House of Commons Hansard #134 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was safety.

Topics

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Indian Affairs critic is criticizing this government's commitment to Pikangikum First Nation. She claims the situation on the reserve is this government's fault, instead of acknowledging that her party did nothing for 13 years.

She balked at the minister's suggestion last December that the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development visit that first nation, but instead was in favour of committee members taking a trip to New York.

Our government is taking real action to improve the lives of aboriginal women, children and families. Can the Minister of Indian Affairs share with the House his findings on his trip to Pikangikum First Nation last week?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, no Canadian could visit Pikangikum and not be moved.

This is a community of some 2,000 people. After 13 years of Liberal government, they have no water connections and no sewer connections. They have no hydro connections. They have a school with 700 children in it that was built for 300 children.

Last week while I was in Pikangikum I announced that this government is going to deal with those issues. We will be spending $46 million over the next four years.

I would caution my hon. colleagues opposite who are braying at the moment, because their record on this file is one of gross negligence and shame.

Rimouski East Wharf
Oral Questions

April 17th, 2007 / 3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Thibault Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is a problem at the wharf in Rimouski East. Transport Canada is neglecting its infrastructure, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada is abandoning users of the part of the wharf it owns.

This inaction is delaying work that is vital to the economic development of the riding and the region. While the ministers are passing the buck, companies are dealing with infrastructure that is not at all suited to the economic activities of our marine technocity.

Is the Conservative government prepared to fund a study to find a real solution for the people in our community?

Rimouski East Wharf
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, of course, we are always concerned about the economic development of the region. I was glad to see that my colleague was in attendance last Thursday when the Government of Canada gave $15 million to the Régie intermunicipale to rebuild the wharves in Trois-Pistoles and Les Escoumins.

We are going to continue our efforts to make real progress for our community, not only through my department, but also through the Economic Development Agency of Canada.

Comments by Member for Winnipeg Centre--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 by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons concerning the alleged use of unparliamentary language by the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre on Friday, March 2, 2007.

I would like to thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for raising this matter, the hon. Chief Government Whip, the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, and the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre for their interventions.

On March 2, 2007, during the debate on the motion for concurrence in the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre referred to the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food as “Il Duce”, compared the minister to Mussolini and characterized the minister's actions relative to the Canadian Wheat Board as “fascism”.

March 2 being the sitting day immediately preceding the two-week March break, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons rose on a point of order on March 21, 2007, to take issue with the language used by the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre. The hon. parliamentary secretary cited page 150 of Beauchesne's 6th edition, which lists the word “fascists” among those considered to be unparliamentary. He continued, and I quote from page 7714 of the Debates:

The fascist regime committed untold atrocities during World War II and for any member of this House to compare another member to anyone in the fascist regime is unconscionable.

In his intervention, the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre stated that it had not been his intention to call the hon. minister a fascist, but rather to imply that he had acted like one by virtue of decisions he had taken in respect of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Quoting from page 143 of Beauchesne's 6th edition as follows, “An expression which is deemed to be unparliamentary today does not necessarily have to be deemed unparliamentary next week”, he maintained that the words he had used were no longer as “volatile and emotionally charged” as they had once been. He invoked the principles that in these matters the Chair must consider the context in which the disputed remarks were made and whether or not they created disorder in the chamber.

I undertook to review all of the relevant statements and submissions and to return to the House with a ruling on the matter.

One of the most basic principles of parliamentary procedure is that proceedings in the House be conducted in terms of a free and civil discourse (Marleau and Montpetit, pp. 503-4).

The Chair has often reminded hon. members of their concomitant duty to use their freedom of speech in a responsible fashion and to exercise moderation in their choice of language.

On the occasion in question, in my view there is no doubt that the term “fascism” is unparliamentary when used to refer to the actions of a member of Parliament, and the corollary references comparing the member to Il Duce and Mussolini only exacerbate the problem. In making this determination, I looked carefully at both the context in which these expressions were used and at their immediate and potential effects on the ability of this House to conduct free and civil discourse.

In the opinion of the Chair, the inappropriateness of this language was in no way mitigated by the context in which it was used.

Admittedly, the immediate reaction to the comments in question was somewhat muted and the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre has drawn the attention of the Chair to this circumstance. However, in considering whether or not his remarks created disorder in the chamber, the Chair cannot look only at the immediate reaction of those present in the chamber.

In a ruling given on December 11, 1991 found at pages 6141 and 6142 of the Debates, Mr. Speaker Fraser reminded members that offensive remarks can linger and have a suffocating effect on the fair exchange of ideas and points of view. Anything said in this place receives wide and instant dissemination and leaves a lasting impression. Offending words may be withdrawn, denied, explained away, or apologized for, but the impression created is not always as easily erased. He went on to comment:

--few things can more embitter the mood of the House than a series of personal attacks, for in their wake, they leave a residue of animosity and unease.

That residue is the soil from which disorder springs and it is incumbent on the Chair to discourage language so provocative in character that it positively nourishes disorder.

So, once again, I appeal to hon. members on all sides of the House to choose their words with greater care. A reasonable degree of self-discipline is not a luxury; it is indispensable to civilized discourse and to the dignity of this institution.

Whatever the hon. member's intentions may have been, the Chair is not in doubt that this language is provocative and under the circumstances, I find that it is also unparliamentary and I ask the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre to withdraw his remarks immediately.

Comments by Member for Winnipeg Centre--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would never knowingly show disrespect for the House of Commons by using language that I know to be unparliamentary. Now that you have clarified that in your view the remarks I made on March 2 were in fact out of order and unparliamentary, I do withdraw those remarks and I apologize to the House of Commons and to the minister in person.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, today in question period one of our members asked a question of the Minister of Finance regarding the loopholes that were evident in the back taxes that were not paid by a certain corporation.

In his response, the minister mentioned visiting the Shirley Green hospital yesterday. I just want to correct that for the minister. It is the Shirley Greenberg hospital. She is a well-known member of our community and I just wanted to clear the record for him.

Statements by Members
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, in response to accusations by the hon. member for Louis-Hébert that I used public money to advertise for a company, I would like to provide some clarifications.

First, let me point out that it was the result of an unfortunate error that this pamphlet ended up in one of my mailings. Second, as soon as I found out about this situation, I immediately took the necessary measures to reimburse the House for the cost of the mailing.

Unfortunately, the Conservative members often do not get all their facts straight before asking questions.

Bill C-52--Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of order in relation to Bill C-52, the budget implementation bill.

It is my view that a portion of that bill is drafted in a way that is not in keeping with the practices and customs of this House, that the bill attempts to exempt itself from our rules regarding parliamentary scrutiny of subordinate law, and does not even comply with the government's own internal rules on proper drafting of legislation.

The part of the bill I am referring to is clause 13(1) at page 20, line 16. It amends section 122 of the Income Tax Act and bears the bill subclause number (2)(b) and deals with the issue of income trusts and how they are to conduct themselves for tax purposes over the next four years, until the year 2011. For ease of reference, the margin heading reads “Application of Definition SIFT trust”, which is the short acronym for income trusts.

A notice of ways and means motion on the subject of income trusts was tabled in the House during the afternoon of October 31, 2006 and was concurred in a few days later. The intent of that ways and means motion was in part to impose a 31.5% tax on income trusts starting in 2007, but that for existing income trusts the start date would be 2011.

On December 21 the government released a draft bill for consultation on this issue. However, the clause in question today never appeared in that draft bill. The implementation of the ways and means motion is now found in Bill C-52. Subclause (2)(b) of the bill found on page 20 referred to earlier reads as follows:

the first day after December 15, 2006 on which the trust exceeds normal growth as determined by reference to the normal growth guidelines issued by the Department of Finance on December 15, 2006, as amended from time to time, unless that excess arose as a result of a prescribed transaction.

This clause which I have just read deals with transitional tax measures involving how a large segment of the Canadian economy and billions of dollars of taxpayer assets are to be governed under our tax laws for the next four years, and yet this is proposed to be administered by way of a reference in legislation to guidelines only, which themselves are no more than a press release. I have a copy of that press release that sets the guidelines which I am prepared to table today. Worse yet, this press release, according to the clause in question, can be amended from time to time, as I have just read.

The bill is silent on any mechanism for amending these guidelines or press releases and there is no official or specified repository of this information. What we have in this clause, in effect, is a delegation of subordinate law, not by regulation nor by ministerial directive, but by press release.

This action of the government, that is to say to apply a tax burden or levy against a group of taxpayers using a so-called guideline or press release, is unprecedented. As a matter of fact, the only reference I could find to a budget implementation bill using guidelines dates back some 11 years to 1996 and dealt with the reimbursement of a conservation expense. In other words, the 1996 initiative gave money back to the taxpayer. For the benefit of the Chair, this was clause 66.1(6) of that bill. The situation now before the House is the reverse.

Let me remind the House that the contents and consequences of using that news release are not minor in nature. They are very broad in scope and have a large impact on this broad group of taxpayers involving billions of dollars. The news release itself says, “The deferred application of these measures is conditional on existing,” and income trusts are referred to by using the acronym SIFT, “respecting the policy objectives of the proposals”.

Materials released with the minister's announcement indicated that, for example, the undue expansion of an existing income trust might cause the deferral to be rescinded. This introduces a whole layer of conditions, at least some of which appear totally arbitrary in nature and which the taxpayer must fulfill in order to benefit from the 2011 delay date of tax liability set out in the bill, and yet the bill is silent on these conditions. They appear nowhere in the bill, only in the news release.

The news release includes the concept that if the conditions are not met, the minister, by some unknown authority, can cause the taxpayer's deferral to be rescinded. That would actually result in a tax increase to the taxpayer. That is a new power found only in the news release, that the minister could by some unknown authority rescind a taxpayer's deferred status and somehow force the person to pay the tax sooner than the bill would otherwise have him or her do. That increases the tax burden.

What we are trying to prevent is a situation where the minister or his officials conclude, based on a news release or guidelines, not as a matter of law, that this or that condition in the news release is not being met or has been amended and then is not being met and so, almost by a fiat, a taxpayer's deferral is rescinded. The taxes would be imposed on the person sooner than the 2011 date that Parliament has set out and the taxpayer would be left wondering why and how all this could happen.

Marleau and Montpetit's House of Commons Procedure and Practice reminds us at pages 686 and 687:

In 1950, Parliament adopted the Regulations Act, which decreed that all “orders, regulations and proclamations...” would be systematically and uniformly published and tabled in the House.

This language is from the Regulations Act, 1950. I ask rhetorically, how does the scheme described in the bill herein comply with these practices. Clearly, they do not. It attempts to exempt itself from those rules.

Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice also has references defining statutory instruments.

Our current Statutory Instruments Act provides clear direction regarding subordinate law, offering instructions in areas such as the coming into force date, the means or instruments by which the coming into force will be achieved, the method to be used to publish the subordinate law, and even Parliament's role in the revocation of the instrument should it be found not to be in compliance.

Again, the so-called guideline tax measure referred to in the budget implementation bill also appears to exempt itself from parliamentary scrutiny.

I want to briefly turn to the oversight issue. Marleau and Montpetit at page 688 describes the authority of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations to “scrutinize any statutory instrument made on or after January 1, 1972”. Statutory instruments are referred to therein as:

--any rule, order, regulation, ordinance, direction, form, tariff of costs or fees, letters patent, commission, warrant, proclamation, by-law, resolution or other instrument issued, made or established...in the execution of a power conferred by or under an Act of Parliament.

Clearly, Parliament intended that important issues such as the one found in the budget implementation bill, should be manifested in a statutory instrument subjected to parliamentary oversight and not left to the status of a guideline or press release which can be amended from time to time by an unidentified government official with a computer and a printer.

Again, referring to the Statutory Instruments Act, the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations is mandated to report to this House to ensure that instruments conform to 13 criteria of good governance. I draw the attention of the Speaker to criterion number 7, which requires compliance with the act with respect to transmission, registration or publication.

How are members of this House to know whether or not one of the minister's guidelines, which can be amended from time to time, was even published, let alone whether or not it conforms to the rules?

Criterion number 11 guards against an unusual or unexpected use of the powers conferred in enabling legislation. Again, in this case, members will not have the tools to make such a determination because a press release was used.

Clearly in this clause and perhaps others, the government has attempted to create subordinate law by press release in a way that is not accountable to anyone and certainly not accountable to this Parliament. This is not a proper and accountable way to legislate, particularly for a government that proclaims or touts accountability as an attribute of its administration.

Finally, this part of the budget implementation bill does not even conform to the government's own rules on proper legislative drafting. I have in hand a copy of the Privy Council Office document entitled “Guide to Making Federal Acts and Regulations”, which I am prepared to table as well. Page 3 of the document describes what it considers to be proper subordinate law-making. Suffice to say this bill, or at least the clause I have referred to, does not even come close to adherence to those rules governing the making of subordinate law. Given the historic strictness with which the House imposes on tax measures, these vague and arbitrary provisions should be treated as out of order and a nullity. This is taxing by press release.

I conclude by inviting the Chair to review this submission and to rule that the clause in the budget implementation bill is out of order and cannot be proceeded with in its current form. A bill with references such as this should not be accepted in principle and read a second time. This clause, and any other clause or subclauses ancillary to it, should be struck from the bill and ordered reprinted.

If the government insists on proceeding with the objectives of this clause, as wrong-headed as some members may think they may be, it could do so by way of a separate, properly drafted bill dealing with its scheme for taxing income trusts to which the transition rules are central, which the government seemed to be prepared to do last December in any case and which a committee of the House endorsed earlier this year. Obviously, we would expect that the new bill would be properly drafted and conform to the rules of the House.

Given that Bill C-52 could be voted on at second reading fairly soon, I would ask the Chair respectfully to rule on this at the earliest possible opportunity.

Bill C-52--Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:25 p.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, very briefly, the government will want to respond to the intervention by the hon. member and will do so as quickly as possible after reviewing the objections raised by the member for Scarborough—Rouge River.

Bill C-52--Budget Implementation Act, 2007
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for his comment and the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River for his argument. The Chair is happy to have a little time to consider this rather technical argument. I must say my head is spinning now from hearing it, but I will do my best to follow the argument by rereading the remarks of the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River in due course. I look forward to the comments from the hon. parliamentary secretary when he is ready.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-46, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of railway operations, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Railway continuation Act, 2007
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Prior to oral question period, the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert had the floor to respond to questions and comments about his speech.

The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Railway continuation Act, 2007
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the House today, the Bloc Québécois and the Liberal Party have allied themselves with the government.

The Bloc says it might vote against this bill later today, but everyone knows that the Bloc Québécois supported the government's closure motion. The only reason we are having a closed debate, a forced debate in so little time, is that the Bloc and the Liberal Party supported it. Of that there can be no doubt.

The Bloc cannot say that it is against the bill and then support closure. It has been the government's ally on this back to work legislation, which means that not only are workers in Quebec not being served by this Canadian Parliament, but also, Quebeckers will be forced to put up with the problems, collisions and other accidents that happen on our rail network. The Bloc helped the government impose this legislation, so try as it might, it cannot vote against the bill in the final stages and claim that it was not an accomplice. It is an accomplice.

My question is a simple one. Why did the Bloc vote with the Conservatives in favour of the decision made by CN managers in the United States? What this decision will impose on workers in Quebec is not at all in Quebeckers' best interests.

Railway continuation Act, 2007
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is really not the NDP members' day. They are a pitiful sight.

Not only did they demand this morning that we all vote twice, but they made us come back to vote because they had forgotten that they wanted to speak against the closure motion. We might have expected them to speak, because they were responsible for the 308 members of this House meeting this morning to vote. We took a half-hour of our time to come to the House to vote. And we might have expected them to speak again to motion 15. But they said nothing and they did nothing. They did not understand that this was the time for them to speak. So things are not going well for them now.

Earlier, before question period, another colleague from the NDP had also not really understood that the Bloc Québécois did not support Bill C-46, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of railway operations.

As I said a moment ago, the Bloc Québécois does not support Bill C-46 in principle. I reiterated this earlier to another colleague from the NDP because I thought he might not have been listening. We know that the French to English interpretation services in the House are excellent. So the only reason why his colleague before him had not understood was undoubtedly because he was not listening. And now another colleague from the NDP is rising. Clearly they are having a bad day, so we are going to try to move on.

On the question of CN's management, it is important to recall what they said when they addressed us at the Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on February 8. In fact, it is important to note how the Vice-President and Chief Legal Officer of CN saw matters at that time. At the time, the situation was heating up at CN and the strike was in full swing.

Of course, CN management spoke against the anti-scab bill. In fact, it said that "this would mean a return to a system where any nationwide railway work stoppage would inevitably require government intervention". They cannot be said to have had a lot of vision.

This is what the Vice-President of CN said: "First, the commuter rail service in Toronto and Montreal would quickly grind to a halt." We know that this is not what happened. He said that it would lead to "traffic jams and great inconvenience". We know that this is not true and we have not seen great inconvenience.

In short, CN management cannot be said to have had a lot of vision in these disputes. They have very little understanding of the consequences and repercussions that labour disputes in their company can have. So we can see why they have exhibited such a serious lack of respect in bargaining with their employees and the employees' representatives.