House of Commons Hansard #52 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Kings—Hants
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, let me tell the member something about what most Canadians across the country, particularly Liberals, are unified on and believe in. If he wants to talk about single issues, we believe in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We believe that Canada is well served by having an independent judiciary. We believe in our Constitution and defending that Constitution. That party and that individual attack the Charter of Rights on an ongoing basis, and frankly, they deny themselves the opportunity to ever form government in a country as moderate and tolerant as Canada.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, last May the Government of Canada announced its commitment to work with the Province of Nova Scotia in its clean-up of the Sydney tar ponds. Today in Sydney the project description for this clean-up was released, marking the beginning of the next phase of this important remediation initiative.

My question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. Could the minister tell the House how long this phase will take and when will actual work begin?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Kings—Hants
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his very valuable work on this file.

Today we launched public consultations on the proposed clean-up for the Sydney tar ponds. Moving ahead on this important project is a priority for our government. Once the 30 day consultation period is complete, we will conduct an environmental assessment that meets all legal requirements, that is thorough in terms of its scope and that will be completed in a timely manner.

This spring work will begin on the removal of the cooling ponds, the realignment of the coke ovens and the relocation of the Whitney Pier's waterline.

We are proud as a government to work to clean up the Sydney tar ponds.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are starting to ask more questions about the economic cost of full compliance with Kyoto. When the government spends $3.7 billion with negative results, taxpayers tend to get a little upset.

This morning the finance minister told us that we needed a more robust plan. Before moving forward with more spending on Kyoto, will the minister come clean and tell Canadians what the cost will be in dollars and jobs in full compliance with Kyoto?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the enhanced plan will be released and at that time we will be very pleased to discuss it with the hon. member. I am sure he will conclude that not only will it improve the environment, not only will it help Canada to fulfill its international duty but it will strengthen the Canadian economy.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the persons appearing on the poster in honour of this year's Black History Month: the Hon. Alvin Curling, Speaker of the Ontario Provincial Legislature, Delores Lawrence and Denham Jolly.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I also draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Hon. David Simailak, Minister of Economic Development and Transportation of the Government of Nunavut.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on Monday, December 13, 2004, by the hon. member for Delta--Richmond East concerning a reply to a question on the order paper.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Delta—Richmond East for raising this matter, as well as the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill for their contributions on this issue.

In presenting his case the hon. member for Delta—Richmond East charged that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans deliberately misled the House in responding to Question No. 5 on the order paper on December 8, 2004. In part (i) of his question, the member asked what diseases or parasites had been found in salmon net pens along the coast of British Columbia for each of the years 2000 to 2003 and the location of each farm where they had been found. The reply of the government tabled in the House on December 8 was as follows.

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.

As the hon. member noted in his submission, he had 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.”

The member stated that, following a request under the Access to Information Act, he had seen a draft of the reply to this part of Question No. 5, as well as internal departmental correspondence concerning the draft. The draft response explained at some length that the department did not compile this information. The internal departmental correspondence showed that the minister's office asked the department's officials to rewrite the response in a more positive way.

According to the member, the minister attempted to hide the truth and was therefore in contempt of the House.

Questions on the order paper are a very important tool in the hands of members. Their purpose should be to seek, through a precise, detailed formulation, precise, detailed information that will enable members to carry on their work.

There have been several occasions in the past where members have raised questions of privilege regarding the accuracy of information contained in responses to written questions. In none of these cases was the matter found to be a prima facie breach of privilege. I refer hon. members to page 443 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice , where it states:

There are no provisions in the rules for the Speaker to review government responses to questions....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 an Hon. Member knowing whether the facts contained in a document are correct”.

I would also like to refer members to the guidelines for replies to written questions, which can be found at page 443 of Marleau and Montpetit. These read:

The guidelines that apply to the form and content of written questions are also applicable to the answers provided by the government. As such, no argument or opinion is to be given, and only the information needed to respond to the question is to be provided in an effort to maintain the process of written questions as an exchange of information rather than an opportunity for debate. It is acceptable for the government, in responding to a written question, to indicate to the House that it cannot supply an answer.

From the discussion in the House and from the documentation provided to the Chair by the hon. member for Delta—Richmond East, I see no grounds to depart from the rulings given by my predecessors in dealing with comparable situations. It would appear that the government does not compile the specific information the member was seeking. In the reply to the question, the minister directed the member to the Government of British Columbia, where he might find the information he was looking for.

Any dispute regarding the accuracy or appropriateness of this response is a matter of debate. It is not something upon which the Speaker is permitted to pass judgment.

I therefore find that there is no prima facie question of privilege. I thank the hon. member for Delta—Richmond East as well as those who contributed to the discussion on this matter.

Is the hon. member for Delta—Richmond East rising again?

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Delta—Richmond East, BC

Yes, Mr. Speaker, if I may, just with a question. It seemed to me that the issue was not the response. The issue was the fact that the matter had been sent back for a more positive response, as the Speaker noted. In other words, there was an effort there to colour the answer in a way that may not be appropriate. That is what the issue was: not the substance of the answer but the fact that the government was prepared to manipulate the answer in a way that was going to be more favourable to it. That was my issue.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

As I pointed out in my ruling, the answer the member got was the same answer as was originally prepared, except in a shorter form. It is not for the Speaker to judge whether it was more positive or more negative. The fact is that the information was not stated by the government in the answers, both the one he got under the Access to Information Act and the one provided in the House. It was gathered, in fact, by a provincial ministry and the hon. member should go there to get the information.

It is not for the Chair, as I indicated in my ruling, to decide whether one answer was more positive or more negative than the other. I know the hon. member feels that such is the case, but as I stated, that is a matter for debate, not a matter for the Chair to make a ruling on, and I have so indicated.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Supply
Government Orders

February 8th, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I should inform you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Drummond. Allow me to extend very sincere thanks to my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois who spoke earlier this morning. This is one more proof that the Bloc Québécois is the best when it comes to defending the interests of Quebeckers.

The fact of the matter is that our party has been talking for a long time of the foreseeable, catastrophic effects of removing quotas on textile and clothing imports, a measure that came into effect on January 1.

In 1994, Canada signed the agreement on textiles and clothing. Under this agreement, it did have 10 years to put transitional measures in place. The federal government had 10 years to develop a transitional strategy for the textile and apparel industry. What has it done?

Almost nothing, really, letting down hundreds of thousands of workers across Canada, with 55% of them in Quebec alone. I want to point out that, since 1998, in these industries, over 40,000 jobs were lost in Quebec, out of a total of 115,000. In addition, some analysts predict that nearly half of the 75,000 remaining jobs might also be lost.

The federal government ought to have noticed that these industries were bleeding out, but it did nothing. When the closures in Huntingdon were announced, it reacted, albeit in an ad hoc manner, in an attempt to save face.

The Bloc Québécois had been calling for a structured response by the federal government for many years, and it was not the only one doing so. This government failed to hear the cries of the Canadian Apparel Federation and the Canadian Textile Institute.

Was the advice of the finance subcommittee not appropriate? We must gather that it was not. What does the federal government's plan provide for? In this respect, I will not elaborate, as my hon. colleagues have already drawn an accurate picture of the situation. I can say, however, that the CATIP and CANtex programs have failed to prevent major closures and are likely to be even less successful in coping with what the future holds.

The bottom line is that this is a blatant lack of vision and political will by this government. What does the Bloc Québécois suggest? First, this government needs to take its responsibilities. It was the government that negotiated and signed the international trade agreements and it was the government that decided to open the borders. Then it is the government that should implement tools and a national aid policy to help the companies cope with the new realities. For example, it must ensure that import tariffs on clothing and textile products are maintained and a quota on Chinese imports imposed under China's WTO accession protocol.

Why could it not implement measures to encourage the use of Quebec and Canadian textiles by allowing clothing made abroad with Canadian textiles to enter duty free, by imposing stricter rules of origin on least developed countries, by negotiating Canada's entry in agreements reached between the United States and Latin America—which is unbelievable and an indirect form of protectionism that sustains the American industry—and, finally, by adopting a policy on buying locally that is compliant with international agreements. These were possible solutions and there is still time to act.

Canada also has a moral responsibility to adopt an international policy that would prevent offshoring. Enough with the fine speeches, now it is time for action. Why not ask certain countries to enhance their minimal work standards and environmental standards? Why not impose labelling that would tell consumers where the products they purchase come from? How many Canadians and Quebeckers know that Canada still has not signed the World Trade Organization conventions against forced labour and child labour?

As for company closures, it would be viable and humanly imperative for this government to conduct an overhaul of the employment insurance system, to increase transfers to the Government of Quebec for professional training and to show solidarity by reinstating the Program for Older Worker Adjustment, or POWA.

The federal government could also set up a real assistance program to modernize the garment and textile sectors and encourage not only development and design, but research as well. The amount of money added to the CANtex program in December—$50 million over five years—is insufficient. This program does not touch the garment industry which will also need to modernize to meet new challenges. Thus, this program must be given more financial resources, and it must also apply to the garment industry.

The textile and garment industries are facing enormous difficulties and challenges. We can and we must support these industrial sectors employing thousands of our fellow citizens. It is a difficult task but not impossible. In the riding of Berthier—Maskinongé, which I represent, these two industries are still alive and well. As in other regions of Quebec, a factory in Maskinongé—Confections Thibault—has announced it will close. More than 50 men and women will lose their jobs and many of them are over 50 years old. A huge part of their personal universe is being turned upside down. They will need help.

Paradoxically, in Louiseville there is a model factory. It is the oldest manufacturer of shirts in Canada. My colleague, the hon. member for Joliette and the Bloc Québécois critic for foreign trade, globalization and international financial institutions, and I visited that factory last fall, to get a better understanding of the needs and challenges in this industrial sector. I would like to thank him once again for his great availability and sensitivity. The factory in question is Empire Shirt. This company is still holding its own in the face of fierce competition. It is concerned with training its employees and modernizing its equipment. Nevertheless, it will need much more solid support from the federal government in order to continue its operations as it hopes to do.

On behalf of the people of Berthier—Maskinongé, I call upon the federal government to develop a real strategy for the textile and garment sectors. And in terms of strategy, we know what it is capable of. We are seeing the level of intelligence it put into developing a real strategy for Canadian unity, beginning in 1995. Thus, it is capable of establishing a strategy that favours the unity of our communities, our families and the textile and garment industrial sector.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Boulianne Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé on his presentation. In my opinion, he has very clearly demonstrated that the problems we are experiencing in the clothing and textile industry are due to the federal government's failure to act. The situation is the same in my riding of Mégantic—L'Érable, particularly in L'Érable, where we are going through a similar situation with the asbestos industry.

My hon. colleague alluded to the existing program. On three specific points, namely the fact that the program funds have been used up, that there is a ceiling or simply that program money has been sprinkled here and there, which is not resolving anything while preventing plant development, would he agree to say that there is no shortage of solutions?

In fact, we in the Bloc Québécois, and our leader in particular, who travelled to the asbestos region, have proposed solutions. Obviously, all that is missing here is the federal government's will to act on bringing about positive solutions and meeting its commitments.

I would like to hear him on that.