House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fishery.

Topics

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I am also pleased to draw to the attention of the House the presence of 12 representative members of the Canadian Forces here to take part in annual Canadian Forces Day events.

Canadian Forces Day is an opportunity for Canadians from across the country to recognize the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make on our behalf.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

June 6th, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Randy White Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to get further clarification of the section in your recent decision.

Further to your ruling on the taping of politicians by politicians under section 27(5) in appendix 1, I would like you to explain to the House whether or not that applies to both members in their local press and all members in ten percenters, householders, radio or any other media outside of this House, and whether or not there are consequences for not complying after today and further disgracing this House?

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I will be happy to look into the questions raised by the hon. member.

I can say off the top of my head that normally the Chair is not concerned with activities of members outside this House. I am concerned with activities inside the House. Whether it applies to any publications that the House may print on behalf of members is another matter.

As the hon. member is aware, some of those issues have been referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs which is looking into the matter at this very moment I believe.

I will be happy to get back to the member in due course if he seeks clarification on some of these points. However, as the hon. member knows, I deal with issues that come before the House not in a speculative way but based on what actually happens.

Having received this letter on Friday afternoon I took the step of sending a letter, which I summarized in a statement I gave in the House today, to the House leaders to advise them that there was some urgency in dealing with this matter and that questions concerning events that were under investigation would be improper in the House.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy White Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, further to that and for clarification, as the Speaker well knows the objective of your decision is to try to apply fairness in the evaluation that will take place.

There are a lot of comments by many members outside of this House which could prejudge that situation. I know in the many years as the House leader on this side that there have been decisions that actually prevent members from influencing a review or a study that may take place. I would appreciate it if the Chair would look at that, please.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I would be happy to look at it, but I think the hon. member knows that my control over members and their activities outside of the House is somewhat limited. However, I am sure he will urge his colleagues to follow what I have no doubt will be his example in these matters and refrain from comment where it is inappropriate to make such comments.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wish to bring to your attention and to the attention of all members in the House that we have a bit of a dilemma on our hands with this inquiry.

It just so happens that if the Ethics Commissioner is to examine the taping and the tapes and all this, the dilemma is that he himself is named in those tapes. It is indicated that it is possible that people on the Liberal side in the government could perhaps influence the Ethics Commissioner to change his position or to influence a positive outcome with respect to the member for Newton—North Delta. The dilemma is very clear. The Prime Minister's chief of staff has indicated that this is a possibility. Now we have that same Ethics Commissioner, whom it is presumably possible to influence, now investigating exactly that. There is a big problem there.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I appreciate that the hon. member thinks it is a problem, but I do not know what the Speaker is supposed to do about it.

The reference has been made to the Ethics Commissioner. As members wanted, the House had set up the rules, appointed the Ethics Commissioner and set up the rules under which he would operate, including the Standing Orders I cited earlier. It is not for me to challenge the House's rules. I am here to enforce them and I am only doing it to the best of my ability.

I am sure that if the hon. member has reservations, he will make them known in the appropriate places, particularly in the procedures and House affairs committee, where I know there is interest always in the Standing Orders of the House. He can take the matter up there.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood
Ontario

Liberal

John McKay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I know that Bill C-259 will be before the House tomorrow. It is the projected order. There was a report submitted by the finance committee, an amended report submitted by the finance committee, and it is s our respectful position that the bill, as reported by the finance committee is in fact out of order.

When the bill left the House, it dealt with one item and one item only, namely, the elimination of excise tax on jewellery. This was the only thing that was to be considered by the House and by the committee.

When the committee dealt with it, the bill came back significantly amended and the additions were to eliminate the excise tax on clocks and watches and a second addition was to eliminate the excise tax on semi-precious stones.

It is our view that this is well beyond the purview of the committee, that it is in fact out of order on the part of the committee and that a committee is limited in its recommendations to the House, either to report the bill as presented or to defeat the bill. It is not within the scope of the committee to amend the bill in such a significant fashion. Watches, for instance, are items that are separately defined in the Excise Tax Act itself. Therefore, there is a clear delineation in the excise tax between taxation on a watch and taxation on jewellery.

When the bill left the House, there was no reference to watches, clocks or semi-precious stones. When the bill comes back to House, as it will tomorrow, it will have reference, by way of amendment, to those three items of jewellery: semi-precious stones, watches and clocks.

I would solicit from you, Mr. Speaker, a ruling as to whether the bill, as presented to House, as amended by the committee, is in fact in order.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the finance committee that heard the testimony of the member for Vancouver Island North, whose private member's bill this is, there was discussion in committee about this very issue. The clerk, receiving advice from legislative counsel on the committee, agreed that the amendment was in order and should be reported back to the House.

I know the member for Vancouver Island North has received further advice from legislative counsel, and available to the members of the House, that the amendment is in order. The bill will be before the House at report stage tomorrow where the member for Vancouver Island North will speak to this very issue. I would invite you to hear him speak at that time, Mr. Speaker, so that he can clarify this further.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, to try to be helpful, I also participated in the same meeting. The issue is twofold, as far as I see it. The private member's bill in the first instance sought to eliminate a subclause of a particular clause. That was the substance of the bill. The change proposed in the bill seeks to delete further subclauses under the same clause of the Excise Tax Act. That is one aspect.

The other part, which I think it would be useful to look at, is whether the decision of the legislative counsel was correct. I challenged it at the committee on the basis that it was beyond the scope of the bill. The decision was taken on the basis that we were talking about the same paragraph in the Excise Tax Act and, therefore, any item could be dealt with under that same paragraph.

You will note, Mr. Speaker, that paragraph 5 of the act, I believe, deals with a broad range of issues, certainly not all homogeneous in terms of the subject matter of the bill.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, the member for Peace River and the member for Mississauga South for their interventions in this matter. I will get back to the House, I hope on a timely basis, in respect of this.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to make some sense of the issue that was raised earlier about the investigation of the member for Newton—North Delta. My understanding, from the Speaker's comments earlier, is that the issue may not be raised in this place, but it may be raised in the lobby, or in the press or at home, that there are no restrictions.

My further understanding is that questions cannot be raised on the issue in the House, but they will be raised in private with the Ethics Commissioner, whose independence may or may not be in question.

Is that an accurate understanding of the situation as it stands?

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I had hoped to raise an independent point of order, but I think there are a number of points of order on the floor, particularly this one, which might permit me to raise with you concerns that we had arising out of question period.

I want to make it clear, Mr. Speaker, that I welcome your effort in trying to get the House to respect the regulations with respect to inquiries under the auspices of the Ethics Commissioner. We also feel though that there is a need for greater certainty or greater clarity, as the case may be, as to what is permissible in the House and what is not. It may be that there is a bit of a conflict between the section of the Parliament of Canada Act which established the Ethics Commissioner in the first place and the regulations. The part which you quoted to us in your advice comes from the regulations, I believe, under section 27(5), where it states:

Once a request for an inquiry has been made to the Ethics Commissioner, Members should respect the process established by this Code and permit it to take place without commenting further on the matter.

By and large that is good advice and if we had been able to adopt a similar attitude, although not by regulation but with respect to other inquiries going on, Parliament might actually pay attention to its own business from time to time instead of what is going on in other venues.

Having said that, the Parliament of Canada Act, which established the Ethics Commissioner, states under section 72.05(5):

For greater certainty, this section shall not be interpreted as limiting in any way the powers, privileges, rights and immunities of the House of Commons or its members.

Therefore, on the one hand we have the act which says that our privileges and our abilities presumably to raise questions in the House will not be limited in any way. On the other hand we have advice which advises us that we should behave in a particular way; not that we shall, but that we should. That is perhaps a critical distinction, particularly in light of what happened in question period.

I certainly was prepared not to ask a question having to do with that, Mr. Speaker, after you said what you did at the beginning of question period. However, then it followed from there that the leader of the Bloc Québécois was able to raise a question anyway in the context of the Prime Minister's chief of staff, even though when one talks about the Prime Minister's chief of staff doing whatever he was doing along with the Minister of Health, it is a little hard to separate them.

I noticed, Mr. Speaker, that you did then permit questions, perhaps out of respect for the fact that all you advised us to do was based on a should rather than a shall, I am not sure. I think greater certainty from you as to what you expect of us in this matter would be very helpful. I would ask you to consider the matter and perhaps, as soon as you feel it is possible, to come back with some further advice for us on how you wish us to conduct ourselves in respect of this investigation.

I want to make it clear that I do not think it is a bad thing for you to lay out guidelines with respect to this sort of thing. The House would be well advised to have such guidelines, but what we have so far, I would submit, is not enough and I would ask you to provide further clarification as soon as you are ready.