House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was troops.

Topics

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the government House leader would describe for us his plan for the business of the House for the balance of this week and to the end of next week. Specifically, during that timeframe, could he indicate the fate of Bill C-16, dealing with fixed election dates? Will the minister confirm that he has no intention of recalling Bill C-16 for further action in the House during the life of this Parliament.

With respect to Bill C-30, the clean air act, when will that legislation come back to the House of Commons for further consideration? When the Prime Minister announces his new plan with respect to emission targets, will the Prime Minister be acting under the auspices of Bill C-30 or under the existing Canadian Environmental Protection Act?

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, today we will continue with the debate on the opposition motion.

Tomorrow we will begin debate, as I said earlier, on one of the government's bills to modernize the Senate of Canada, Bill C-43. This is an act to provide for consultations with the electors on their preferences for appointments to the Senate.

In fact, yesterday the Prime Minister announced that Bert Brown would finally take his seat in the Senate after being elected twice by the people of Alberta. For those who say it cannot be done, we are getting it done. We will continue to get the job done for the other provinces, with the bill, so they too can elect senators. The Senate elections bill, along with the bill to limit terms of senators to eight years will achieve meaningful Senate reform. Meanwhile, we have talked about constitutional reform. We do not think it is necessary. It can be done without it.

However, in response to the other question raised by the opposition House leader on Bill C-16, we will be bringing it forward. We have indicated that we will bring forward a motion to ask that the amendments by the Senate be removed and to communicate that to the Senate. We will bring that motion forward on Monday. We believe we have the support in the House to have that secured so we can have fixed date elections that cannot be tampered with. That will be on the agenda for Monday, followed by Bill C-52, the budget implementation bill. BillC-43 will be the backup bill on that day. That is the Senate consultations.

Tuesday, April 24 and Thursday, April 26 shall be allotted days.

On Wednesday, we will resume debate on BillC-52, the budget implementation bill, if it has not been completed Monday. It will be followed by Bill C-40 on sales tax and Bill C-33 on income tax.

Friday, April 27, we will continue with those same finance bills.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place among all parties with respect to Bill C-254, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda), first introduced during the 38th Parliament and reintroduced on May 24, 2006. This bill at long last includes the legal word for “gender” in the definition of what constitutes a hate crime.

I hope to find consent for the following motion: That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-254, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda), an act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda), be deemed read a second time, referred to committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

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

3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond today to the point of order that was raised by the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River concerning Bill C-52, the budget implementation act.

The member argued that clause 13(1) of the bill respecting the application of the definition of “SIFT trust”, which is a specified investment flow-through trust, is not in keeping with the practices and customs of this House. In his view, the provision represents an inappropriate delegation of subordinate law and the member has asked that the Speaker rule that the clause be struck from the bill and the bill ordered reprinted.

As the Speaker has noted, this is a complex issue.

I appreciate the expertise of the member for Scarborough—Rouge River on matters of subordinate law. However, I submit that this is not a valid point of order, as there are no procedural authorities that preclude the House from legislating in this manner. In short, this is a matter for debate, which would be better dealt with by members in the House and at committee, rather than a procedural question for the Speaker to resolve.

Let me first briefly provide some background to this issue in order to assist the Chair.

The provision in question provides a rule for the application of the definition of “SIFT trust”. In particular, the provision sets out when a trust will be subject to the new rules pertaining to the taxation of income trusts.

Under the bill, a new trust will become a SIFT trust and therefore subject to the new rules for the taxation year in which it first meets the definition. However, for an existing trust, the SIFT trust definition will not apply, and therefore the new rules will not apply until the earlier of the 2011 taxation year, and the taxation year in which the trust exceeds the normal growth guidelines issues by the Department of Finance on December 15, 2006, unless that excess arose as a result of a prescribed transaction. As you can see, Mr. Speaker, this is quite technical.

To achieve this, the provision in question contains an incorporation by reference of the normal growth guidelines issued by the Department of Finance, to which I just referred. Incorporation by reference is a proper and legal approach to enacting legislation. It is neither rare nor unusual in legislation. An examination of Canadian statutory law would reveal many instances where incorporation by reference has been used in just this fashion.

For example, sections 181.3 and 190.13 of the Income Tax Act refer to the use of risk-weighting guidelines issued by the Superintendent of Financial Institutions in order to determine the amount of capital of an authorized foreign bank. These guidelines are defined in section 248 of the Income Tax Act and are issued pursuant to section 600 of the Bank Act. I could go on with other examples, but I am sure the Speaker would find that a tad tedious.

Furthermore, it is not uncommon for legislation to allow documents incorporated by reference in legislation to be changed from time to time. For example, section 11 of the Customs Tariff incorporate by reference the Compendium of Classification Opinions to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System published by the Customs Co-Operation Council, as amended from time to time.

Therefore, it is not just in the Income Tax Act, but in other legislation as well that we see this same approach. As I said, we could go on at length, but I shall save us and save the House that lengthy example. I think the Speaker has ample precedent there.

In terms of procedural arguments, the member for Scarborough—Rouge River essentially made three points. He has argued: first, that the provision is not in keeping with the practices and customs of this House; second, that the clause attempts to exempt itself from rules regarding parliamentary scrutiny of subordinate law; and third, that the clause does not comply with the government's own internal rules on legislative drafting.

Let me address each point in turn.

On the first point, the practices and customs of the House, the essence of the member's argument appears to be that the clause does not conform to the rules of the House. The government submits that Bill C-52 and all of its provisions are properly before the House. The provision in question was included in a detailed notice of ways and means motion tabled on March 27, which was adopted by the House on March 28.

The ways and means motion adopted by the House on March 28 included the identical provision that the member for Scarborough—Rouge River questioned. Therefore, the provision in question is consistent with the rules governing financial procedures.

I submit there are no procedural grounds for the clause to be ruled out of order. Rather, this is an issue that would be more appropriately considered by the Standing Committee on Finance in its review of the bill. Should the member wish to improve the text of the bill, he and his colleagues are free to propose amendments to the bill in committee.

Citation 322 of the sixth edition of Beauchesne's states that:

When a bill is under consideration, points of order should not be raised on matters which could be disposed of by moving amendments.

This clearly falls into that category.

With the exception of very limited circumstances, it is clear that only the House itself can decide to alter the content of bills

The 22nd edition of Erskine May states, at pages 544 and 545, the following:

Throughout all these stages and proceedings the bill itself continues in the custody of the Public Bill Office, and, with the exceptions mentioned below, no alteration whatever is permitted to be made in it, without the express authority of the House or a committee, in the form of an amendment regularly put from the Chair, and recorded by the Clerks at the Table or by the clerks from the Public Bill Office in standing committee.

As Marleau and Montpetit note, at page 620:

The Chair has clearly ruled in the past that when a bill is in possession of the House, it becomes its property, and cannot be materially altered, except by the House itself. Only “mere clerical alterations” are allowed. By issuing a corrigendum to the bill, the Speaker may correct any obvious printing or clerical error, at any stage of the bill. On the other hand, no substantive change may be made to the manner in which a bill was worded when it was introduced, or when a committee reported on it, otherwise than by an amendment passed by the House.

There would appear, Mr. Speaker, to be only two circumstances where the Speaker can make alterations to a bill: first, where the Chair has ruled that amendments adopted by a committee are beyond the scope of the bill, as you had recently ruled with respect to committee amendments to Bill C-257, the replacement workers bill; or second, when there is a clear printing error. As you noted in a ruling on February 23, 2004, this is only done in rare cases where there is a manifest error in the printing of the bill.

Apart from these limited instances, I submit that it is up to the House to decide whether or not to adopt a bill with our without amendment.

Even if you were, Mr. Speaker, to conclude that the provision of the bill as currently drafted is unacceptable, I would submit that the House and the committee should, first, have an opportunity to review the matter and consider possible amendments to improve the text of the bill.

In the event the provision in question remains in the bill at third reading, I submit that it is at that point when the Speaker should intervene on this matter in the unlikely case you think it is necessary.

It is analogous to the procedure that we use with private members' bills when we have those flaws. Committee exists and represents an opportunity for the flaws to be cured. If this is a flaw, indeed, that would be the place at which it could happen. The Speaker, if faced by a change that is unacceptable, does not need to put the question on that clause at third reading.

On the question of the review of statutory instruments, the hon. member has also suggested that the provision of the bill exempts itself from the rules of the House regarding parliamentary scrutiny of delegated legislation. It is not uncommon for bills to establish forms of delegated legislation that are not subject to the Statutory Instruments Act. It is perfectly within the prerogatives of the House to pass legislation to that effect. As I have indicated earlier, it is not the role of the Speaker to decide whether such legislation is appropriation.

The third point is the government guide for drafting.

The hon. member also suggested that the provision in question is not consistent with the government's “Guide to Making Federal Acts and Regulations”.

The guide sets out principles for making legislation and regulations, as well as government processes for ensuring that statutory and legislative changes are made in an effective way.

Apart from the fact that this guide is by no means a procedural authority, I would also point out that the guide does not prevent the government from introducing legislation such as the provision in question, provided that the cabinet has authorized such legislation.

In conclusion, I would submit that clause 13(1) of Bill C-52 is properly before the House. This is a matter for debate. The issue is properly in the hands of the House and the finance committee will be better placed to examine whether this section of the bill is appropriate or whether it can be improved.

As always, I understand that the Minister of Finance is prepared to discuss this matter, and all matters related to the bill, further in committee. Indeed, if there is any flaw, committee can certainly be curative in so doing.

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

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. government House leader for his submissions on this important point. As he said, it was a tad technical, and I agree with him. However, I will review all these technical arguments and come back to the House with a ruling in due course on this matter.

Pursuant to section 28(9) of the Conflict of Interest Code, the hon. member for Calgary East, who is the subject of the report of the Ethics Commissioner previously tabled in the House, has the right to make a statement. The member shall not speak for more than 20 minutes and there will be no period of questions or comments.

The hon. member for Calgary East.

Ethics Commissioner
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to make a statement about the Ethics Commissioner's report tabled on March 30.

The Ethics Commissioner has concluded that I did not contravene the conflict of interest code for members of the House of Commons. I do not dispute this conclusion.

However, I do take issue with the inquiry process and the content of the report.

I urge hon. members of the House to not concur in the report. Instead, I would urge the House to refer the entire matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for a full and thorough investigation, with recommendations.

The inquiry process and the report violated the principles of procedural fairness.

The Ethics Commissioner did not inform me that an inquiry had been resumed. This deprived me of my right to make representations at all appropriate stages throughout the process. The code provides that procedural right. In fact, I only learned of the existence of the report one hour prior to it being tabled, but two months after the report says the inquiry had resumed.

The report includes many personal details about my extended family that the Ethics Commissioner learned during the investigation.

Personal information about the unhappy circumstances of my sister-in-law's marriage surely was not required to support the conclusions. Nor was there any need to write about stupid and unfounded allegations against my family that had nothing to do with this inquiry.

Surely the Ethics Commissioner is meant to exercise tact and discretion, like when he provides the report for public office holders. Surely he should limit his reports to such details as are necessary to support the conclusion, and no more. The code requires the Ethics Commissioner to conduct the inquiry in private and to provide relevant reasons for this conclusion. Why should all details from the private investigation be disclosed?

I will be asking the committee that personal details from the report that are not necessary to support the conclusion be removed from the report and from the Commissioner's website. The integrity of the code is at issue. All members of Parliament are at risk of such disclosures if the report stands as a precedent.

The procedure and House affairs committee will have to consider whether the way the Ethics Commissioner handled this report constitutes a further prima facie contempt of the House of Commons.

In October 2005, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs directed the Ethics Commissioner to suspend the inquiry. He did suspend it, but refused to do so because the committee asked him to. Instead, he suspended it because he had learned of an RCMP investigation into the matter, which went on to clear me of all allegations. In November 2005, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs found the Ethics Commissioner in contempt of the House of Commons since he did not comply with the provisions of the code.

The Ethics Commissioner had full knowledge of the direction of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to suspend the inquiry, although he refused to accept this direction at that time. The Ethics Commissioner resumed the inquiry but did not advise me. He did not advise the House of Commons. He did not seek guidance from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which had directed him to suspend the inquiry.

Now the report has been tabled without seeking the direction of the committee. The inquiry process and the report still suffer from the same kinds of problems that had concerned the committee when he was found in contempt. Once again, the Ethics Commissioner has shown no regard for procedural fairness and no regard for my family's privacy.

By resuming the inquiry without informing me and by tabling the report, the Ethics Commissioner has defied the will of the committee. Therefore, his conduct, in my opinion, constitutes a further contempt.

If the Ethics Commissioner has chosen to ignore what the members of the House have said about the subject matter of this inquiry, about the need to respect the personal privacy of my family, and the principles of procedural fairness, then how can we accept the report?

Let me quote what the committee said about its concerns: “The risks to Members, and the very integrity of the Code, demand nothing less”.

Therefore, I will ask the House to refuse to concur in this report if a motion is brought before the House. I will take the matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for a thorough investigation and a review of the provisions of the code to ensure its integrity. This will help ensure that in the future hon. members will have the benefit of procedural fairness from the conflict of interest inquiry process.

I have no objection if a new report is tabled after due regard to the concerns I have raised and the findings of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in the 51st report, adopted on November 17 and tabled on November 18, 2005.

I want to say one more thing. Despite my repeated requests not to get involved in a family dispute, this request was ignored. A life was lost through suicide. The privacy of my sister-in-law and her two sons has been violated through no fault of their own. They have no recourse. When this was pointed out to the Ethics Commissioner by my sister-in-law during Mr. Shapiro's visit to Calgary, he chose to ignore it.

Because of this attitude, today the private details of my sister-in-law's life are published in the report tabled. Ethnic newspapers are now running articles on her life and the lives of her two sons. Is this fair? Also, I will ask women's rights groups this question: are they going to defend this woman's rights?

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and speak to this motion on military operations in Afghanistan, especially since a number of Canadian Forces personnel from 3 Wing Bagotville in my riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord are actively involved in the mission. I want to salute their courage and dedication.

Regardless of the disagreements that members of the House of Commons may have regarding the mission in Afghanistan, we all have full confidence in our men and women in the field. There is also no question of an early withdrawal of our troops before 2009. Canada has a duty to inform its allies before withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan because the 2009 deadline is rapidly approaching. That is basically what this motion proposes.

Even though we on this side of the House support the motion, we also propose a rebalancing of the operations in Afghanistan, particularly in regard to Canada’s strategy for supporting peace in Afghanistan and the mandate and methods of the Canadian armed forces.

The people of Canada and Quebec are divided on the issue of our military presence in Afghanistan. The Quebec nation has values and interests of its own, and whenever the Bloc Québécois takes a position on a motion or a bill, it must always ask itself whether this is in the interests of Quebec. Am I for this or against it? Each time we try to decide what the government of a sovereign Quebec would do. That is why today’s debate is very important.

In light of what I have heard in the debates today, I believe that we need to rebalance the mission in Afghanistan. The basic objective of the international coalition and the NATO countries must be to rebuild the economy and democracy and make Afghanistan a viable country. To succeed in this, Canada must play a leadership role in delivering and distributing humanitarian aid for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. It is important to state very clearly, not only for the members of the coalition and the NATO countries but also for the people of Quebec and Canada, that the Canadian army in Afghanistan is going to rebalance its efforts in the field.

The Bloc Québécois has always supported sending troops to Afghanistan as part of a NATO mission. The operation that Canada undertook was more or less a peace mission to stabilize the Kabul region and surrounding areas. Unfortunately, it has become a war operation.

Why are the people of Canada and Quebec still so divided when it comes to the presence of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan? The people have been told that the Taliban rebels have a fallback position in Pakistan and that they are getting stronger, not weaker. That is the situation. Moreover, according to NATO officials in charge of military deployment, there are not enough troops.

Quebeckers and Canadians must be given assurances that the government is capable of taking the Afghanistan situation to the next level after 2009. Right now, people think that the mission in Afghanistan is getting more and more dangerous.

The situation is getting a lot more dangerous, but there is still time to change the thrust of international intervention. Doing so is becoming more urgent. We will not win the support of the Afghan people by just fighting the Taliban with our weapons and chasing them around the mountains.

The Bloc Québécois is talking about bringing a new balance to the mission. If we continue doing what we are doing, more lives may be lost. Shifting the mission's focus in the following three areas is urgent.

First, we must increase reconstruction assistance and do a better job of coordinating it. From 2001 to 2006, Canada spent $1.8 billion on military efforts and only $300 million on reconstruction. This is extremely unbalanced. Put simply, this is a ratio of $6 to $1. For every $6 spent on military activities and offensive action, $1 was spent on reconstruction and humanitarian aid.

Second, the nature of our military activities must change. Everyone knows that we cannot provide assistance effectively without a minimum level of security. General Richards, the head of NATO forces there, is asking NATO countries for 2,500 more soldiers. Let me be clear: we will not succeed by repeatedly increasing the number of troops. We must remember that the priority in Afghanistan must be speeding up development and reconstruction.

Third, we must drastically change how we look at the opium problem. Afghanistan is the source of 90% of the world's heroin supply. While maintaining our efforts against drug traffickers, we must propose an alternative to Afghan farmers by helping them establish programs for new crops, to grow something other than poppies, and we must help them build infrastructures such as roads, wells, public markets and hospitals.

Social development in Afghanistan is appalling. In 2004, this country was ranked 173rd out of 178 countries listed on the human development index.

The purpose of today's debate is to clarify the situation with respect to the coalition member countries and NATO member countries, as well as Canada's role after 2009. Like the people of Canada and Quebec, those countries have the right to know the issues and repercussions involved in the active participation of the armed forces and to demand that, as quickly as possible, Canadian operations focus more on humanitarian aid, social development and peacekeeping.

With respect to the mandates and methods used by the armed forces, our soldiers must not be like warriors or vigilantes. Rather, they should be considered more as agents of peace and reconstruction.

The most important thing is to redefine the mandate of our soldiers in Afghanistan. We must be able to measure the progress made. From that perspective, if we cannot quantify the progress, it becomes clear that public opinion will focus only on the loss of human life we are suffering.

Quebeckers and Canadians are willing to send troops to Afghanistan, but only if their safety can be ensured.

This is why the government must establish precise timeframes to rebalance the mission, and ensure that our soldiers have the resources they need to carry out reconstruction and security work in the field.

In closing, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I would like to remind the House that, if the balance of this mission is not restored, we will no longer be able to support an operation that is doomed to failure.

Opposition motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech by the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. We know that there are problems in Afghanistan, problems with the Taliban, education, infrastructure and others. However, we know that withdrawing prematurely from Afghanistan would be detrimental to the Afghan government. It is very important that we support the Afghan government.

Many of the arguments that have been made in the House in the debate on this motion have been to withdraw from the southern part of Afghanistan. However, there have not been convincing arguments to suggest how this move would enhance the stability of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and thereby contribute to the Karzai government's goals of establishing a civil society and a government that will be able to control all parts of the country, so that we do not have the return of an unstable regime that will foster radical groups that may come back to harm our interests here in Canada.

Opposition motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

We must win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. At present, poppy crops are their source of income. If we hound them or cut off their source of income by eliminating their crops, we will end up with Afghans who will go over to the Taliban. We must work on providing concrete solutions such as support for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance for Afghans.

Opposition motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the great disappointments has been how the government has utterly mismanaged this entire mission at great personal expense to CF members and their families.

This mission has changed. As the hon. member from the government said, we are there to remove al-Qaeda. If we want to remove al-Qaeda, we should be dealing with Pakistan, the Horn of Africa and other areas.

I want to ask my hon. colleague this. Why does the government ignore the components of the mission that are necessary for the mission's success? Why does the government not call on President Bush and Prime Minister Blair to stop the eradication program for poppies? Why is it not calling Loya Jirga to bring forth the groups that are disaffected in Afghanistan and need to be included in the decision making process of the government? Why is it not investing in the Afghan national police, the judicial system, and a penal system to allow security to occur?

Unless we have an adequate, competent judicial system, then we are never going to have security. Why does the government not stop this ink blot strategy which is only putting our troops into a meat grinder that is going to cause them to lose their lives? Why do we not pull back to bases in southern Afghanistan, allow for the training of Afghan police and the army, and allow them to deal with Pashtun lands?

Finally, I want to ask the hon. member, does he not agree that we can never win this insurgency, that has its bases not within Afghanistan but in Pakistan, without dealing with the regional security component and calling for a regional working group that includes India, Iran, Pakistan and other interested groups because that is essential to the success of this mission?