House of Commons Hansard #119 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was spending.

Topics

Fugitives from Justice in Other Countries Act
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-409, An Act respecting fugitives from justice in other countries who are in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, this bill respects fugitives from justice who are currently residing in Canada. This enactment would require annual reports to be submitted by the Minister of Justice to Parliament on the extent, volume and progress of extradition cases and requests received by Canada each year. These reports would be referred to the appropriate standing committee in each House for consideration and report. The committee could then make a recommendation that a point of extradition law be referred to the Supreme Court of Canada for an opinion.

This is very much focused on accountability and ensuring that fugitives from justice residing inside our country's boundaries are treated in an expeditious and timely way as Minister likes to say.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-410, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sex crimes and violent crimes).

Mr. Speaker, again this is a bill very much in the public good aimed at amending the Criminal Code to preclude persons who have committed offences involving violence or sexual offences, which always include violence, from receiving conditional sentences under the Act. It is in keeping with the movement toward having a schedule list of offences for which conditional sentences would not apply.

I believe this is more than appropriate in the circumstances given the long lasting life sentence of victims in these circumstances.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-411 an Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code (minimum security level of incarceration for first third of sentence).

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-411 would amend the Criminal Code to require a court, in passing a sentence of two years or more of imprisonment, to make an order specifying the minimum security level of the incarceration for the first third sentence.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-412, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (keeping child pornography in a manner that is not reasonably secure from access by others).

Mr. Speaker, this is again aimed very much at the protection of children and keeping pornography secure from all access.

The bill would amend the Criminal Code to make it an offence for a person in possession of child pornography, whether created by that person or obtained from another source, to allow or ensure that access by any other person or failing to take reasonable steps to prevent access by another person would be covered under the code.

It applies at all times, including a person who is accessing the materials. It is a strict liability type offence in keeping with the direction of the Criminal Code.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Survivor Education Benefits Act
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-413, An Act respecting education benefits for spouses and children of certain deceased public safety officers.

Mr. Speaker, this is a bill I believe that would be considered a very compassionate one and one that I believe most Canadians and all members of Parliament should be quick to embrace.

It is an act respecting education benefits for spouses and children of certain deceased public safety officers. It would permit the minister, in most cases the Minister of Public Security and Emergency Preparedness, to grant an education benefit of a financial nature to a surviving spouse or children of public safety officers who die from injuries received or illnesses contracted in the discharge of their duties.

The bill is very much aimed at helping grieving widows, spouses and children of those killed in the line of duty. I would hope that all members would very much support this bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canada Health Act
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-414, An Act to prevent the Government of Canada from charging rent to non-profit hospitals.

Mr. Speaker, this private member's bill would institute the principle in law that the federal government should not charge rent to our community hospitals.

It would also have a practical benefit. There is a community hospital near my riding serving a catchment area of 400,000 people, many of them seniors, who need access to quality care but may be denied because of the government's attempt to raise rent on the land on which that hospital sits.

I join with my colleague from Carleton—Mississippi Mills, whose riding is also served by this important hospital, to forbid the federal government from doing that.

I might note that it is unfortunate the Liberal cabinet does not take this matter into its own hands and move through order in council to give that hospital its land.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canada Health Act
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Dufferin--Caledon is proposing to move a motion. Could he indicate which number it is on the order paper.

Canada Health Act
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Motion No. 50, Mr. Speaker.

Canada Health Act
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Oakville is also proposing to move a motion. Could she tell the Chair which motion number she is proposing?

I think it is Motion No. 54. If that is the case, we will go with the hon. member for Dufferin--Caledon.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

June 20th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Dufferin—Caledon, ON

moved:

That the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, presented on Tuesday, May 10, be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to move the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

The committee's mandate gives it responsibility for matters concerning Canada's Information, Privacy and Ethics Commissioners, with respect to their responsibilities under the Parliament of Canada Act relating to public office holders.

During the course of meetings with the commissioners to discuss their main estimates, the committee was made aware of longstanding concerns about how officers of Parliament were funded. The Information Commissioner, John Reid, advised the committee that because of inadequate funding, the Information Commission faced a continuing and growing backlog of cases requiring investigation. Mr. Reid said:

We are in a financial crisis. The cause of that has been that resources have not kept pace with the workload that is imposed on the office...Despite repeated attempts to convince Treasury Board to properly fund the full range of the commissioner's mandate, including several exhaustive reviews by independent, outside consultants, taken jointly with the Treasury Board Secretariat, emergency and partial funding has only been forthcoming.

The Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart's office, has two funding streams. Funding is provided under the Privacy Act and under the Personal Information Protection of Electronic Documents Act, which is referred to as PIPEDA. Her concerns about funding have less to do with the adequacy of her office's funding and more to do with how the office is funded. She told the committee:

In addition to the fact that we are an Officer of Parliament, we must consider the very nature of our ombudsman role on privacy issues for the public and private sectors. As an ombudsman and oversight agency of government for Parliament, we investigate and audit other federal departments and agencies. The necessary independence of our role as an ombudsman has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 2002 Lavigne decision which states that we are “--independent of the government's administrative institutions--”.

The committee recognized this concern by those commissioners and the committee therefore commenced a study to investigate the concerns raised by these officers of Parliament, and for the purposes of the study, the committee included the Auditor General of Canada, the Commissioner of Official languages and the Chief Electoral Officer.

Officers of Parliament are responsible directly to Parliament, rather than to the federal government or an individual minister. This emphasizes their independence from the government of the day. Therefore, as a result of this principle, concerns have been raised that the current budget determination process may not be the best method of ensuring the independence and functional integrity of these officers.

With the exception of the Ethics Commissioner and the Chief Electoral Officer, the officers of Parliament felt that the current funding mechanism raises the possibility of a conflict of interest between them and the government, or at least the appearance of one.

Over the course of study, the committee met with all of the officers of Parliament, with academics in the field and with the officials of the Treasury Board Secretariat in order to gather information to deal with this issue. Issues about the current funding mechanism for officers of Parliament included the adequacy of funding levels, the timeliness of the process, transparency, and the capacity to respond to changes in funding needs due to technological change, mandate expression and increasing demands for an officer's services.

Officers raised the difficulty that they have in seeking budget approval from the very government which they investigate. As Commissioner Reid put it:

With all due respect, it's very difficult for the government to play both roles as the funder and as the people who are being investigated. I think there's a certain friction that must take place under those circumstances. On balance, therefore, I prefer to have members of Parliament take on the responsibility of funding, rather than have it in the hands of the government.

The possibility of a conflict of interest for the government as both source of funding and subject of investigation arises with all the officers of Parliament that we examined, with the possible exception of two. The Ethics Commissioner, as described in chapter one, is already funded under a mechanism managed by Parliament. The Chief Electoral Officer receives most of his funding by statutory authority, under parameters set out in strict detail by the Canada Elections Act.

It should also be noted that the Chief Electoral Officer is not an ombudsman. He is responsible for the delivery of the right to vote and the right to be a candidate in an election. In accordance with this role, the independence of his office from political influence is safeguarded in a number of ways, including the funding mechanism.

Professor Craig Forcese of the University of Ottawa appeared as a witness and contended that there was a legal basis for the need of independence for the officers of Parliament. He told the committee:

--at least five officers of Parliament are obliged to meet court-like standards of independence. These five officers—the access, privacy, official languages, and ethics commissioners, and the Auditor General—have the powers of a court of record to compel the attendance of witnesses and the giving of evidence. They therefore have the power to punish for contempt in response to acts committed in their presence. Because they possess this power, the Constitution requires that these officers be sufficiently independent of the government.

The committee examined a number of funding models. The first was the model currently employed by the Office of the Ethics Commissioner. This model would have the budgets of officers of Parliament considered by the Speakers of the House of Commons and/or the Senate, who would transmit them to the President of the Treasury Board for tabling along with the government estimates for that year. The budgets would not be vetted by the Treasury Board Secretariat.

There was a U.K. model that the committee reviewed and it also had its supporters. In the United Kingdom, an all party commission of parliament, created by statute, examines the proposed estimates of the national audit office and tables a report to parliament with any modifications it sees fit. Known as the public accounts commission, it is composed of the chair of the public accounts committee, the leader of the house of commons and seven other members of parliament appointed by the house, none of whom may be a minister of the crown.

Another model proposed was a panel of experts otherwise known as a blue ribbon panel. The Auditor General proposed that the panel could be composed of three persons, one appointed by each of the Speakers of the House of Commons and the Senate, and the third appointed by the Treasury Board. Another model involved long term funding as proposed by Professor Forcese in his appearance before the committee. He stated:

The thought I had was that a multi-year formula that establishes a baseline for funding for officers, so officers aren't in the present position of being obliged to go to Treasury Board each year, distances officers from at least the perception that their activities in a given year might influence the receptivity of government to funding them fully. It grapples with the independence issue and it also grapples with the cost associated with setting up this blue-ribbon panel.

After a number of meetings, the committee concluded that the status quo for funding officers of Parliament was totally unacceptable because, at the very least, it raised the perception that the critical functions of these officers could be impeded by budgetary restrictions. There was a general consensus that the budget must be removed from the exclusive domain of the executive, Parliament must play a greater and more critical role in budget determination and resource allocation must be based on objective expert analysis.

The committee felt that a parliamentary body similar to the United Kingdom model should be established to examine estimate submissions of officers of Parliament.

Finally, it was suggested that a pilot project be launched for the fiscal year 2006-07 and 2007-08 with the existing House of Commons Board of Internal Economy acting as the parliamentary budget determining body and the Information, Privacy and Ethics Commissioners as the initial participants. The committee also recommended that the Auditor General be considered for inclusion in this trial.

That was the decision of the committee in its recommendations to the House. I would like to elaborate somewhat on two of the recommendations.

First, the committee recommended that a new parliamentary body be created as the budget determination mechanism for the funding of all officers of Parliament. The new parliamentary body and the new funding process established for it should have the following features: First, the membership of this body should be representative of both the House of Commons and the Senate, and equally comprised of the government and opposition representatives; second, the officers' annual budget submissions would be made directly to this body along with an accompanying submission by the Treasury Board Secretariat setting out budget parameters and providing analysis, challenges and advice on the feasibility of the officers' submissions; third, the parliamentary funding body may obtain advice from experts, as well as from appropriate parliamentary committees to assist its deliberations; and finally, the recommendations of the new parliamentary body should be submitted to each House of Parliament, as appropriate, which would provide the recommendations to the Treasury Board for tabling as part of the government-wide estimate process.

The second and final recommendation of the committee was that the Board of Internal Economy serve as the parliamentary budget determination body for the offices of the Information, Privacy and Ethics Commissioners on a trial basis in the same manner proposed in the first recommendation. As I indicated, this project would be instituted for two years, 2006-07 and 2007-08, and shall be subject to parliamentary review immediately thereafter.

Those were the two recommendations put forward by the committee. The committee did spend a substantial amount of time reviewing the different positions of the officers of this place. The following people appeared before the committee: Ethics Commissioner Shapiro, along with Micheline Rondeau-Parent, Director, Communications and Parliamentary Relations and the Director of Corporate Services; and Commissioner John M. Reid, office of the Information Commissioner of Canada.

On another day, the following people appeared before the committee: Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada; Jean-Pierre Kingsley, office of the Chief Electoral Office, along with Diane R. Davidson, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer and chief legal counsel.

We also had Commissioner Dyane Adam from the office of the Commissioner of Official Languages appear before the committee. Steven Wallace, acting Assistant Deputy Secretary of Government Operations with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat appeared twice, with a number of people from his office. Auditor General Sheila Fraser, appeared, along with Jean Ste-Marie, the Assistant Auditor General, legal services. I also indicated that Craig Forcese, law professor from the University of Ottawa, appeared.

As members can see, we spent a great deal of time deliberating and coming to the conclusions that we made. I would recommend to those in the House to read the report if they have not already.

I would like to summarize some of the items from the conclusion of the report. It states:

There is no doubt that the current budget determination process for the funding of Officers of Parliament raises serious concerns.

I think the immediate concern was raised by Commissioner John Reid who would make his presentation to the Treasury Board for funding and acknowledged that there might be an investigation going on at Treasury Board. The question is whether the whole process can be independent, that someone seeking money from someone that he is investigating be independent. The committee concluded that was not the case, which is why the committee concluded that the status quo was unacceptable.

At the very least, it raises the perception that the critical functions of these officers would be impeded by budgetary restrictions imposed by the very body whose actions they are charged in scrutinizing.

We thought that justice must appear to be done. We did not make any specific allegations against anyone but in that situation, particularly when Commissioner Reid said that he was receiving totally inadequate funding, it gave us grave concern.

The report goes on to state:

All of our witnesses, including officials from the Treasury Board Secretariat, had concerns about the present funding mechanism; however, there was a divergence of views over how to best address this issue.

We felt that the recommendations we made was a fair compromise of the various positions that were given to us.

The report continues to state:

Although not everyone could agree on the particular funding model that should be applied to Officers of Parliament, it appeared to us that there was a general consensus on what should guide the development of an alternative mechanism. Primarily, the budget determination process must be removed from the exclusive domain of the executive; while at the same time, an appropriate performance review, budgetary challenge, and accountability mechanism must be maintained.

The committee finally concluded that:

Parliament must play a greater and more critical role in the budget determination process, and resource-allocation decision-making must be based on objective and expert analysis.

This would allow members of this new committee to receive advice from different experts on different areas that were being raised.

The report goes on to state:

The process should be practical, transparent, simple, and expeditious. Finally, the system should take into consideration the differing mandates in reporting mechanisms of the various Officers.

The positions are different. We believe that the proposal that the committee is putting forward deals with that issue.

The report continues to state:

The Committee feels strongly that some form of parliamentary body must examine the Estimate submissions of Officers of Parliament. This body could be similar to the Public Accounts Commission in the U.K. in that it should be representative of all parties, and it could incorporate the Senate, perhaps by having both Speakers as ex officio members of the commission, thereby addressing the fact, for example, that some Officers report to both the House of Commons and the Senate. Like the U.K. Commission, and indeed the House of Commons Board of Internal Economy, this parliamentary body should have a permanent existence, and like the board, its membership would be equally comprised of government and opposition representatives.

Given the expertise already developed by the Treasury Board Secretariat in the areas of challenging, analyzing and advising ton the budgets of Officers of Parliament, we feel that it is imperative that the Secretariat continue this function by assisting the parliamentary body. The Secretariat could provide a separate submission that would accompany the Estimates proposals of the Officers.

Those are my submissions for the House to consider on behalf of the committee. I think this is a good proposal to develop some independence in determining how the officers of the House of Commons, and indeed the Senate, should be dealt with. I would ask the House concur in the motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member and his committee for bringing forward the motion with regard to the funding situation of the officers of Parliament.

I have a couple of points I want to make.

First, before this committee existed, the Privacy Commissioner and the Access to Information Commissioner reported in the last Parliament to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. In our annual review of their budgets, as the member is probably aware, no case was made nor were any concerns expressed at that time with regard to the funding. This, therefore, is actually kind of unfolding.

However there was an all party ad hoc committee on the access to information. Interestingly enough, at that time, the Privacy Commissioner, Mr. Reid, actually recommended that there be a combining of the two roles of Privacy Commissioner and Access to Information Commissioner. It appears that there is even more to be discussed than simply the funding of each officer.

The other aspect is, as the member will know, that the issue of privacy is a little unclear at this time because we are coming out of a period in which there has been a change in that office. The member will know that the then privacy commissioner, Mr. George Radwanski, resigned from office as a consequence of some problems and Ms. Stoddart was put in as a replacement. However during that period the key funding in that area with regard to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPED, was a separate level of funding. That matter is now fully implemented. I imagine now, with the change from Mr. Radwanski and the implementation of the PIPED Act, there probably is a reconsideration of the budgetary requirements.

I think this is certainly an important area for us to consider. I doubt that there is any disagreement within this place with ensuring that officers of Parliament do have the funding they require to discharge their statutory obligations.

I have a question for the member with regard to the two recommendations in the report. Maybe I missed it somewhere, but I did not see a request for a government response within the normal time period. I am wondering whether the committee considered whether it was seeking a prompt response from the government or whether it was just hopeful that something might happen here.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, the committee did not really get into the issue of combining the role of the different officers. That may come at another time.

It is tempting to talk about the Radwanski affair but I do not really want to do that. It may have been in the back of some of our minds as we were dealing with this. However when we were going through the estimates it became quite apparent to us that everyone felt there was a problem with the independence of a commissioner.

With the one exception of the Ethics Commissioner, who deals through the Speaker, all other officers of Parliament have to go to Treasury Board. They all raised the possibility that they could be investigating someone in the very government that would be approving their expenditures. Some of the officers said that they did not have sufficient funding to do their work and that they had backlogs. The suggestion was that maybe they were trying to hold them back. It really was not said but there was the perception of the need for independence, which is why the committee got into what it did.

With respect to the member's final question as to whether we consulted with the government, we had Mr. Wallace from the Treasury Board appear before committee. He made a presentation and indicated that he was prepared to work with the committee. I remind the member that what is being suggested is a two year period where we could review how this would work but everybody agreed that the status quo would not work.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate the hon. member for Dufferin--Caledon who has done an exemplary job as acting chair of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. As members may know, the permanent chair has been unable to perform his duties for the last several months due to a very serious illness. We have asked the member for Dufferin--Caledon to step in as acting chair. I must say that he has done a fantastic job in keeping the committee together, on point and on track.

My question for the member deals with independence. He mentioned several times during his presentation that there is quite a need for all of the officers of Parliament to be completely independent from the government in order to perform their duties in a manner in which all Canadians would expect them to perform their duties.

With the recommendation that the committee has brought forward to ask an independent body, in this case the Board of Internal Economy, to be the body that would ultimately recommend budgets for the officers of Parliament, does the member believe that this body would have the impartiality necessary to ensure that the independence of the officers of Parliament would be paramount?

In other words, is he confident that by setting up the system which the committee has recommended, the independence of the officers of Parliament would remain sacrosanct and would allow the officers of Parliament to do their jobs as most Canadians wish them to perform their duties?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, the current position is that the executive of the government of the day approves the budgets of officers of Parliament who could and would be investigating that very executive, ministers of the Crown and others. That is why this committee essentially would be an all-party committee, with representatives from all the parties in this House who would review the presentations. The budgets would not be prepared by the committee. The budgets would be prepared by the various commissioners. They would make presentations. At the same time they would work with the Treasury Board.

It is an effort to create independence and the perception that independence is there. In fact I would submit that because the approval is being made by Parliament and not one party, the governing party, we believe that independence would be created.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I understood I had the agreement of the House to present a motion at this point, in spite of the ongoing debate, because it is a procedural motion: Discussions have been held among all parties, and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Health presented in the House on Wednesday, June 1, requesting an extension of 30 sitting days to consider Bill C-420 be concurred in without debate.