House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Agriculture
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon
B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I am obviously pretty happy with this budget announcement on agriculture. For instance, there is $200 million to help chicken farmers fight and prevent the avian influenza, but there is much more. There is the $500 million we committed during the campaign and yesterday we delivered, but there is much more. There is billions of dollars in infrastructure for highways and port facilities to help farmers get their product delivered on time and make a profit.

There is an additional billion dollars that no one ever saw that will go to farmers, for a total of $5.6 billion, money that the previous government not only never even promised but never delivered during its entire tenure in office.

Agriculture
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that the government's budgetary commitments do not come up to what this government had committed last year.

Let me quote from the Library of Parliament document dated today:

Even if the $1.5B additional funding announced yesterday was added, the total cost does not reach the amount mentioned by the Minister.

It is one thing for the minister to have his numbers wrong, but it is another for the minister not to put cash out to farmers. They need it now.

Will he tell us now that there will--

Agriculture
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Agriculture
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon
B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, of course there is going to be money for the short term, medium and the long term, money that the government opposite never offered during its 13 years.

I am particularly interested to know whether the member stands behind the statement he made in something called “Empowering Canadian Farmers in the Marketplace”, where he said:

[We want to] assure that child-care is extended to parents who choose to stay on the farm while raising their young children.

Yesterday, we let farm families make that choice to raise their families.

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the budget speech, the government states that it is maintaining the funding earmarked for the environment in the 2005 budget and reallocating $2 billion to a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which it intends to announce this fall.

Can the Minister of the Environment guarantee that the Conservative plan she introduces this fall will be in keeping with the objectives of the Kyoto protocol and take a territorial approach?

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove
Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, our government made a clear commitment to invest in the Canadian environment right here at home. Our Prime Minister has shown the courage and the leadership to address this pressing issue with a strong commitment to a made in Canada plan to clean up Canada's environment.

We will continue to work with industry, the provinces, environmental groups and Canadians in the development of our plan to ensure that we can show real action on Canada's environment.

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of the Environment is abandoning the Liberal plan because under the Liberals, Canada increased its greenhouse gas emissions by 24% between 1990 and 2003 instead of decreasing emissions. She prefers the model of the United States, which increased its emissions by 13%. Yet the European Union reduced its emissions by 1.4% in the same period.

If the minister is serious about reducing emissions in Canada, why does she not model her plan on the European Union, which is at least adhering to the Kyoto protocol objectives and taking steps to attain them?

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove
Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the only model I am interested in is one that benefits Canadians first. Under our made in Canada plan, Canadian taxpayer dollars will stay right here in Canada and will be spent on our own environment here at home. Our made in Canada plan will invest in Canadian solutions, Canadian technology and Canadian communities.

In our plan, Canadians come first. I would just like to tell the hon. member that my Canada also includes Quebec.

Official Languages
Oral Questions

May 3rd, 2006 / 3 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, in yesterday's budget the Conservative government completely neglected the official language communities. There was no mention of any increase despite the obvious needs.

Furthermore, the government intends to reduce its spending by $1 billion this year, and another billion next year.

Since the President of the Treasury Board is getting ready to slash budgets, can the Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages assure us that funding through 2008 for the official languages action plan will not be drastically reduced?

Official Languages
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent
Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, thousands look to Canada every year as their new home, a place to pursue their dreams. Financial burdens should not stop them from coming to Canada.

Could the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration tell us what he has done to make it easier for immigrants to come to Canada?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Medicine Hat
Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for her tireless work on behalf of newcomers. I want to point out that a low moment the old government imposed a $970 tax on immigrants to Canada. We have cut that in half in the budget. We will eliminate it as finances permit.

However, it goes beyond that. We are providing $307 million to the provinces for settlement. We are providing money for recognizing credentials.

We have done more in 13 weeks than that old government did in 13 years.

The Environment
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government is spending three times as much subsidizing the oil patch in Alberta than it is spending on cleaning up the environment. This is not a made in Canada solution. This is a made in the oil patch solution.

After 13 years of incompetent Liberal governments, when it comes to climate change that took us from leaders in the environment internationally to laggards, why does the government continue the practice, after more than a year in the House that it claimed to have a climate change plan, where is the plan? Will the minister table it today?

The Environment
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove
Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we made a positive investment in Canadians by encouraging Canadians to get out of their cars and into public transit and investing in new greener public transportation systems. We are giving Canadians the tools to clean up their own environment.

I would like to share what the mayor of Toronto said about our public transit passes, which is that it would be a very good thing as part of the transit strategy and it also includes funding.

We are happy today to tell the mayor of Toronto that yesterday we did a very good thing and introduced our transit pass and made a real investment in green transportation.

Communications Between Bureaucrats and Members of Parliament--Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on Thursday, April 6, 2006 by the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest, alleging that public servants refused to communicate with him during the recent election campaign.

I would like to thank the hon. member for raising this matter, as well as the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot and the hon. member for Halifax for their interventions. I also want to thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader and Minister for Democratic Reform for his intervention on April 7, 2006.

In presenting his case, the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest stated that departmental officials refused to meet with him during the recent general election to discuss the Anti-terrorism Act. In the last Parliament, the hon. member had been a member of the Subcommittee on Public Safety and National Security of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The subcommittee had been reviewing the operations of the Anti-terrorism Act, but before it had the opportunity to finalize its report, the 38th Parliament was dissolved on November 29, 2005.

After dissolution, the hon. member attempted unsuccessfully to contact departmental officials from various departments to discuss some of his proposed recommendations. He was advised on two separate occasions that a policy directive had been issued prohibiting public servants from communicating with members of Parliament during the campaign period.

The member alleged that this directive impeded his ability to discharge his duties as a member of Parliament. In support of his position, the hon. member argued that, after dissolution, members of Parliament remain in office until election day, and thereafter if re-elected, and during this period are still considered by their constituents to be members.

In his intervention, the hon. parliamentary secretary indicated that the Privy Council Office did not have a policy prohibiting public servants from communicating with members during a dissolution period. That being said, he went on to argue that a member of Parliament is a member only for such period as the Parliament exists, referring in particular to the Parliament of Canada Act, which deems that members continue in office for purposes of allowances payable only. He posited that the dissolution of Parliament terminates all parliamentary business, including committee work, and concluded that the member's parliamentary privileges were not breached.

The hon. member for Scarborough Southwest has raised two important issues, namely, the status of a member during a general election period and the issue of the relationship between members of Parliament and public servants. Let me deal first with the matter of whether or not a member remains a member during a dissolution period.

As the hon. Parliamentary Secretary noted, this gives rise to certain questions. At dissolution, Parliament, comprised of the Crown, the Senate and the House of Commons, no longer exercises its powers; however, the government continues to exist and Ministers remain in office until they are replaced. Members are discharged from their parliamentary duties, in other words, from the requirement to attend sittings of the House and its committees.

One could argue, as did the hon. parliamentary secretary, that the wording of the Parliament of Canada Act implies that once Parliament is dissolved, members are only members for purposes of allowances payable. Section 69 of the Parliament of Canada Act states that for purposes of allowances payable under sections 55.1 and 63, anyone who was a member as of dissolution “shall be deemed to continue to be a member of the House until the date of the next following election”.

Nonetheless, as all returning members and their staff are aware, constituents do not stop requiring assistance just because Parliament is dissolved. To this end, bylaw 305 of the Board of Internal Economy permits members to continue to use their offices to serve their constituents.

It might be argued, therefore, that during the election period, a member's role in assisting constituents continues, and this might include contacting government departments on behalf of their constituents.

This brings us to the second matter: the relationship between members and government departments. Specifically, if Parliament had not been dissolved, would the difficulties experienced by the member in meeting with public service officials constitute a prima facie breach of privilege or contempt of the House?

For the sake of new members in the House, I believe it would be useful if I briefly described what is meant by parliamentary privilege. The classic definition of parliamentary privilege is found in Erskine May's Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usages of Parliament:

Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively...and by Members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions, and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals.

Obstructing members in the discharge of their responsibilities to the House or in their participation in its proceedings is considered a contempt of the House. My predecessors have consistently upheld the right of the House to the services of its members free from intimidation, obstruction and interference. However, before the protection of parliamentary privilege can be invoked, the member's activity must be linked to a proceeding in Parliament.

The 22nd edition of Erskine May, on page 121, puts the matter succinctly:

Correspondence with constituents or official bodies, for example, and the provision of information, sought by Members on matters of public concern will very often, depending on the circumstances of the case, fall outside the scope of 'proceedings in Parliament'...against which a claim...of privilege will be measured.

As I have already indicated, members have risen on numerous occasions over the years on questions of privilege, alleging that they have been obstructed by government officials in fulfilling their responsibilities. For example, on May 15, 1985, two members, Mr. Frith, Sudbury, and Mr. Malépart, Montréal--Sainte-Marie, rose in the House to claim that their privileges had been breached, alleging that the Department of Employment and Immigration had directed its officials not to release information on certain projects, thus infringing their ability to serve their constituents. Speaker Bosley ruled that a complaint about the action or inaction of government departments could not constitute a question of parliamentary privilege as it did not infringe on members' freedom of speech or prevent members from fulfilling their duties. This ruling can be found at page 4768 of the Debates for May 15, 1985.

On another occasion, in ruling on a question of privilege raised by hon. member for Wild Rose concerning information allegedly denied to him by an official of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Speaker Parent found that the situation had not precluded the member from participating in a parliamentary proceeding. The Speaker ruled, therefore, that a contempt of Parliament had not occurred. This ruling is found at pages 687 to 689 of the Debates for October 9, 1997.

These precedents, where no prima facie case of privilege was found, arise in cases where the House was actually in session, whereas in the case before us not only was the House not in session, Parliament was actually dissolved. Accordingly, while I will concede that the hon. member may very well have a grievance, I have to conclude that the hon. member has not been obstructed in the performance of his parliamentary duties. I cannot, therefore, find a prima facie case of privilege.

I thank the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest for bringing this matter to the attention of the House as well as those members who contributed to the discussion.