House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was speech.

Topics

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

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

Appointment of Deputy Chair and Assistant Deputy Chair
Committees of the Whole
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to propose for the ratification of the House a candidate for the position of Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole.

Pursuant to Standing Order 8, I propose Mr. Royal Galipeau for the position of Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole. The motion is deemed moved and seconded.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Appointment of Deputy Chair and Assistant Deputy Chair
Committees of the Whole
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Appointment of Deputy Chair and Assistant Deputy Chair
Committees of the Whole
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

I am now prepared to propose for the ratification of the House a candidate for the position of Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole.

Pursuant to Standing Order 8, I propose Mr. Andrew Scheer for the position of Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole. The motion is deemed moved and seconded.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt this motion?

Appointment of Deputy Chair and Assistant Deputy Chair
Committees of the Whole
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Appointment of Deputy Chair and Assistant Deputy Chair
Committees of the Whole
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Immigration
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to table this petition signed by my constituents. I am told that 31,000 people have signed the petition calling upon Parliament to halt the deportation of Laibar Singh due to his fragile health and to allow him to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Mr. Singh is paralyzed by an aneurysm and has the support of many politicians of all political stripes and levels, 13 independent doctors, and over 50 organizations including: employees, unions, human rights groups and Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh religious organizations.

Immigration
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present this petition on behalf of thousands of my constituents. Mr. Laibar Singh is a disabled refugee claimant from the Punjab region of India and is facing deportation from Canada by this weekend. He has received tremendous support and compassion from my community in order to receive the medical care he now requires.

Given his fragile condition, these constituents ask that the Government of Canada grant Mr. Singh permanent residence in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Bill C-357--Employment Insurance Act and Bill C-362--Old Age Security Act
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

October 18th, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with regard to two private members' bills, Bill C-357 and Bill C-362. Without commenting on their merits, I submit that these two bills require royal recommendations.

First, I want to explain why Bill C-357, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting), requires a royal recommendation.

As the Chair ruled on May 9, 2005:

--bills which involve new or additional spending for a distinct purpose must be recommended by the Crown. The royal recommendation is also required where a bill alters the appropriation of public revenue “under the circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out” in the bill. What this means is that a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where more money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is being significantly altered.

I would note that Bill C-357 is nearly identical to Bill C-280 in the 38th Parliament which the Speaker ruled required a royal recommendation.

On June 13, 2005, the Speaker stated:

--Bill C-280 infringes on the financial initiative of the Crown for three reasons: first, clause 2 effects an appropriation of public funds by its transfer of these funds from the consolidated revenue fund to an independent employment insurance account established outside the consolidated revenue fund.

Second, clause 2 significantly alters the duties of the EI Commission to enable new or different spending of public funds by the commission for a new purpose namely, the investment of public funds.

Third, as indicated in my ruling of February 8, clause 5 increases the number of commissioners from four to seventeen.

All three of these conditions apply to Bill C-357.

Clause 2 would create an employment insurance account that is outside the consolidated revenue fund. The bill would transfer money out of the consolidated revenue fund to the employment insurance account and that money would no longer be available for any appropriations Parliament may make. This would be an appropriation of funds and, therefore, requires a royal recommendation.

However, worthy some aspects of the bill may be, and some aspects of it are, this does not alter the need for the royal recommendation.

Clause 2 would also change the duties of the Employment Insurance Commission, including new requirements for the commission to deposit assets with a financial institution and to invest assets to achieve a maximum rate of return.

These are new and distinct purposes which have not been authorized and are additional reasons why clause 2 requires a royal recommendation.

Clause 5 of Bill C-357 would increase the number of commissioners on the Employment Insurance Commission from its current four to seventeen.

On February 8, 2005, the Speaker ruled that the appointment of 13 new commissioners to the Employment Insurance Commission in Bill C-280 required a royal recommendation. This is consistent with other rulings where the Speaker found that adding remunerated members to commissions requires a royal recommendation. Given these precedents, I submit that clause 5 requires a royal recommendation.

To sum up, Bill C-357 would require an appropriation, it would alter the purpose of funds covered by the act, and it would require new spending for an expanded commission; therefore, it must accompanied by a royal recommendation.

The second bill I want to draw to your attention is Bill C-362, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act.

This bill would increase old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits by lowering the threshold for eligibility from the current 10 years to 3. This change would result in significant new expenditures.

Under the Old Age Security Act, applicants must have at least 10 years of residence in Canada after age 18 in order to qualify for benefits.

I would further note that partial benefits are paid to applicants who have less than 10 years of residence if the applicant has credits from a country with which Canada has a pension agreement. Residence has been an eligibility criteria since this program's inception in 1952. Reducing the residence requirement from 10 years to 3 years would have significant costs.

Since eligibility for old age security pensions also qualifies for low income recipients to receive the guaranteed income supplement, the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development estimates that the total cost of reducing the qualifying period would be over $700 million annually.

Precedents clearly establish that bills which create new expenditures for benefits by modifying eligibility criteria or changing the terms of a program require a royal recommendation.

On December 8, 2004, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill C-278, which extended employment insurance benefits, that:

Inasmuch as section 54 of the Constitution, 1867, and Standing Order 79 prohibit the adoption of any bill appropriating public revenues without a royal recommendation, the same must apply to bills authorizing increased spending of public revenues. Bills mandating new or additional public spending must be seen as the equivalent of bills effecting an appropriation.

On November 6, 2006, the Speaker ruled with regard to Bill C-269, which extended employment insurance benefits, that:

Funds may only be appropriated by Parliament for purposes covered by a royal recommendation...New purposes must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.

On November 9, 2006, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill C-284, the bill that enlarged the scope of the student grants program beyond that originally authorized by Parliament, that:

Any extension of the terms of an existing program must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.

On November 10, 2006, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill C-278, dealing with employment insurance benefits, that:

--by amending the Employment Insurance Act to extend sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks, the bill would require the expenditure of additional funds in a manner and for a purpose not currently authorized.

On March 23, 2007, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill C-265, dealing with employment insurance benefits, that it was abundantly clear:

--those provisions of the bill which relate to increasing employment insurance benefits and easing the qualifications required to obtain them would require a royal recommendation.

I would also note that when Parliament adopted amendments to benefit criteria in the Old Age Security Act in Bill C-36 earlier this year, this legislation was accompanied by a royal recommendation.

In conclusion, Bill C-362 would increase expenditures for old age security and guaranteed income supplements in ways not already authorized and, therefore, should be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Bill C-357--Employment Insurance Act and Bill C-362--Old Age Security Act
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to what my colleague had to say.

First off, I would say that we do not agree with requiring a royal recommendation for the creation of an independent employment insurance account.

We should be given another opportunity to address this issue.

Bill C-357--Employment Insurance Act and Bill C-362--Old Age Security Act
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would make two observations in response to the issues the government has just raised with respect to these two bills.

First, your precedents are very clear that the raising of the issue by the government with respect to royal recommendations does not, of course, prevent the normal debate from proceeding. The issue would have to be resolved before a final vote is taken, but obviously members are free to debate these items up until the time that you make your ruling.

Second, before that ruling is given, I am sure that you will want to provide the sponsors of the bills with an opportunity to address themselves to you.

Bill C-357--Employment Insurance Act and Bill C-362--Old Age Security Act
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Yes. That was exactly what I was going to say in respect of this issue. I am sure that all hon. members appreciate the thoroughness with which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons has reviewed these bills and come up with arguments that he feels are important in respect of their procedural acceptability. Such diligence is something that the Chair, of course, always appreciates.

I will look forward to hearing comments now from, presumably, the proposers of the bills, the persons who put them forward, and possibly others on this issue. Then I will come back to the House with a decision in due course, but I would urge them to move quickly with their submissions on the procedural aspects so that a decision could be rendered before the bills come before the House for a vote at the third reading stage.

As the House leader correctly pointed out, bills are acceptable up until third reading, and it is at that point that the House cannot vote if royal recommendation for the bill is required by the Standing Orders.

That is the end of this discussion for the time being.

The House resumed from October 17 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:15 a.m.

Medicine Hat
Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today and engage in the debate on the Speech from the Throne.

Today I rise wearing a number of hats. I am here today as the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Canada. I am here as a member of Parliament for Medicine Hat. Also, when we talk about issues of crime and law and order, I think it is appropriate to mention that I am here as a husband and a father, because this is an issue that I think we all feel very acutely and personally.

It is a pleasure, though, to talk today about what was in the Speech from the Throne, first of all wearing my hat as the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development. Yesterday and in the Speech from the Throne read by the Governor General on Tuesday, the Prime Minister talked about the need for the country to finally and forever get serious about the issue of tackling crime and making our communities safer. I would argue that in order to do this an “all of government” approach is required.

I think the Prime Minister has signalled his intention to do exactly that. It was not very long ago in Winnipeg that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health talked about a national anti-drug strategy designed to steer young people away from drugs but also to ensure that those people who are addicted get the help they need.

I feel that in my portfolio we do a number of things, and I am proud of this, that are designed especially to help young people so that they do not get drawn into a life of crime, which is an easy temptation in neighbourhoods that have broken down and where families are not stable. To that end, we provide a lot of programming aimed at helping youth and in fact targeting youth who in many cases are most likely to get drawn into that kind of situation. We do that through the youth employment strategy.

We have also launched a number of new and very important initiatives. I want to touch on them briefly. We have done things like announcing in the budget new labour market agreements which allow us to work with the provinces so that we reach out to all those individuals who are not eligible for employment insurance, such as people who have been on social assistance, and people who, for whatever reason, have not been able to get into the workforce and need a helping hand from the government. This is a very significant initiative of $3 billion over the next six years. We believe this is an important way to reach out to people who left school early, for instance, and who have struggled to find work, and to give them the helping hand they need to get employment and avoid that life.

We have also announced an apprenticeship incentive grant, which we think will help 100,000 people a year get into the trades. We have doubled the size of the aboriginal skills employment program, which benefits aboriginals around the country, but certainly in the north. I point out that unfortunately we have very high levels of crime on reserve in many parts of the country and certainly north of 60. We have very high levels of violent crime, levels at nine times the national average, for instance, in places like Nunavut.

We believe these initiatives are extraordinarily important in terms of preventing crime and reaching out to people who are vulnerable and ultimately giving them some hope. As the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, I note that these are some of the new initiatives we have undertaken.

I want to highlight one other initiative that I think is important. I see a member of the opposition across the way with whom I discussed this the other day. This initiative is the homelessness partnering strategy, which is an initiative that we put in place a number of months ago. It is designed to work at a community level, whereby we have communities leading the charge in identifying how we can best help people who find themselves homeless, knowing that the best way to start to give them the help they need is to put a roof over their heads first and, even before that, to prevent homelessness.

We think this can best be done at the community level. This new initiative brings together the federal, provincial and municipal governments and certainly the not for profit organizations that on the ground are the real experts. I am proud of that initiative. I am looking forward to working with local groups to achieve some of the ends I have just discussed.

If I may, I will now change hats and, as a member of Parliament from the riding of Medicine Hat, talk about an issue that is vitally important to Canadians. I come from a rural riding not unlike those of many members in the House. It is a riding chiefly peopled by a lot of middle class Canadians who enjoy relative prosperity, but of course there is a range of incomes in the riding. Nevertheless, despite the fact that these people seem to have a pretty good situation in general, when I tour the riding and go to town hall meetings, as I did this fall, many people raise the issue of crime. They are deeply concerned about crime.

I always argue that I do not think there is a people in the world fairer than Canadians; they are fair to a fault. They believe in fairness. By extension, I believe they also feel very strongly that there must be justice in the country. I think very often they believe that we do not have a very just justice system in Canada today. I want to talk about that for a moment.

As I mentioned, I think we live in a pretty good part of the world, but when one talks to people, whether they are young people who very often themselves are the victims of youth crime, or older people who very often are afraid of the chaos they sometimes find on the streets of their communities in the form of property crime or very aggressive panhandling, or people who are worried about the rapid rise in drug use and ultimately the crime that springs from that, they are concerned.

When people see stories like the one we saw recently regarding a young constable murdered in Hay River, or when they see some of the terrible gun violence on the streets of Toronto at Jane and Finch, they are extraordinarily concerned. They wonder why we do not do more to provide police officers and crown prosecutors with the tools they need in order to bring this problem under control.

I would be extraordinarily remiss if I did not point out that as an opposition member of Parliament I certainly spoke on these issues a number of times over the years, but there are others in this place who have done far more than I to draw attention to this. I think about a couple of members of Parliament on our side who have announced that they will soon be leaving this place. They have announced their retirements. I think of my friend from Calgary Northeast, who chairs the justice committee, and my friend, the member of Parliament for Wild Rose. They both have spoken eloquently in this place for years about the need to provide precisely those tools to crown prosecutors, the RCMP and local police forces so they can do their jobs.

Our government has made this a priority since the time we came to power. We have brought forward a number of measures to attempt to address some of the issues raised by my constituents. In fact we have introduced in this place something like 13 different pieces of legislation dealing with the issues of criminal justice. The sad fact, though, is that unfortunately at almost every turn these initiatives have been thwarted by the opposition.

I have to say that I am simply required by honesty to point out that it is not the people one might suspect who are thwarting a lot these initiatives. Sometimes we have run into problems with the Bloc and the NDP in trying to get these things through, but I can say that overwhelmingly it is the Liberals who are standing in the way of delivering measures that will make Canadians safer. Unfortunately, they do this in one of the most sneaky and underhanded ways possible.

On the one hand, they stand up in this place and talk about the need to address these problems. Then, when the cameras are off, they go into committee, gut individual pieces of legislation and try to send them, hollow, back to this place. If these pieces of legislation do pass, they go to the Senate where the Liberals sit on them to the point where of course ultimately those bills do not go forward.

As a result, we are in a new Parliament. Now we are asking for the authority of this place to go ahead and pursue some of this legislation aggressively so we can do exactly what we told Canadians we would do, which is to bring in legislation and provide tools to the police and crown prosecutors so we can make our streets safe again.

There is not a member of Parliament in this place who is not touched by this every day. I get very frustrated in regard to this issue, because I do not think there is any more important role we have than that of ensuring the protection of the citizens of our country.

The throne speech speaks about this country's commitment to peace, order and good government. I can tell the House that I am never more proud as a member of Parliament than when we do something to protect the most vulnerable in this country. That is exactly what we will be doing if we start to address some of the issues laid out in the Speech from the Throne.

I could best do that by talking a little about some of the pieces of legislation we brought forward in the past that were stymied by the opposition, in particular by the Liberals, and then talk about the need to bring them forward again in a new bill, in the tackling violent crime initiative the Prime Minister spoke of yesterday.

One of the most important pieces of legislation we offered in the last Parliament was Bill C-10. Bill C-10 would provide a mandatory minimum sentence, a mandatory minimum penalty, for firearms offences. In other words, that means there would be a minimum amount of time that someone would have to serve if found guilty of committing a crime with a firearm. It would mean that judges would no longer have the latitude of allowing someone to walk away without serving any time at all. I think that is common sense to the great majority of Canadians.

Sadly, that was never observed in many, many cases. The result is that people ultimately completely lose confidence in the justice system in this country. They start to throw up their hands and say, “What is the point?” After a while, people even quit reporting crimes.

Our Bill C-10 was designed to address some of those concerns. That bill was stalled in committee for 252 days. The bill died after a total of 414 calendar days before Parliament. In other words, we brought that bill forward, the public was with us, and the opposition spoke in favour of these types of initiatives during the election campaign, but when the rubber met the road, when members of the opposition had a chance to do something to protect Canadians, they stood in front of us and blocked our way.

They should be ashamed of that, because there is not a member across the way who does not have people coming into his or her office every week and complaining about the crime they read about, hear about or experience. They want something done, but it never happens because members of the opposition stand in the way. They stood in the way of it when they were in government for 13 years. Now it is time to start to deal with it.

Another bill we brought forward was the reverse onus on bail for firearms offences, Bill C-35. It was stalled in committee for 64 days. The bill died after a total of 211 days before Parliament.

What does this mean? What does the bill do? The bill ensures that persons accused of a gun crime have to show why they should not be kept in jail while awaiting trial. That would apply to people who are accused of using a firearm to commit certain offences, including attempted murder or discharging a firearm with a criminal intent, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, robbery, and extortion.

When those people are accused of those crimes, we are simply asking that they demonstrate why they should be allowed bail. The onus would be reversed. If we think about what is at stake, I do not think that is too much to ask. What is at stake is the safety of ordinary men, women and children in this country who want nothing more than to go about their lives and pursue whatever it is that pleases them.

However, again we were stymied in our attempt to bring forward this common sense legislation that was supported by the Premier of Ontario and the mayor of Toronto, jurisdictions where all too often they see the results of laws that do not adequately address the problems of crime.

Another bill that we are anxious to bring forward is Bill C-27, which deals with the issue of dangerous offenders. This bill was stalled in committee for 105 days and it died after a total of 248 days before Parliament. The bill would create a presumption of dangerousness, so that when an individual has been convicted three or more times of violent sexual crimes, it would be up to that person to prove that he should not be regarded as a dangerous offender.

I honestly do not understand why the opposition would stand in the way of what is, in my mind, very common sense legislation. If we are committed to the ideal of peace, order and good government, we must back it up with legislation and resources. I would argue that the opposition has failed us on that count, irrespective of what it says during election campaigns when it is very popular to appear to be law and order parties.

Another bill that we brought forward dealt with the age of consent, the age of protection, which was tabled in Parliament on June 22, 2006. It was endorsed by the Kids' Internet Safety Alliance and the Canadian Crime Victim Foundation. It was stalled in committee for 175 days and died after a total of 365 days before Parliament. It sought to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16, which to me is such an obvious way to protect the most vulnerable people in our society, children, but again the opposition finds all kinds of odd and strange justifications for not pursuing this.

Where is the conviction that we have an obligation as legislators to protect vulnerable people in this society? This was, I would argue, a common sense initiative that again was thwarted by the opposition.

Finally, I want to talk about Bill C-32, drug impaired driving. It was introduced into the House on November 21, 2006 and referred to the justice committee in February 2007. Despite being endorsed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Bill C-32 died after 149 days in committee and the bill died after a total of 213 days before Parliament. The bill would have given the police the tools they need to better detect and investigate drug and alcohol impaired driving and penalties for impaired driving would have been increased. Persons suspected of being impaired by a drug would be required to submit to a roadside sobriety test and, if they failed, to provide a blood or urine sample to confirm whether they had consumed a drug.

I again would remind members how often we read in the newspapers, see on TV and have people come into our offices to talk about the terrible effects of the scourge of drug and alcohol impaired driving. However, when the opposition had an opportunity to help us deal with this and make Canadians safer, it failed us at every turn.

Today I am very proud to speak in favour of the initiatives outlined in the Speech from the Throne and to speak in favour of the justice minister, the public safety minister and the Prime Minister for their unwavering stance in favour of giving police and crown prosecutors more tools. I really do believe it is our duty and our obligation as legislators to ensure we do everything in our power to protect the most vulnerable people in our society.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, following the Speech from the Throne, it is normal for various ministers to come forward and speak, especially the first minister following the Prime Minister, about measures their own department is taking. The Minister of Human Resources's department, of course, had cuts to literacy funding last year.

This country is facing a grave problem in terms of a skills shortage but we heard not a word about those fundamental and important challenges and about the cuts to literacy that the minister's government made in his department. The minister shows no interest whatsoever in these subjects.

Is the minister's problem that he wants to be the justice minister? Crime is certainly a concern to all of us and we are interested in passing good legislation that makes sense and smart legislation to combat crime but if he wants to be the minister of justice, why does he not resign as Minister of Human Resources?

From where has the minister's party adopted the practice of telling the big whopper? That party has talked a thousand times about 13 years, about the 13th anniversary and about the 1993 election. The Conservatives have been in government for nearly a year. The member knows full well that it was 12 years and two months.

What advantages does the member think his party has gained by telling this enormous untruth over and over again? Most of all, in their cynicism, from what part of the history of the world did the Conservatives adopt this practice of telling this untruth over and over again?