansard #18 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was turkey.

Topics

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, maybe we can deal with this right now. I have repeatedly asked members of the opposition to put facts on the table or stop the slander. If the member has that accusation to make, he should do one of two things: put a fact on the table, or say it out there.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, on February 3, I put before the House a motion to the effect that the government should modify the Employment Insurance program to establish specific status for seasonal workers, regardless of the EI economic region in which they live.

Does the government intend to improve the EI program by recognizing a specific status for seasonal workers, who suffer through a spring gap every year, by relaxing eligibility criteria and increasing the number of benefit weeks?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I have already told the House several times that the government is reviewing the situation as it exists in the hon. member's riding and in all the provinces where there is a problem that needs to be looked into. A further consideration is that the regional and provincial authorities and private sector partners all have roles to play in solving this problem.

Landmines
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada led the way internationally to ban landmines. The Ottawa convention is binding international law and this year it celebrates its fifth anniversary. Next week Canadians will celebrate Canada Landmines Awareness Week beginning March 1, Canadian Landmines Awareness Day.

Could the Minister of Foreign Affairs please update the House on progress on the convention, and what we can all do to familiarize ourselves with it?

Landmines
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's question. I also appreciate the fact that she has been a leader in recognizing that the banning of landmines around the world is an extremely important measure that this country has undertaken for years.

Throughout the country during the week of March 1, we will be celebrating Canadian Landmines Awareness Week. I know that many church groups, many schools and others will be having dinners to raise money to help people in countries that are affected by this scourge.

As a government, we are committed to ridding the world of landmines. As a people, we are committed to helping other people who suffer under this scourge.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

It is my duty to inform the House, pursuant to Standing Order 81(14), that the motion to be considered tomorrow during consideration of the business of supply is as follows:

That the government reallocate its resources from wasteful and unnecessary programs such as the gun registry and the sponsorship program to address the agricultural crisis at the farm gate across Canada.

This motion standing in the name of the hon. member for Macleod is votable.

Copies of the motion are available at the table.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on February 12, 2004 by the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby concerning misleading statements contained in the 1999-2000 “Report on Plans and Priorities” of the Department of Public Works and Government Services.

I would like to thank the hon. member for having raised this important matter, as well as the hon. member for St. John's West, the hon. deputy House leader of the government and the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader for their comments.

In drawing this issue to the attention of the House, the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby cited three paragraphs from the Auditor General's 2003 annual report in which the Auditor General states that Parliament was misinformed by the 1999-2000 “Report on Plans and Priorities” of the Department of Public Works and Government Services. The “Report on Plans and Priorities” was tabled on March 25, 1999 as recorded in the Journals of that date at page 1673. The hon. member quoted paragraph 3.100 of the Auditor General's report which reads:

Not only was Parliament not informed about the real objectives of the Sponsorship Program, it was misinformed about how the program was being managed. The parliamentary process was bypassed to transfer funds to Crown corporations. Funds appropriated by Parliament to PWGSC were used to fund the operations of Crown corporations and of the RCMP.

In their remarks, both the deputy government House leader and the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader pointed out that the Auditor General’s report stands referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. The public accounts committee is actively pursuing a study of the difficulties with the sponsorship program detailed in the Auditor General’s report.

The Chair views this question as one of utmost importance. Evidence of its seriousness is clear in the language used by the Auditor General. She speaks of Parliament being “misinformed” and “bypassed” with respect to its fundamental duty to oversee and approve government expenditures. Any attempt to subvert or obstruct the House in fulfilling its constitutional obligation is one which all members must view as an attack not only on the House but on Canada's system of responsible government.

There has not been any suggestion that the findings of the Auditor General are inaccurate. I share the concern of all hon. members regarding the present situation as this House cannot carry out its responsibilities unless it is presented with accurate and complete information by the government.

At the same time, there has been nothing presented to the Chair that indicates the source of the misleading information. In raising this issue, the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby did not state that either the minister or the deputy minister knew that the “Report on Plans and Priorities” was misleading when they signed their names to it.

It is not, of course, absolutely necessary that the minister be aware that a document is misleading in order for a contempt to occur. In describing the 1978 case cited by the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, where contempt was found to have taken place despite the lack of any intent on a minister’s part, House of Commons Procedure and Practice , p. 87, states:

On December 6, 1978, in finding that a prima facie contempt of the House existed, Speaker Jerome ruled that a government official, by deliberately misleading a Minister, had impeded a Member in the performance of his duties and consequently obstructed the House itself.

In the case before us today, no evidence has been brought forth to show that, in preparing the report on plans and priorities, departmental officials deliberately intended to deceive their superiors and so obstruct hon. members in the performance of their duties.

I must conclude that the requirements for showing that a prima facie breach of privilege has occurred have not yet been met in the present case.

As I mentioned earlier, this matter is currently the subject of a study being carried out by the public accounts committee. The investigation of issues raised by the Auditor General in her reports forms a key part of the mandate of that committee as set out in Standing Order 108(3)(g).

A report from the public accounts committee may present the House with evidence that certain individuals provided information in a deliberate attempt to mislead the House. If that proves to be the case, it would certainly constitute grounds for the raising of a question of privilege at which point it would be possible for hon. members to deliberate in full possession of the committee's findings.

I remind the House that a determination that a breach of privilege is not prima facie at this time in no way interferes with the right of any hon. member to raise a new question of privilege following the tabling of a committee report or the disclosure of pertinent information from any other source.

While I recognize the importance of the issue raised by the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, I am not persuaded that a prima facie breach of privilege exists at present. As I have indicated, I remain fully open to considering the question should further evidence be brought to the attention of the House.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege. During question period the Minister of Public Works and Government Services implied a number of things.

He often lectures us about the truth and makes sure that statements in the House are factual. In his answer in reply to a question he implied, first, that I wrote a letter to Mr. Gagliano on behalf of my constituents. That could well be but I have been unable to find it in the last half hour or so. However when my constituents approach me and ask whether there are government ministers or departments that can help them with whatever project, of course we forward that on to the minister.

However the implication that the minister gave was that there was something sleazy or wrong about that.

Second, he implied that I used the term sponsorship slush fund in my request; that I thus knew about the slush fund, much as my colleague, the Minister of the Environment, might have known, and that I was trying to take advantage of that.

Third, he implied that I got money from the slush fund. When I checked the record just now I found that in that period of time my riding received absolutely nothing. I can only conclude that the reason for that is because I am not a Liberal and probably me sending letters to ministers is the wrong thing to do because that means I do not get the money.

Mr. Speaker, I am asking for an apology from the minister and, more important, that he table that letter so that the truth, which he always talks about, is available to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to respond to the concern raised by the hon. member for Red Deer.

My answer to a question from the opposition was to deal with the issue of the appropriateness of members of Parliament making representations to government on behalf of a constituent. I was merely trying to suggest that the member for Red Deer had also written to, in this case, the minister of public works and government services at the time, Mr. Gagliano, on behalf of a constituent. That was on Dec. 12, 2001. I would be happy to table this or give a copy to my friend if he has lost it.

Please, Mr. Speaker, through you, I would remind the hon. member that I did not use the term slush fund in my answer. I have never used that term in the House. In fact, I consider it a completely inappropriate term to be used in the House for a program.

What there is and what is very clear is not improper representations. I was doing quite the contrary of criticism. I was endorsing the hon. member for his representation on behalf of his constituent to the minister of public works in the way that the constituency office of the Minister of the Environment had.

No more was being suggested than that, but certainly I am happy to provide the member with a copy of his letter.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I think we will consider the matter closed. I do not think even the hon. member for Red Deer, at the conclusion of his remarks, was suggesting that there was a privilege problem there.

Sponsorship Program
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of tabling, in both official languages, a copy of the letter to the acting executive director of the sponsorship program, dated February 19, 2001, from the constituent of the Minister of the Environment, which I referred to in answer to a question yesterday.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons I am pleased to table in Parliament, in both official languages, the government's response to the 20th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on chapter 6 of the April 2003 report of the Auditor General.

Aboriginal Healing Foundation
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, under the provisions of Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a copy of the 2003 annual report of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

February 25th, 2004 / 3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on chapters 3, 4 and 5 of the November 2003 report of the Auditor General of Canada.

The report deals with the fact that the President of the Treasury Board appeared before the committee on Tuesday, February 17 and indicated that he would be introducing whistleblowing legislation no later than March 31, 2004, and, on a motion by the member for Winnipeg North Centre I believe, who asked that the committee request that this legislation be brought forth at the earliest opportunity, and that is the contents of the report.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be able to present these petitions in the House dealing with the issue of marriage.

The residents of Canada, the majority of them from my riding, say that the disintegration of the family will bring upon our citizens, our communities and our nation the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets, that marriage is between a man and a woman and was designed that way by God from the beginning.

Therefore the petitioners call upon Parliament to use the time and resources necessary to ensure that the institution of marriage remains confined to the union of one man and one woman.

The second petition, which is very much along the same lines, consists of 476 names and calls upon Parliament to maintain the current definition of marriage in law and perpetuity and to prevent any court from overturning or amending that definition.