House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Justice
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, the actions and comments of the Prime Minister's colleague are unjustifiable. It is too bad he did not share that deep concern for the families of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, and the pain they have had to endure and continue to endure because of comments like that. To lend moral support to Karla Homolka is nothing short of repugnant.

My question to the Prime Minister--

Justice
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I am afraid the hon. member's time has expired. I know there are a lot of interruptions here, but they are beyond my control, I am afraid. I do not think there was a question by the hon. member, so we will move on.

The hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.

Maher Arar Inquiry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, during his testimony before the Maher Arar inquiry, the Minister of National Defence said that Canada would have stepped up its efforts had the government known that Maher Arar was at risk of being tortured. Yet, according to Gar Pardy, the former head of consular services, reports indicating suspicions of torture had been presented to the department.

How could the minister, who has apologized to Maher Arar, state in this House that he was not informed of the threats that hung over Arar, when his department was aware of them?

Maher Arar Inquiry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I believe my hon. colleague ought to take into consideration that this is an ongoing inquiry, and comments must not be made on daily events.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

David Smith Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, through its Bill 71, the Government of Quebec reduced the allowable cut of softwood by 20%. The impact of this, in addition to the softwood lumber conflict and the existing problems with the other species, has several communities in my riding quite worried.

Will the Government of Canada intervene to help the affected communities in my riding and throughout Quebec?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and Minister responsible for the Francophonie

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, who is working so hard on this issue.

In addition to the $33 million invested in the softwood lumber industry over the past five years, Canada Economic Development has invested $71 million in 309 production, market development, secondary processing and innovation projects. This is in addition to a $20 million investment by other federal partners.

As for Bill 71, I came to an agreement with Minister Audet to further improve our financial support for mitigation measures and to strike a coordinating committee to better focus our joint support to the affected communities.

If we can do more, we will, but first we need the budget.

Employment Insurance Act
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

Order. I am now prepared to rule on the request from the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities with respect to the need for a royal recommendation for Bill C-280, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting) and another act in consequence.

On June 6, 2005, the Standing Committee presented its seventh report to the House which sought clarification regarding the provisions of this bill as it related to the royal recommendation. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader made a submission on this matter as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development , and the hon. member for St. John’s South—Mount Pearl. The Chair thanks these members for their submissions.

As hon. members may recall, the Chair made an earlier ruling on this same bill at the commencement of second reading debate on February 8, 2005. At that time the Chair stated that it appeared clause 5 required a royal recommendation. The Chair proceeded in this fashion as a result of its responsibility to manage private members' business under Standing Order 94(1) and its responsibility under Standing Order 79(2).

As I explained in the statement of February 8 on Bill C-280, clause 5 mandated the appointment of 13 new commissioners to the Canada Employment Insurance Commission. The remuneration received by these new members would entail additional public spending and this spending required the bill to have a royal recommendation.

The Chair went on to state that debate on the bill could proceed, despite this impediment, until the moment for putting the question on third reading. If by that time no royal recommendation had been received, then the Chair would decline to put the question on third reading.

Since the beginning of this Parliament, matters relating to the financial initiative of the Crown and private members’ bills have been raised by the Chair at an early stage to provide all members with an opportunity to make submissions. In this way, if the House sends a bill to committee for detailed consideration, members of the committee are forewarned of its shortcomings. A committee can amend such bills to remove the spending provisions, or the sponsor can convince the Crown to provide a royal recommendation.

In the case before us today, during its deliberations on Bill C-280, the members of the standing committee considered amendments to remove the spending requirements of clause 5 in order to permit the bill to proceed to a vote at third reading. While this prospect would have responded to the difficulty signaled in the Chair’s February statement, a quite different question arose during its deliberations and the committee decided to seek clarification from the Chair.

Thus, in his incisive submission to the House, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader maintained that clause 2 infringes on the financial initiative of the Crown for two reasons: It creates a new fund outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and it alters the purpose of the original legislation.

Sections 71 to 77 of the Employment Insurance Act establish the operation of the employment insurance account as part of the consolidated revenue fund. Amounts are paid out of the consolidated revenue fund and charged to the account chiefly for employment benefits and the costs of administering the act.

The parliamentary secretary describes the current employment insurance account as a “virtual fund” since the actual funds are integrated with the general revenues within the consolidated revenue fund. The EI account actually expresses the balance of employment insurance transactions, that is to say, whether it is in a surplus or deficit position.

The parliamentary secretary claimed that clause 2 of Bill C-280 creates an independent EI account outside the consolidated revenue fund and, in so doing, creates an account that represents a new and distinct charge on the public revenue that is not currently provided for in legislation.

The parliamentary secretary raised another point relating to clause 2. As he explained, the purpose of the current Employment Insurance Act would be changed for it does not assign to the EI Commission the role of independently managing the amounts paid into the account, nor of investing the assets with financial institutions. Thus, he contended, the change to the employment insurance regime proposed by Bill C-280, particularly with reference to the commission, is a significant alteration of the circumstances, manner and purposes of the original legislative authority which was accompanied by a royal recommendation. To alter such provisions in this manner infringes on the financial initiative of the Crown. The parliamentary secretary cited a recent ruling on May 9, 2005 where the Chair explained on page 5780 of Hansard that:

--a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where more money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is being significantly altered.

The Chair has had an opportunity to reflect on the complexities of this case. I have carefully reviewed the submissions to determine whether Bill C-280 in clause 2 does anything more than rearrange the method of accounting for public funds. If not, then no royal recommendation is required: how public funds are recorded in the government’s ledgers does not constitute an appropriation for which a royal recommendation would be required. On close examination, it seems to the Chair that clause 2 in Bill C-280 involves more than accounting methodology

The Chair acknowledges that the proposed section 72 in Bill C-280 would credit monies from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Commission which would then place it into a new and separate account.

As the parliamentary secretary pointed out, this clause converts the Employment Insurance Account from an account within the Consolidated Revenue Fund to one that is outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Right now, monies in the Consolidated Revenue Fund are available for eventual expenditure for purposes of claims under the Employment Insurance Act. With the passage of Bill C-280, monies are expended immediately from the Consolidated Revenue Fund even though these funds are not needed for expenditure under the Employment Insurance Act. In other words, Bill C-280 effects an appropriation by spending or authorizing the spending of public funds by transfer of the funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to a separate EI Fund with the result that these monies are no longer available for other appropriations Parliament may make. These funds would no longer be available because, in effect, they have been spent, that is, transferred out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to a separate and independent account outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Such a transfer, in my view, constitutes an appropriation within the meaning of section 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867 and for this reason a royal recommendation is required in respect of clause 2 of the Bill.

In relation to the argument that proposed subsection 72(3) creates new duties for the commission in terms of managing and investing amounts paid into the employment insurance account, the Chair believes that, here again, this would involve new spending for a new purpose and, as such, requires a royal recommendation.

Therefore, in its present form, Bill C-280 infringes on the financial initiative of the Crown for three reasons: first, clause 2 effects an appropriation of public funds by its transfer of these funds from the consolidated revenue fund to an independent employment insurance account established outside the consolidated revenue fund.

Second, clause 2 significantly alters the duties of the EI Commission to enable new or different spending of public funds by the commission for a new purpose namely, the investment of public funds.

Third, as indicated in my ruling of February 8, clause 5 increases the number of commissioners from four to seventeen.

In conclusion, let me say that this is the ninth decision that I have delivered this session relating to private members' bills and the financial initiative of the Crown. In light of the new regime for private members' business, the Chair has had to view very seriously its responsibilities with regard to private members' bills, particularly with regard to the requirement that our procedures respect the financial prerogatives of the Crown.

I want to thank all hon. members who intervened in this situation and I want to encourage all hon. members, private members and the ministry, to raise at the earliest opportunity any concerns they may have with any bills the House is considering. Ideally, such concerns will be raised at the commencement of debate at second reading in keeping with the best traditions of this place so that decisions can be taken with full knowledge of the consequences of those decisions. When bills appear to contain financial provisions that should be recommended by the Crown, it behooves us all to ensure that proper attention is given to them.

I thank the House and the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for providing the Chair with this opportunity to make the necessary clarifications with regard to Bill C-280.

Employment Insurance Act
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, very briefly, I want to ask if the Chair has had the time to consider this matter, in other words, did this bill require a ways and means motion.

I am raising this question in reference to a Speaker's ruling on a Senate bill during the last Parliament. That bill sought to impose a levy on cigarettes that would have gone into a separate fund. The money collected would have gone to good works, such as a campaign to prevent youth smoking. It was highly commendable.

However, I told the House back then that this was a levy or a tax. Since it was a tax, the Chair decided at that time that the bill required a ways and means motion, if my memory serves me. I invite the Chair to consider this further. This was my first point.

I would like to raise a second point. Given that we have a large number of these bills coming up in the future, as Mr. Speaker has correctly said, we will begin third reading knowing that we cannot complete that stage of the same bill.

I wonder if the Speaker has ever thought that we should maybe ask that before we begin the third reading stage of a bill, the government either indicate that it will provide the royal recommendation, or otherwise the time of the House will be taken up to debate a motion namely, the acceptance of a bill at third reading, knowing that the bill will never be voted on.

I thought I would offer those two items respectfully.

Employment Insurance Act
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I want to thank the hon. member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell for his views.

With respect to the first issue, I assume he was referring to Bill C-280 in respect of a ways and means motion. Since the bill is not proposing to increase taxation but simply change the way the funds would be dealt with once they get paid into the consolidated revenue fund of Canada, I do not believe a ways and means motion is necessary. That is off the top of my head. However I will happily look into the matter and if my opinion is different I will get back to the House.

With respect to the second issue, he knows the Chair has no opinion whatever in respect to the rules of the House. I simply apply them. He also knows that as chairman of the procedure and House affairs committee he is in a position to bring in recommendations for changes to the rules that the House could adopt and then the Speaker would happily enforce them.

If he wishes to change the rules so that debate does not even start on third reading unless there is going to be a royal recommendation, then the Speaker will happily enforce that rule. However I have no opinion whatever on whether that would be a prudent course. That is entirely up to members. I am happy to abide by whatever decision hon. members make in that regard.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Liberal

Raymond Simard Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to three petitions.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

June 13th, 2005 / 3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology on Bill C-37, an act to amend the Telecommunications Act.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eleventh report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the twelfth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade on international aid. I am sure that it will have an enormous impact.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, my petitioners say that on average the majority of CF members who reside in Ontario will lose between $450 to $750 per year to the new Ontario health premium. The members of the Canadian armed forces have been promised a full refund of the premiums with an offsetting payment paid through the post living differential by the government.

The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to direct the Department of National Defence to immediately pay the promised refund and enforce the Canada Health Act to stop the Liberal Party of Ontario from extra billing our soldiers and our RCMP.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, a vast majority of Canadians support the current legal definition of marriage as the voluntary union of a single man and a single woman, including the several hundred from my riding, namely from Quesnel, British Columbia.

The petitioners say that whereas it is the duty of Parliament to ensure that marriage is defined as Canadians wish it to be defined, they petition Parliament to use all possible legislative and administrative measures, including invoking section 33 of the charter if necessary, to preserve and protect the current definition of marriage as between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of a number of constituents from Mississauga South and other parts of Canada on the subject matter of marriage. I think we have reached a threshold at which it should be unanimously adopted. I am sure, with this petition, we have crossed the million signatures by now.

However, one more time, the petitioners draw to the attention of the House that matters of social policy shall be decided by elected parliamentarians and not by unelected judges. What part of that do we not understand? It is part, as I understand, that shows Parliament is the highest court in the land. Also, the majority of Canadians believe that the definition as defined, being the legal union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, is the preferred definition. We have proved that through the polls often enough.

Finally, the petitioners ask that Parliament use its legislative and administrative powers, including a power that is in section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the notwithstanding clause, to ensure that we preserve and protect the traditional definition of marriage. All those in favour say aye.