House of Commons Hansard #21 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was police.

Topics

Health
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs about a very important health issue. In May 2003 the World Health Assembly, with the support of the Canadian government, approved the tobacco convention framework to control tobacco use. At the time, we said in Canada that we would ratify it as soon as possible.

Will the minister now commit that the Government of Canada will ratify this important convention, while at the same time remembering to provide incentives for Canadian tobacco farmers to produce other crops?

Health
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell for his important question. As he and the House know, Canada played an important role in the negotiations of this important convention. We are committed to ratifying it as soon as possible.

As the hon. member also knows, Canada does not ratify conventions until such time as provincial, regulatory and stakeholder engagement has been done. This is what we are doing.

As he points out, the convention has important provisions in it for farmers. We will be working with all stakeholders to ensure that the convention applies in Canada, for the good of our health and for the good of our farming community.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, last week Veterans Affairs issued 12,000 health care identification cards. These cards contained confidential and personal information, but they were sent to the wrong people. How did this breach of privacy take place?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, there was an unfortunate incident in which Blue Cross erroneously sent out quite a number of cards to the wrong destination. I am informing the House that those individuals are being contacted and are being written to by my department.

In addition, my department has been in contact with the privacy commissioner to ensure that there are no serious breaches in this regard.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, who is responsible for protecting the security of our veterans' personal health information, the government or a private contracted company?

Is the Minister of Veterans Affairs willing to stand here today and take personal responsibility for this critical error?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as I said, it is certainly regrettable when errors of this kind occur. My department has acted immediately. I am told the great majority of these individuals will receive a telephone call by 6 p.m. today. In addition, my office has been in contact with the privacy commissioner.

We are doing everything in our power to ensure that there is no breach in this important area for these important veterans.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

March 8th, 2004 / 2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, last week in Montreal the Prime Minister acknowledged the quality of Quebec's daycare system. What he did not say, however, was that the federal tax deduction system, which does not take into account the low cost of the Quebec system, has meant a $1 billion loss for Quebec families over the past six years.

Will the Prime Minister admit that the taxation system he himself put in place is depriving Quebec families of billions of dollars because the Government of Quebec has set up a good daycare system?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, obviously on the eve of a budget I am not in a position to comment in any detail upon any fiscal or tax matter, but I will take the hon. member's question as a representation.

Justice
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Judi Longfield Whitby—Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, today across Canada we are joining with friends around the world in celebrating International Women's Day.

Could the Minister of Justice tell the House what he is doing to help protect women who are innocent victims in such dreadful things as international sex trade transgressions and trafficking?

Justice
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, trafficking women in particular is one of the most heinous of crimes. It is the new global slave trade and it violates all the rights of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular the rights of women.

Accordingly, today on International Women's Day I am hosting a two day international seminar, releasing a 10 point proposal in order to prevent trafficking, in order to protect victims and in order to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, Compass Communications, owned by Liberal strategist Tony Blom, received $2.3 million for a sponsorship at the Winnipeg Pan Am Games. Yet the executives of the games now tell us they received only $640,000, a pretty hefty commission for the Liberal ad firm; a $1.7 million commission for $600,000 worth of sponsorship. We want our money.

What is the minister doing to get our $1.6 million back from the Liberal Party and its agent, Compass Communications?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, first, we have hired a special counsel for the recovery of finances. Second, we have a public and judicial inquiry which is looking into such allegations. Third, we are referring cases to the RCMP whenever there is any evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Fourth, we are participating in the public accounts committee to get to the bottom of these issues.

We are doing everything possible in as open and transparent a way as possible.

The Commonwealth
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

In September, the federal, Quebec and Ontario branches of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association will host that organization's 50th conference in Ottawa, Quebec City and Toronto.

In order to celebrate this event and to mark Commonwealth Day, which is today, March 8, 2004, I would like to read the message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the Commonwealth.

The lives of many of my generation were profoundly changed by a world war fought in the name of freedom. I have often reflected with pride on the huge contribution made by the peoples of the Commonwealth to that cause of liberty in which millions perished.

In the years following the war, a succession of countries emerging into independence chose to join the Commonwealth as free and equal members. As a result, the Commonwealth became rooted in all parts of the world and developed into the modern organisation we know today.

Democracy, national self-determination, individual liberty and human rights–all these are fundamental to that which binds the Commonwealth together.

The importance of these principles was clearly in the minds of Commonwealth leaders during their discussions at last December's summit in Abuja, Nigeria. Living up to principles is never easy. It can involve difficult and painful decisions. But the affirmation of those values provides common ground for the Commonwealth as a whole to grow stronger.

The Abuja meeting also made the crucial link between democracy and development. Democracy is important to sustained development--and underdevelopment can be democracy's greatest threat.

Nowhere is freedom perfectly realised--and its enemies are not only those who terrorise and torture, they are also hunger, poverty, disease and ignorance. That is why it is important for the Commonwealth to do all it can to tackle these challenges directly, whether in alleviating poverty or in promoting education and health. It is also essential to strengthen the rule of law, protect democratic freedoms and build strong civil societies.

I firmly believe that if the Commonwealth is to increase its role as a force for good in the world, strengthening democratic freedoms must remain at the heart of its purposes.

Elizabeth R.

8 March 2004

The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the right hon. member for Calgary Centre.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, my question of privilege concerns the failure of the government to honour its obligation to give Parliament, through its committees, the opportunity to consider and examine appointments made by order in council. That is particularly important given the government's professed interest in increasing the scrutiny of appointments by Parliament. In fact, by breaking the existing rules, the government is limiting that scrutiny by Parliament.

Standing Order 110 imposes a clear obligation. It states:

(1) A Minister of the Crown shall lay upon the Table a certified copy of an Order in Council, stating that a certain individual has been appointed to a certain non-judicial post, not later than five sitting days after the Order in Council is published in the Canada Gazette. The same shall be deemed to have been referred to a standing committee specified at the time of tabling, pursuant to Standing Order 32(6), for its consideration during a period not exceeding thirty sitting days.

Standing Orders 110(2) and 111 are relevant to the argument but I will not detain the House by quoting as hon. members would be familiar with them.

Standing Order 110(1) imposes both a clear obligation and a timeframe “not later than five sitting days after the Order in Council is published in the Canada Gazette ”.

I have a list here of several order in council appointments published in the Canada Gazette from December 20, 2003 through February 7, 2004. By the rules, all these orders in council should have been tabled before the House adjourned on February 27. Sir, none was tabled.

That meant that the relevant standing committees were denied the right to consider and examine those appointments, a right conferred by an explicit order of the House.

Some of the appointments were routine, such as returning officers in various constituencies. Some might not be considered to be at the heart of public administration, such as the appointment of the new chef at 24 Sussex Drive. However some of the appointments were to new positions which reflect important new initiatives of the government and which would clearly benefit from the scrutiny of Parliament and the public.

I came upon this breach of the rules because of my interest in the appointment of Mr. Robert A. Wright as the “National Security Advisor” to the Prime Minister. That appointment was gazetted on January 17. The House sat from February 2 until February 27. Despite the clear order of the House, the order in council making that appointment has never been tabled in the House of Commons.

The security czar is a new position. It relates to security and intelligence matters which are of profound importance to this country and to Parliament. That is a field in which Canadian parliamentarians have consistently been denied the access to information that exists in other parliamentary systems, like the United Kingdom, Australia and in the United States. Breaking the rules on this appointment has denied Parliament an opportunity to look into this issue, an opportunity ordered by Parliament.

The government also failed to table orders in council respecting the new position of head of the Canada-United States Secretariat in the Privy Council Office, a position that had not existed before and that has significant implications of policy and other kinds for the Government of Canada, as well as appointments of the Commissioner of the Northern Pipeline Agency, the vice-chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, members of the Immigration and Refugee Board and other senior and sensitive positions.

You will know, Mr. Speaker, that Speaker Sauvé ruled in 1980, as quoted in Marleau and Montpetit:

...while our privileges are defined, 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.

The government has a clear and explicit obligation to table these orders in council. It is spelled out in the standing orders. Its failure to act on that obligation has impeded the ability of the House to perform its function on important issues of public interest. By that failure, the government has also disobeyed a clear order of the House of Commons.

If you find it appropriate, sir, I have a motion to present.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have listened quite carefully to the hon. member's comments. I will have to take that under advisement to verify if indeed all the positions he mentioned were gazetted order in council appointments that required tabling and automatic referral to committees. We will clarify that rapidly and get back to the Speaker in due course.