House of Commons Hansard #80 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Canadian Forces
Oral Question Period

April 12th, 2005 / 2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Chatters Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence promised the members of the Canadian Forces that they would be getting a 6% pay raise on March 1. They did not get the pay raise on March 1. They did not get the pay raise on April 1. They still have not got the pay raise, despite an $11 billion surplus.

When is the government going to live up to its promises, obligations and commitments and provide the raises to our members of the Canadian armed forces?

Canadian Forces
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I do not know what the hon. member is basing his information on, but I have to tell him that I was recently in Esquimalt speaking to members of our Canadian navy and they are thrilled with the pay raise. I have spoken with members of the army and they are very pleased with the pay raise, as are members of the air force.

The hon. member may not like it, but the fact of the matter is that members of our armed forces are very grateful for it and it is improving their quality of life. I am thrilled with the fact that we can show how the government appreciates the tremendous service of our armed forces.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the PMO sets up the sponsorship program; the finance minister allocates money to it; the Treasury Board President closes her eyes; the PMO selects the projects; the friends of the Liberal Party pocket the money; the organizers take their cut; and the Liberal Party gets rich.

Does that not sum up the whole Liberal Party of Canada food chain?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Kings—Hants
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, once again the hon. member is quoting from testimony as if it is fact. She is quoting allegations as if they are facts. She should realize that her provincial cousin, Mr. Landry, has in fact said that Mr. Brault, one of the witnesses, has no credibility and is in fact wrong in some of his testimony before the Gomery inquiry.

I would urge her in this case to listen to her provincial cousin, Mr. Landry, who tells her and her party that she ought not judge this testimony as truth. In fact, what she ought to do is wait for Justice Gomery to submit his report. That way she can have the truth, and all Canadians can.

The Budget
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, debate started today in the House on implementing the measures announced in the budget last month, a budget for which the Leader of the Opposition could not wait to state his support in the foyer of the House of Commons, a budget about which the Leader of the Opposition stated “there is nothing in this budget that would justify an election”, a budget that the same leader is now flip-flopping on as he contemplates triggering a quarter billion dollar election.

Could the Minister of Finance please remind the members of the opposition why a few short weeks ago they thought this budget was “a step in the right direction”?

The Budget
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, maybe it was the $5 billion for cities and communities, or the $5 billion for children and early learning, or the $2.7 billion for senior citizens, or the $3 billion for Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, or the $5 billion for the environment, or the greenest budget in Canadian history, or the $3.4 billion in foreign aid, or the $13 billion for the Canadian armed forces, or the $12 billion in tax relief. Maybe it is just that we have the best fiscal performance since 1867 and the best fiscal performance in all the G-7 countries.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Tan Sri Dato'Seri Dr. Abdul Hamid Pawanteh, President of the Senate of Malaysia.

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

Order. The Chair has notice of a number of questions of privilege and points of order. We will start with those now. We will begin with the hon. member for Red Deer.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, my question of privilege will charge the Prime Minister with contempt for his total disregard for the motion adopted on Wednesday, April 6, 2005 regarding the appointment of Glen Murray to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

Page 67 of Marleau and Montpetit states that the House can claim the right to punish for certain affronts against the dignity and authority of Parliament.

At what point does Parliament take a stand against a Prime Minister who continually thumbs his nose at Parliament?

In this Parliament the Prime Minister reneged on his very first obligation to the House with respect to the amendment to the throne speech to allow members an opportunity to consider all public information pertaining to the missile defence agreement and to vote prior to a government decision.

My House leader raised a complaint in the House with respect to the defeat of Bills C-31 and C-32. In the case of Bills C-31 and C-32, the trade minister shrugged off the defeat of two bills that would create a new international trade department separate from the Department of Foreign Affairs, saying that the two branches of government will continue to operate independently without Parliament's blessing.

Now we are faced with a situation where a committee has rejected an appointment made by the government. That vote was nine to two. It reported that rejection to the House. The House has concurred in that rejection on a vote of 143 to 108. The Prime Minister has continued to ignore it. We brought this about because the person was not qualified for the position of the appointment.

The excessive power that lies in the Prime Minister's office prompted the Prime Minister in his address to the law students at Osgoode Hall in the fall of 2002 when he was trolling for support for his leadership bid, to state that the essence of power in Ottawa was who you know in the PMO. We thought he was complaining about it. We thought he was promising to clean that up, but if one wants a government appointment in his government, it is not Parliament that matters, it is who you know in the PMO.

In the future why would any member question an appointment and bring it before committee? The Prime Minister does not listen. Why would we debate it in the House with our three hours? The Prime Minister does not listen.

Mr. Speaker, I feel that my privilege has been taken away because of what the Prime Minister has done. I would ask you to look at that.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I will take the question of privilege the hon. member for Red Deer has raised under advisement and get back to the House in due course.

The second notice is from the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege resulting from the comments made by the Prime Minister's director of communications, Scott Reid, on national television, CBC Newsworld , on Thursday, March 17, 2005, slandering my reputation as a member of Parliament which, in effect, slanders the reputation of all members of the House.

The remarks were only recently brought to my attention and this represents the first opportunity to bring this question of privilege before the House.

It has become an unfortunate, unsavoury practice in Canadian politics to malign the reputations of individuals who have been elected to serve the people of Canada. There is an expectation that members of the Prime Minister's staff, as they represent the Prime Minister, would demonstrate restraint and some degree of professionalism in the exercise of their duties. Many Canadians judge the words they are speaking as though they were coming from the Prime Minister's mouth himself.

It is ironic that when a senior member of the Prime Minister's staff maligns the reputation of a member of Parliament, they, in effect, malign the reputation of their boss, the Prime Minister, as surely as they are attacking all of our reputations and the reputation of the House.

In the case of Mr. Reid, as the Prime Minister's director of communications, his comments were tasteless and over the top. I am tabling a copy of those comments, Mr. Speaker, for your review and determination on this question of privilege.

On March 22, 1983, on page 24027 of Hansard , the Speaker ruled:

A reflection upon the reputation of an Hon. Member is a matter of great concern to all Members of the House. It places the entire institution under a cloud, as it suggests that among the Members of the House there are some who are unworthy to sit here.

Rightfulness, fair play and the people I represent in the riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, along with a great many fair-minded Canadians who are quite frankly shocked at the comments of the Prime Minister's representative, demand that I challenge the comments made by that individual. Justice cannot be served if this slanderous comment against me is left unchallenged and unresolved.

On page 214 of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada there is a reference to reflections on members. It states:

The House of Commons is prepared to find contempt in respect of utterances within the category of libel and slander and also in respect of utterances which do not meet that standard.

As put by Bourinot, “any scandalous and libellous reflections on the proceedings of the House are a breach of the privileges of Parliament and libels upon members individually”.

I would also refer you, Mr. Speaker, to a Speaker's ruling from October 29, 1980 at page 4213 of Hansard . The Speaker said:

--in the context of contempt, it seems to me that to amount to contempt, representations or statements about our proceedings or of the participation of members should not only be erroneous or incorrect, but, rather, should be purposely untrue and improper and import a rung of deceit.

The comments made by the Prime Minister's employee were not only incorrect but I charge Scott Reid with deliberately and maliciously making a statement that was politically motivated and was a deliberate attempt to tarnish my reputation.

With the daily unfolding spectacle of the sponsorship scandal, many accusations will be made and many reputations attacked, including, in all likelihood, the reputations of members of the House.

A strong message regarding what is acceptable and what is not acceptable to members of the House, particularly comments coming from someone in the position of personal spokesperson of the Prime Minister, will send the right message in the days and weeks ahead as the House seeks the truth regarding the missing millions in the sponsorship inquiry.

An MP's staff should not be allowed to get away with what the MP himself would be held account to. If you find this to be a prima facie question of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, after hearing the comments of the hon. member opposite, I think you will agree that the question of privilege does not apply in this case. First, these comments were made by someone who is not an MP and, second, these comments were not made in this House.

Allow me to make the following comment: in both cases, it would be quite easy to determine rather quickly that this matter is certainly not a question of privilege.

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 rise on the same question of privilege to add to what the deputy government House leader said.

If every time a member of the House was unhappy about comments made by a spokesperson for another party or another member outside the House, Mr. Speaker, you would be hearing a lot of questions of privilege.

Mr. Speaker, I hope you would suggest to the member that her recourse, if she feels that she has recourse, lies outside the House. She has a number of civil remedies available to her if she feels so aggrieved. This certainly is not a question of privilege.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I have listened to the hon. member for Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke on this point. She did not read out the offending comments but she did say that she would make them available to the Chair and I will look at those comments.

However I must say that I have concerns about which privilege it is she is alleging has been breached in this case. It is entirely possible that she may have a grievance but that is something that is not normally dealt with by the House.

Statements made outside this place, and the rulings she quoted were all ones with which I quite agree, but I am sure they dealt with words that were used in the House by one member in relation to another member, which would be the subject of a question of privilege if the privileges of the member were breached by the comments that were made. That sometimes happens in the House. Members do get up and say that unparliamentary terms were used about them and get the Chair to order the withdrawal of the word if in fact it was unparliamentary, or to get an apology from the member who said the words. Speakers can do that.

However, Speakers do not have authority over those who are not members of the House and who make statements, even if they are employees of members of the House in making them. If those persons came before a committee and made statements there, perhaps the member would find that her privileges as a member were in some way breached. However statements made outside the House by others, whoever they may be, I do not believe are the subject of claims for privilege in the House.

While I am prepared to look at the sheet that she said she would table and if necessary come back to the House, my guess is on everything I have heard today that there is no question of privilege here.

I have a point of order from the hon. member for Newton--North Delta.