House of Commons Hansard #2 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was speech.

Topics

Georgian Express Flight 126
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Susan Whelan Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, January 17 just off Pelee Island, Georgian Express flight 126 tragically crashed into Lake Erie with 10 people aboard.

As the minister responsible for the operations of the Canadian Coast Guard, could the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans please update the House on the recovery efforts which took place?

Georgian Express Flight 126
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, first, on behalf of all hon. colleagues in the House, I would like to express our sincere and deepest sympathies to the families of those lost in this tragic crash.

In terms of the recovery efforts, I can confirm that recovery efforts were completed last Friday. I want to take a moment to thank all of the Canadian Coast Guard personnel who played a very important role in the aftermath of this tragic crash.

Public Service of Canada
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, government figures show that anglophones were denied 71% of all federal jobs and 68% of the promotions designated bilingual.

As the government expands the bilingualism restrictions that have discriminated against anglophones in the public service and armed forces, the treasury board and defence ministers would fail to qualify for work in their own departments.

Double standard aside, will the government end the systemic discrimination against anglophones in civil service hiring and promotion?

Public Service of Canada
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bourassa
Québec

Liberal

Denis Coderre President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, after touring western Canada, particularly Saskatchewan, I realized that bilingualism was an intrinsic value for people in Saskatchewan and western Canada.

He should be ashamed of spouting such nonsense.

Point of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, during oral question period, certain opposition members claimed to be in possession of information on a company and certain contracts that had allegedly not been disclosed in the documentation we released. I would like to have this information tabled officially in the House, please.

Point of Order
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sure that the hon. government House leader is well aware that, with the exception of cabinet ministers, hon. members may table documents in the House only with the unanimous consent of the House.

If there are documents people want tabled, then the hon. members who have those documents may seek the unanimous consent of the House, or hand them to a minister for tabling. Perhaps, after discussions with the hon. members who have documents, the government House leader could come back shortly with these documents.

Motion No. 386. On the Order: Private Members' Business

February 2, 2004--Member for Nanaimo--Cowichan: That, in the opinion of this House, the government should work with the provinces and territories and other partners toward a comprehensive labour-market strategy for persons with disabilities.

Private Member's Business
Oral Question Period

February 3rd, 2004 / 3:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise to seek unanimous consent to withdraw private member's Motion No. 386, standing in the name of the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan from the order of precedence.

Private Member's Business
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent for the withdrawal of the matter?

Private Member's Business
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Order discharged and motion withdrawn)

Private Member's Business
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege. On October 31, 2003, the minister of justice tabled his department's performance report for the period ending March 31, 2003.

There are a number of factual errors in the section of the minister's report on the Canadian firearms program. These errors have misled the House and impeded my ability to function as a member of Parliament.

This is the first opportunity I have to bring this matter to the attention of the Speaker as Parliament has not been sitting since November 7, 2003.

While some of the so-called facts in the minister's report may be debatable, the errors I will itemize for the Speaker today are not. I will be providing the Speaker with copies of our supporting documentation.

On May 16, 2003, in response to Order Paper Question No. 194, the government stated that the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade had spent $45,000 since May 2001 on the firearms program. The minister's performance report erroneously reported that the Department of Foreign Affairs had spent nothing. The Speaker will know that foreign affairs issues import and export permits for hundreds of thousands of firearms annually. I do not think anyone in government believes that this is done for nothing or for a mere $45,000. That is the first example of an error.

In response to the same Order Paper Question No. 194 on May 16, Treasury Board stated, “The 2002-03 Departmental Performance report for the Department of Justice will report Firearms Program expenditures accordingly”. The justice minister's performance report provided no such costs for Treasury Board.

I followed up Treasury Board's broken promise to Parliament with an Access to Information Act request. On December 31, 2003, Treasury Board had the nerve to say that it had no records of what it had spent during its eight years of aiding and abetting the billion dollar boondoggle. Now members cannot even believe the government's response to our Order Paper questions.

The first paragraph of the minister's performance report on the Canadian firearms program states:

The attention to the Program sparked by the December 2002 Auditor General's Report emphasized concern about both costs and reporting, while confirming that the program continues to be supported by the majority of Canadians.

If the Speaker reviews chapter 10 of the Auditor General's December 2002 report to Parliament, he will find no such statement confirming that the program continues to be supported by the majority of Canadians. That is an incorrect statement.

The first paragraph also states:

In addition, initiatives were undertaken to address the complexities of the compliance requirements and ensure successful completion of firearms registration by the deadline of December 31, 2002.

This statement is misleading because it leaves the false impression that the firearms registration phase of the program was actually successfully completed.

How could firearms registration be successfully completed, as the minister states in his performance report, when on October 23, 2003, William V. Baker, Commissioner of Firearms, testifying before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, stated, “We've had over 1 million long guns registered since January 1, the original deadline”.

Further statistics and information obtained by my office through the Access to Information Act, prove that the gun registration is still far from completed. However, none of this information was provided in either the departmental estimates or the minister's performance report on the firearms program.

For example, the total number of valid firearms license holders that still have not registered a gun is 414,283. How can it be said it is completed when there are that many gun owners who have not even registered a firearm?

The total number of gun owners that still have to re-register or dispose of their handguns is 318,846.

The government estimates of the total number of firearms that still have to be registered is 1.1 million. The total number of hand guns that still have to be re-registered is 625,829.

The CFC also admitted that it did not collect statistics on the 288,000 guns brought into Canada by foreign visitors. Non-compliance is now so bad that the CFC has developed a national compliance strategy and program. If the government hides these important facts from Parliament, it should make everyone wonder what else it is hiding.

In the fourth paragraph of the report it states,“The Minister of Justice accepted the Auditor General's recommendation to improve reporting to Parliament”.

The truth is the government still refuses to provide the major additional costs recommended by the Auditor General in paragraph 10.29 of the Auditor General's December 2002 report to Parliament. The Speaker can find this fact in the government's response to Order Paper Question No. 202 in Hansard for May 26, 2003.

We have also identified a number of other departments that have incurred direct and indirect costs implementing the Firearms Act and regulations that were not included in the minister's performance report as recommended in the Auditor General's report.

I could go on, Mr. Speaker, and I have documented many other examples of factual errors. I have given you five in the minister's report to Parliament that are enough to prove our case.

On page 225 of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, he describes contempt as an offence against the authority or dignity of the House.

On page 119 of Erskine May's 21st edition, it states:

The Commons may treat the making of a deliberately misleading statement as a contempt.

The 22nd edition of Erskine May, on page 63, describes ministerial responsibility and states:

--it is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister...

On February 2, 2002, the Speaker ruled a question of privilege to be prima facie even though the minister of justice who made misleading statements in the House said that he had no intention of misleading the House. The Speaker felt that it was in the best interests of the House to have a committee look into the matter.

To perform the fundamental functions, the House has always insisted on accurate and truthful information. That is why the making of erroneous and misleading statements in the House may be treated as contempt.

On October 31, 2003, the justice minister tabled a report that was factually wrong in a number of ways and clearly misled the House. I have here a much longer list and evidence of how the report was factually wrong and I can give this to the Speaker as he wishes. This continual cover up and contempt of Parliament has to stop. We are getting fed up.

I am prepared to move the appropriate motion should the Speaker rule that the matter is a prima facie case of privilege.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Sarnia—Lambton
Ontario

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the question of privilege raised by my friend opposite. He has referred to a great number of reports, questions and documents, obviously none of which I have had the opportunity to peruse.

However the fundamentals of his reasons, as I understand them, for believing that his privileges have in some way been offended or broken rest on Order Paper Question No. 194 which was raised at some point in the past.

I refer to Marleau and Montpetit, 2000 edition, page 443 where the general principle is laid out that there are no provisions in the rules for the Speaker to review government responses to questions. In fact, in the last 10 years at least, on various occasions members have raised questions of privilege on the premise that the information given in an answer to a question on the Order Paper was in some way inaccurate. In those cases they asked for a finding of a prima facie case of privilege.

I point out that in footnote 204 on page 443 it refers to a number of cases in the past 10 years where that was raised. In fact, in all cases the Speaker has ruled that it is not the role of the Chair to determine whether or not the contents of documents tabled in the House are accurate, nor to assess the likelihood of any hon. member knowing whether the facts contained in a document are correct.

In other words, in the response to a question on the Order Paper, it is not a question of privilege to go behind those responses to ask or to suggest that this is in some way a question of privilege.

The second part of the question of privilege raised by my friend opposite, as I understand it, deals with a report that was tabled in the House. He is saying that there are some inaccuracies in that report. Certainly inaccuracies in reports are matters which are always debatable and open to question, and that is essentially what my friend opposite is raising.

The most serious part of this is that he is suggesting that there is some contempt in this bundle of documents which have been referred to by the member opposite. He is saying that some of the contents of these are deliberately misleading statements, that in some way a minister has knowingly misled the House.

Once again I will say that I have not had the opportunity to review all of the matters raised by the member opposite but we do know that there is no breach of privilege with respect to the answer to Question No. 194, as raised by the member opposite. That is an established parliamentary ruling for which there are many precedents.

We also know that to find contempt requires a considerable onus on the person alleging that to establish that someone knowingly inserted false information into a report and, in doing so, attempted to mislead the House and the members of it. I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that that in no way has been established. Again I would say that he disagrees with certain statements made in a large body of documents that he has referred to over a long period of time, but the veracity of that is debatable.

Having said that, I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that there is no, on the face of it, prima facie case.

I have appreciated the intervention made by the member opposite but in this case I cannot agree that this is a prima facie case of privilege.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank the parliamentary secretary and the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville for raising these matters and offering their advice to the Chair in this regard.

I will have an opportunity now to review the materials that were referred to by the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville in his original submission and then, having seen those materials, I will run over the arguments advanced by the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader and come back to the House with a decision in due course. I thank them again for their interventions.

The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

3:20 p.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.

The announced program is a balanced and forward-looking program. It is a pleasure to be the Minister of the Environment within a government that understands that economic progress and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive, but rather complementary.

I take great pride in the importance this government attaches to enhancing the role Canada plays in the world.

Critical to a nation's standing in the global community is for others to know that the nation in question will keep its word. The Speech from the Throne made it clear that Canada will be keeping its international commitments, and that this country will meet its obligations under the Kyoto protocol.

It is important to understand clearly why we ratified the Kyoto protocol some 14 months ago. Climate change, if left unchecked and unaddressed, will impact on virtually every aspect of our lives, here as well as elsewhere in the world, and this impact will be overwhelmingly negative.

We are already beginning to see those impacts. The mountain pine beetle infestation that is destroying timber worth hundreds of millions of dollars in my home province of British Columbia is one example. The increasing droughts and change in rainfall patterns in the great plains on the Canadian Prairies is another. The 5° Celsius temperature increase in Arctic regions, with the consequent loss of sea ice and damage to permafrost, is yet a third. Of course we have recently seen the extreme weather conditions, such as hurricane Juan, and they will become all too common in the future.

A study by the company Munich Re, which is the world's largest re-insurance company, has found that the frequency of extreme weather events around the world over the past decade was more than two and a half times that of the 1960s.

Insured losses due to extreme weather events in the past decade reached some $84.5 billion U.S., which is 14 times what they were only 30 years ago. That is the view of the private sector, on the private industry. A private company in the insurance industry telling us that climate change is real and climate change is here now.

As plants and animals cease to exist we lose important resources for pharmaceuticals. The flexibility to handle the impact of climate change in the future on crops is reduced.

Climate change is much more than an environmental issue. In the words of Sir David King, the chief scientific advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair, “In my view, climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today, more severe even than terrorism”. I agree with Sir David King.

What are our actions to address this threat? Kyoto is not in itself an end. It is a global international response to a global international problem. Without this response, the economic costs will be staggering. It is truly something that for economic reasons we simply cannot afford not to do.

As the standard of living improves in countries all over the world, as development spreads and as the rate of consumption of resources increases, pressure on the environment becomes greater and greater.

By developing and rapidly implementing new technologies and industrial processes that are cleaner, Canada can facilitate the transformation of the traditional structures of economic growth, improve the protection of human health and the global environment as well as consolidate quality.

This is not a mere matter of doing some good to achieve some abstract objective. Those nations that will show leadership in using existing environmentally friendly technologies and in developing new and innovative technologies will enjoy economic opportunities that can only be described as massive.

It is estimated that the world market for environmental technologies will exceed US$1 trillion over the next 10 years.

Real world examples of what can be accomplished with technologies that are now currently available are all around us. It is not rocket science or still to be developed. It is a matter of will, which many corporations in the private sector are, fortunately, demonstrating.

Royal Dutch/Shell, one of the biggest petroleum concerns in the world, has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions to 10% below its 1990 levels. In the words of Sir Philip Watts, the chairman of Royal Dutch/Shell, “We cannot afford not to take action”.

There is a businessman who understands that when corporate responsibility is part of the corporate ethic the bottom line improves.

The senior management of BP, another petroleum company, understands this too. BP has invested $20 million in emission reduction initiatives, which have led to direct cost savings of some $550 million and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 20%, while at the same time increasing its production.

Dupont, the chemical company, has reduced its total greenhouse gas emissions by more than 65% since 1990. Since that time it has kept its total energy use flat.

These corporations, and many others, show parliamentarians and people in government what can be accomplished with the technologies and processes that are available today.

Today we can save energy in homes, in vehicles and in industrial processes with existing technologies and existing design. In the near future we will be able to achieve even greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

This focus on research and development will lead to a steady increase in our ability to use energy cleanly and efficiently. Canada is already a leader in many of these areas, in that of fuel cells for instance.

We must, however, do more. We must take advantage of our innovative and entrepreneurial abilities to fuel a healthy and clean economy and provide a better quality of life for all Canadians.

This government will do more by following an integrated approach that will enable it to achieve its objective, which is to build, for Canada and for Canadians, a strong and growing 21st century economy based on the principles of sustainable development.

These principles transcend all facets of government. By incorporating into our approach issues such as trade, foreign affairs and international development, we will ensure that Canadian technologies and know-how contribute to environmental health and to the public health of other nations while helping us build a strong economy.

Actions by individual Canadians account for almost 25% of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions of some 150 megatonnes a year. Through the one tonne challenge, Canadians are being encouraged to tackle climate change by reducing their personal greenhouse gas emissions by some 20% through more efficient uses of energy and smarter consumer choices.

The Speech from the Throne's environment focus was not exclusively on climate change. Actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions also reduce emissions of other pollutants, contributing to cleaner air and to reduce water pollution, not to mention a reduction in health costs.

The Government of Canada will continue to work with the provinces, territories and our United States neighbours to ensure that it achieves improved air quality for all Canadians.

This value of the collaborative approach has already been proven with actions on cleaner fuels and cleaner vehicles, new source emission guidelines for thermal power plants, and dramatic reductions in the levels of lead and other pollutants in our air. It has taken place over the last few years, particularly the last decade.

Actions under the Canada-U.S. air quality agreement and the ozone annex agreement have already begun to reduce acid rain and ozone levels in both countries. We must enhance those initiatives.

We have an environmental debt and deficit in Canada and it must be paid off. We did not incur this debt overnight and we cannot pay it off tomorrow, but we will be accelerating our efforts with a 10 year, $3.5 billion program to clean up contaminated sites for which the Government of Canada is responsible.

In addition, another $500 million will go toward cleaning up other key sites of environmental contamination, including the Sydney tar ponds.