House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was education.

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, this is a follow-up from our federal-provincial meeting that we held a couple of weeks ago in Regina. On June 19 we will be bringing the industry leaders on biofuels here to Ottawa to discuss the biofuels strategy. We want to ensure that they are involved and that farmers are involved not only in the production of raw material for biofuels, but that they also have the opportunity to invest in the value added part of the industry.

At this meeting, we will be getting concrete ideas from industry leaders on how best to involve farmers and benefit rural communities in meeting our 2010 biofuels goal. Our biofuels strategy will be good for the environment and that is important, but just as important, it will be good for Canadian farmers.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Honourable Lü Congmin, Vice-chairman of the National People's Congress Foreign Affairs Committee and Chairman of the China-Canada Legislative Association.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Business of the House
Oral Questions

June 8th, 2006 / 3 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, as is usual on Thursday, I wonder if the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons can explain to the House his plan for the business of the House over the course of the next week or two. I wonder explicitly if he would be in a position today to indicate whether or not the government intends to seek any extension of the normal hours in the two weeks that are covered by that rule under our Standing Orders.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

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, today the House will continue with the Liberal opposition motion.

Tomorrow we are hoping to conclude the debate at second reading of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum penalties for offences involving firearms).

When Bill C-10 is completed, we will begin debate on second reading of Bill C-14, an act to amend the Citizenship Act. That will be followed by Bill C-5 on public health.

I have good news for the hon. member. As I promised to indicate to the House earlier this week, it is the intention of the government to move forward tomorrow pursuant to Standing Order 27(1) seeking to extend the hours of the House for the end of June.

We will continue with the business of the House as stated and we will have other bills, such as the bills on bridges and tunnels, the defence justice system, the Transport Act, and emergency management. We should be quite busy, but I am glad that we will have the time, and we hope to get through all of these.

Thursday will be another allotted day.

Oral questions--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order. I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on May 17, 2006, and again on May 19, 2006, by the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier concerning the tabling of the document referred to by the Prime Minister during Question Period.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier for bringing this matter to the attention of the House. I also wish to thank the hon. member for Outremont for his intervention and the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for his response.

In raising this matter, the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier stated that, in response to a question posed during Question Period on May 17, the Prime Minister had quoted from what appeared to be a cabinet document and that, according to the rules of the House, the Prime Minister was obliged to table the document.

On Friday, May 19, 2006, the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons responded to the point of order. He indicated that the Prime Minister had not specifically quoted from any document. He clarified that the document in question was being used as a briefing note and that the rules do not require the tabling of briefing notes. The hon. government House leader further argued that the document was a cabinet document that could not be tabled because it dealt directly with national security measures that could jeopardize the safety of Canadian soldiers.

I have reviewed the Debates for May 17, 2006, as well as the tape of that day’s Question Period. The video clearly showed that in responding to a question put by the hon. member for Laval—Les Îles, the right hon. Prime Minister did read from a document as the hon. members for Ottawa—Vanier and Outremont have argued.

There is a longstanding practice that any document quoted by a minister in debate or in response to a question during question period must be tabled forthwith if so requested. This practice is described on page 518 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice and I believe it would be helpful to all hon. members if I were to cite this passage:

Any document quoted by a Minister in debate or in response to a question during Question Period must be tabled. Indeed, a Minister is not at liberty to read or quote from a despatch (an official written message on government affairs) or other state paper without being prepared to table it if it can be done without injury to the public interest.

In addition to Marleau and Montpetit, this practice has been described in other procedural authorities, including various editions of Beauchesne and Erskine May. Indeed, the hon. government House leader quoted citation 495(2) of Beauchesne's 6th edition when he responded that the document could not be tabled because its contents concerned national security matters.

Moreover, this practice was upheld in 1983 when the Deputy Speaker ruled that he was satisfied, after hearing arguments, that the Minister of State (International Trade) could not table a document because it would involve some risk of security to the Canadian diplomatic communications service. This precedent can be found at pages 28627 to 28631 of the Debates for November 2, 1983.

In light of this precedent and the statement put forth by the hon. Government House Leader that the security of Canadian soldiers could be jeopardized, I must rule that the Prime Minister is under no obligation to table the document in question.

I thank the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier for having brought this matter to the attention of the Chair.

The hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier.

Oral questions--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your ruling. I took note of it and I will certainly consult the sources to which you referred.

I have a question. How is the issue of security assessed? The government cites security as the reason why it is refusing to table the document quoted by the Prime Minister. How can one quote a document in the House—meaning that it is being read publicly—while claiming that it is an issue of national security?

Is this not contradictory? Would it not be necessary to establish a mechanism that would independently determine whether a document or part of a document—at least the part that was quoted—could be tabled without putting anyone in danger?

Oral questions--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

As the member for Ottawa—Vanier knows full well, it is not for the Speaker to answer questions. I am sure that he will read the ruling I just gave the House concerning this point of order as well as the precedent I cited. He indicated that he intends to read it. Perhaps that will be satisfactory to him and perhaps he will consider that the advice of the government House leader—to the effect that the document could pose a threat to public safety—is enough for the Speaker to rule on the matter. The precedent that I cited is the one that I am following today and on which I based my ruling.

In the case, it is not the Speaker's role to examine all documents or to answer questions regarding those documents in the House.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today on the Liberal Party motion, which concerns the challenges posed by new foreign competition, especially from countries such as China, India and Brazil.

I would like to commend my Bloc Québécois colleagues who have taken part in the debate today, especially the member for Joliette and the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, for their remarks and all their work on these issues.

Once again, we have proved that the Bloc Québécois is the party that best defends the interests of Quebeckers.

The motion introduced today by the Liberal Party concerns the new economic challenges that Quebec and Canada must face, including the stronger dollar, the emergence of new economies such as China, India and Brazil as major world players and, of course, rising energy costs.

In response to these new challenges, the Liberal Party proposes a series of measures and programs. Two main thrusts emerge from the measures proposed by the Liberal Party in this motion. They explain why we cannot support this motion.

First—and this reflects the philosophy and approach of the Liberal Party—the motion urges the federal government to develop a host of measures and programs in areas that come under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces, such as education, labour market development, skills training—something we spent years fighting for so that we could manage it better in Quebec—and university research.

These areas clearly come under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. Education, for example, is not a federal but a provincial and Quebec responsibility.

Unlike the Liberals and the New Democrats, we believe that Quebec does not need the federal Parliament to tell it what priorities it should set for its education system. The only education-related challenge that concerns Ottawa is correcting the fiscal imbalance, for example, by increasing transfer payments for post-secondary education. The Conservatives have taken a step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go before Quebec sees justice on this issue. Of course, it is out of the question that this transfer should be directed toward Canada's priorities, as the Liberal Party motion stipulates.

The second reason why we oppose this motion is that it totally omits the areas that actually are the responsibility of the federal government. I am referring in particular to the total lack of action to support the modernization of the traditional manufacturing sectors that have been hit hard by global competition.

It is just as disturbing to see that the Liberal motion fails to deal with the difficulties facing the manufacturing sector as it is to realize that the new Conservative government prefers not to take action to help this sector. It would rather leave these industries to their own devices and abandon them to unfettered competition.

But manufacturers need help from the federal government, all the more so that it now has the economic means to act thanks to the huge budget surpluses it has been accumulating year after year.

Our manufacturing sector is going through very difficult times because of the heightened competition from new powers, especially China and India, as I said earlier. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives know very well that traditional sectors such as textiles, apparel, furniture, the forest industry and bicycles have been badly hurt by the new economic situation. Yet they have nothing specific to propose to help these industries.

There have been heavy job losses in manufacturing since 2002. Between 2002 and 2005, nearly 149,000 jobs were lost in the manufacturing sector in Canada, two-thirds of them in 2005 alone. In Quebec in the same period, 68,000 jobs were lost in manufacturing.

Action is urgently needed. The riding I have the honour of representing, Berthier—Maskinongé, has a very large manufacturing sector, that of furniture. In this industry in Quebec between 2002 and 2005, the effects of globalization wiped out nearly 5,000 jobs.

We, the Bloc Québécois members, cannot accept the government’s willingness to stand by and do nothing while the manufacturing sector crumbles. What is the government waiting for? Is it waiting for our manufacturing companies to become just the museums of a bygone industrial age?

Several Liberal and Conservative members say that it is up to manufacturers to adapt to the new competition. We agree, but they need time and the means to do so. That is why, in the bicycle sector for example, we supported the advice of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal. It recommended that the federal government impose a temporary surtax on imports of inexpensive bicycles in order to give Quebec and Canadian manufacturers a chance to adapt to the new competition coming mainly from abroad.

Unfortunately, as did the Liberals, the Conservative government decided not to implement these recommendations. What about the Canadian International Trade Tribunal? What means will industries have at their disposal to face this competition from Asia? Nothing is said about that. The government does not make any proposal. It is total abandonment.

By refusing to help Quebec and Canadian bicycle manufacturers, the Harper government shows that it has absolutely no idea of the disastrous effect of its inaction on our manufacturers.

The furniture industry is another traditional sector that is seriously threatened by Chinese imports. To this day, the federal government has not taken any measure to help this industry adapt, even though it plays an important role in Quebec's economy.

The Bloc Quebecois generally supports the statement made in the preamble to the motion. It is true that the rise of certain new economies represents a challenge for several industrial sectors. It is true that the increase in the value of the dollar reduces the ability of Quebec and Canadian businesses to compete. However, the Bloc cannot support a motion that, on one hand, proposes considerable interference in areas under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and that, on the other hand, totally abandons areas that are the federal government's responsibility, such as support for the modernization of the traditional economic sectors that are the most affected by global competition.

Let me say, in closing, that the Conservatives are not really doing any better. For them, it seems that there is no place for government intervention to help industry face its competition. It is total abandonment. They believe that the free market can solve everything.

We, in the Bloc Québécois, believe that the federal government has a role to play in areas under its jurisdiction by fostering the modernization of businesses, by supporting research—which has been the victim of drastic cuts over the last few years—or by using the trade tools at its disposal to give businesses the time they need to adapt.

There is more than Alberta's oil industry; there is also a manufacturing sector that is crying out for help and that needs temporary support measures to meet the new challenges brought about by globalization.

Opposition Motion—The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member raised a very important issue, which I think many members of Parliament have addressed. In my riding, I have the same issue with bicycle manufacturers that import and that manufacture their own.

I read the CITT decision recommending the surtax and I respected its analysis. I thought it was extremely well done. Quite frankly, I was very curious that today's government rejected the recommendation of the CITT. It is there do to the analysis and to make appropriate recommendations.

We have the other question to argue it from the other side, and the member may want to comment on this. A lot of employment is related to importation of bicycles and bicycle frames. Barbecues, et cetera from China also face an import surtax.

Maybe the issue is a little bigger and a little more balanced in terms of how we address cheap labour on imports and how we balance the need to sustain jobs in not only the manufacturing but also in the distribution, wholesale and retail of those imported products.

Opposition Motion—The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear that my Liberal colleague is concerned about the Canadian International Trade Tribunal ruling on bicycles, given that when he was in power the Bloc Québécois placed tremendous pressure on the government to implement the Tribunal's recommendations. The Liberal government did nothing.

Naturally, now that it is in opposition, the Liberal Party seems to have a renewed interest in the matter and thus shares our disappointment in this regard.

In terms of the Asian competition, there are ways to keep our jobs. We must better support our companies. Some years ago, in the 60's and 70's, there was talk of the complete disappearance of the textile sector. At the time, some companies, with support, and modernization of technology and everything else, were able to met the competition head on.

Recently, the lack of support has again led to the loss of several of our textile companies.

We have no other choice than to accept the competition. We are part of the free trade agreement and immersed in globalization. In the end, all that we are asking of the government is to have programs designed to help these companies be competitive.

The refusal of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal to help the bicycle manufacturers has an impact on other sectors of activity. For example, a few months ago a request by the furniture industry to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal was rejected because the evaluation criteria were not necessarily suited to its needs. The furniture industry—which wanted to apply to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal to obtain safeguards—did not proceed because the efforts of the bicycle manufacturers had cost $100,00 in legal fees. Industry is wary of the expenses attached to making such applications.

I believe that such mechanisms are necessary. They exist within NAFTA and we must be able to resort to them to save our jobs.

Opposition Motion—The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, year after year the former Liberal government used to promise an industrial strategy. It promised it in election campaign after election campaign during its 13 years in power, but we never did see one. There was never a strategy overall to deal with the industrial sector in Canada.

Other ideas came from other corners of the House. The NDP came up with a green car industrial strategy that would have helped us keep industrial and auto jobs in Canada and would have helped stop the leakage in auto jobs. It would have helped us meet our Kyoto program.

Could the member comment on why the Liberals promised and promised an industrial strategy, but did not deliver it? Does he have any hope that the Conservatives will come up with an appropriate industrial strategy for Canada?

Opposition Motion—The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé has the floor for a short answer.

Opposition Motion—The Economy
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague for his question.

We know, of course, that the Liberals abandoned the textile sector. There was a program, namely CANtex, but it was not suited to the new reality of the industry in terms of the emerging Asian competition. We just saw that the Conservative Party does not seem to be putting forward new assistance programs for industries.

Will the Conservatives act? I think that pressure will have to be brought to bear on the government for it to really understand the needs of the manufacturing sector. The government must also understand that the oil industry is not the only successful industry in Alberta.