House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was board.

Topics

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, earlier in the House the Prime Minister, as is his way, attempted to confuse Canadians on what the Canadian Wheat Board Act is about.

The act empowers farmers as opposed to them being at the mercy of the grain trade. Farmers under that act have rights and one of those rights is, by vote, to determine their marketing institution's powers.

Will the Prime Minister do the right thing, obey the law and give them a vote on single desk selling?

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the government will do what farmers have always wanted, which is to have a range of marketing choices, including the Wheat Board.

We are never going to be afraid to consult western farmers. The last time we did it, like so many times when we have done it, they did not return a single Liberal MP, and they never will.

Health
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health.

The minister delivered a keynote address earlier this week to the Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres during the national symposium on pediatric wait times.

Could the minister please inform the House what steps Canada's new government has taken to address the important issue of wait times for children?

Health
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement Minister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Curiously, Mr. Speaker, while the previous Liberal government was doling out money to its friends, it forgot and it cut the funds in March 2005 for the Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program.

Help is on the way. In budget 2006 this government will provide funding of $400,000 per year for the next five years for this important program. This will help our kids. It will help reduce wait times. We are on the side of our patients and we are on the side of those most special patients, our kids.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the recipients of the Governor General's Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case. They are as follows: Joyce Hancock, Maureen Kempston-Darkes, Doreen McKenzie-Sanders, Jan Reimer, Charlotte Thibault and Semma Shah, the Youth Award recipient for 2006.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 66(2)(b), I would like to designate Thursday, October 19, for the purpose of concluding the debate on the motion to concur in the first report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

Questions on the Order Paper--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now ready to rule on the point of order raised on September 20, 2006 by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform with respect to Question No. 90 on the order paper.

I wish to thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary for raising the matter. I also want to acknowledge the contributions made by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh and by the hon. Government House Leader on September 22.

Let me first summarize the essence of Question No. 90. On September 19, 2006, the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam submitted to the Journals Branch a question containing 47 subsections. In general terms, the question has to do with the presence of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan and each subsection poses a separate question on the government's defence and foreign policies with respect to the Afghanistan mission.

After consideration by the Journals Branch staff in the usual manner, the question was placed on the notice paper. After the usual two day notice period, Question No. 90 was transferred to the order paper, where it now stands as the only written question in the name of the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.

In his intervention, the hon. parliamentary secretary expressed concern about the length of Question No. 90. In addition, he contended that some of the subsections to the question were not within the administrative responsibility of the government. He concluded by asking the Chair to rule Question No. 90 out of order.

In response to this point of order, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh asserted that current practice permitted the placing of lengthy questions on the order paper. In support of this argument, he referred to Questions Nos. 5 and 7 from the previous Parliament, which he claimed were lengthier than Question No. 90 but which were nonetheless answered by the government. The hon. government House leader countered that the length of Question No. 90 was unreasonable and that it violated the spirit of Standing Order 39 by asking 47 questions under the guise of one question.

As all hon. members are aware, the purpose of placing questions on the Order Paper is to allow members to seek detailed or technical information on matters of public affairs from one or more government departments or agencies so as to enable members to carry out their parliamentary functions.

In order for a written question to be placed on the order paper, it must first meet certain requirements as to form and content. Standing Order 39(1) requires that no argumentative material or unnecessary fact or opinion be included in a question. In addition, the subject matter of the question must pertain to public affairs, which is another way of saying matters within the administrative responsibility of the government. A written question is also judged acceptable if it satisfies the general guidelines for oral questions. House of Commons Procedure and Practice on page 441 states:

Given that the purpose of a written question is to seek and receive a precise, detailed answer, it is incumbent on a Member submitting a question for the Notice Paper “to ensure that it is formulated carefully enough to elicit the precise information sought”.

The modern rules respecting questions on the order paper can be traced back to the 1985 third report of the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, commonly known as the McGrath committee. The committee recommended that members be limited to having four questions on the order paper at any one time as a means of resolving the decades long problem of hundreds, at times thousands, of written questions remaining unanswered on the order paper.

At the same time, the committee anticipated that members might try to circumvent the limit of four written questions by submitting questions containing numerous subquestions. The McGrath committee proposed that the Clerk should have authority to reject outright or to split into separate and distinct questions those questions that contain unrelated subquestions. What is today known as Standing Order 39(2) was subsequently adopted. It states:

The Clerk of the House, acting for the Speaker, shall have full authority to ensure that coherent and concise questions are placed on the Notice Paper in accordance with the practices of the House, and may, on behalf of the Speaker, order certain questions to be posed separately.

Hon. members who were here during the 36th Parliament may recall a ruling delivered by Mr. Speaker Parent on the division of a written question on February 8, 1999. The ruling was in response to a point of order raised by the hon. member for Delta—South Richmond, now the hon. member for Delta—Richmond East, and it can be found on pages 11531 to 11533 of the Debates for the First Session of the 36th Parliament.

The hon. member raised a number of issues in his point of order, including the matter of the division of his question by the Clerk’s staff. The hon. member claimed that the question had been divided by the Clerk’s staff because of its length. Mr. Speaker Parent found that the Clerk’s staff had followed the proper procedures and had made the decision to divide the question in accordance with Standing Order 39(2) not because the question was lengthy, but because the sub-questions were not related. The Speaker stated, and I quote:

The issue was not the length of the question but rather the fact that it contained unrelated subquestions. The subquestions may be linked from the member’s point of view but are in reality separate and distinct questions.

This ruling underscored that in order for a question with multiple subquestions to be found admissible, there must be a common element connecting the various parts.

As the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh correctly pointed out in his intervention, there have been numerous lengthy questions containing multiple subquestions and even some with subsections within subquestions, placed on the order paper in the past. These would include, for example, in the 36th Parliament, Questions Nos. 28, 56, 91, 103, 132, 138 and 190, which were judged acceptable and placed on the order paper.

Similarly, in the 37th Parliament, Questions Nos. 17, 60, 225 and 240 were also found to be acceptable. In the last Parliament, Questions Nos. 5, 7 and 151 were placed on the order paper and, finally, in the current Parliament, Questions Nos. 13 and 33 were placed on the order paper.

I do not recall that any objections were raised at the time these questions were placed on the order paper and, indeed, the government provided answers to all these questions, albeit perhaps not always within the 45 day timeframe set down in Standing Order 39(5)(a).

It is apparent to me from the examples cited above that the interpretation of the term concise in Standing Order 39(2) has evolved since this rule was first adopted. It is no longer interpreted to mean short or brief but rather comprehensible. Undoubtedly, this practice has evolved as a means of getting around the limit of four questions per member.

Leaving aside the issue of length, I want to turn now to the substance of the questions, specifically to the Standing Order requirement that questions must be “coherent and concise”. As hon. members will know, the Clerk and her staff routinely edit written questions as to form and, from time to time, have divided questions to make them conform to the requirements of the Standing Order. In questionable cases, their practice has been to give the member submitting the question the benefit of the doubt and to allow the question to be placed on the order paper. The Speaker has only become involved in rare cases such as this one where objections have been raised.

With this in mind, I reviewed all 47 parts of Question No. 90 carefully. Keeping in mind the need for coherence in the question, I must admit that I found that, as currently constructed, some parts of the question are rather tenuously knitted together. Accordingly, I have determined that the need for greater coherence necessitates that the question be divided. For this reason I must rule that Question No. 90, as currently formulated, is inadmissible.

To remedy the situation without unduly penalizing the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, I have instructed the Clerk to divide Question No. 90 into three separate questions. The first question concerns the government's objectives, strategy, vision, results and capabilities with respect to the Afghanistan mission and includes 33 subquestions. The second deals specifically with Canadian Forces casualties in Afghanistan. It contains five subsections. Seven subquestions related to financial matters are grouped together in a third question.

In reviewing the question, I have also examined it to determine whether it respects the Standing Order requirement by seeking information that pertains to matters within the administrative responsibility of the government. In this case I have found that two of the original subquestions dealing with allied forces and non-governmental organizations are outside the administrative responsibility of the government. Accordingly, I have asked that they be deleted. Another subquestion was amended to remove references to agencies and multilateral organizations for the same reason.

Copies of the three questions are available at the table and will also be found on tomorrow's order paper listed as Questions Nos. 106, 107 and 108.

Finally, in view of the fact that the information sought remains essentially unchanged, the 45 day period for the government to respond to the questions will be retroactive to the original date when notice was first given of Question No. 90, that is September 19, 2006. I believe these steps taken together provide a remedy to the objections raised with respect to Question No. 90 while respecting rights of the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam in seeking information by way of written questions that meet the requirements of our Standing Orders.

I wish to thank hon. members for allowing me the opportunity to clarify our practices with respect to written questions and if hon. members are still concerned about the rules and practices, they are of course free to take the matter up with the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Since 20 years have passed since the current Standing Order went into effect, it may be opportune to examine whether the rule has worked out in the way in which it was intended.

In the meantime, I am confident that, to avoid difficulties, members may be well-served should they seek guidance from the Clerk and her staff when drafting questions for the order paper. I apologize that this ruling was not more concise as is required in respect of the questions.

Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Wellington—Halton Hills
Ontario

Conservative

Michael Chong President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table here in the House the annual report to Parliament on the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act, prepared by the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Minister of Finance

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-28, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006.

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

Air Canada Public Participation Act
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-29, An Act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act.

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

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canada-France Inter-Parliamentary Association concerning its 34th annual meeting, held in Paris and Touraine, from September 10 to September 17, 2006.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 16th report from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the membership of committees of the House. If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 16th report later this day.

Employment Insurance Act
Routine Proceedings

October 18th, 2006 / 3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-344, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting) and another Act in consequence.

Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing a bill to create an independent employment insurance fund, and I think it is appropriate to introduce this bill today.

With the creation of this independent fund, workers' and employers' contributions will benefit the unemployed alone. The government will no longer be able to use the fund surpluses to finance its own activities.

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

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (punishment and hearing).

Mr. Speaker, night crimes are becoming more prevalent across Canada. Knives are the new weapons of choice. They are small, easily concealed and quickly used in all types of crimes.

Traditionally, punishment for knife crimes such as murder and assault is minimal. The latest published Statistics Canada information for the five year period from 2000-04 has a category called “homicides by method”. During that five year period, which accounts for 2,852 homicides, the statistics show that there were 840 shooting homicides and 849 stabbing homicides.

I am introducing a bill today to address this issue. The bill would assign mandatory minimum sentences to certain offences committed with a concealed weapon. It would also ensure that the interests of victims and their families are taken into account during the conditional release process, and that only the actual time spent in pretrial custody is credited toward the term of imprisonment.

I am introducing this bill for Andy Moffitt, a young man from my riding who was killed by a knife in 1998. I introduced a similar bill in the 38th Parliament and it was known as Bill C-393. I am seeking unanimous consent of the House today to number this bill, Bill C-393.