House of Commons Hansard #151 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

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, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to one petition.

Summer Career Placement Program
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table in this House a petition with around 200 names. This is in addition to the petition signed by about 1,000 people from my riding Saint-Maurice—Champlain.

This petition once again criticizes the cancellation of the summer career placement program. More than 1,200 of my constituents denounce this cancellation.

Once again, it is unfortunate that the Conservative government is refusing to reinstate this program. These petitions show that the public is very disappointed.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

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, the following question will be answered today: No. 191.

Question No. 191
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

With regard to the cancellation of the flight information centre in Yellowknife, what was the rationale for deciding to cancel the establishment of this centre and how will aviators in northern Canada receive reliable flight information from a centre in North Bay, Ontario?

Question No. 191
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, Nav Canada is responsible for the operation of air navigation services, ANS, in Canada. Transport Canada is responsible for the safety as well as regulatory oversight of the provision of ANS. Oversight activities include but are not limited to regular inspections and audits of Nav Canada operations and an ongoing monitoring of all ANS activities. A flight information centre, FIC, is a centralized air traffic service unit that provides flight information services to pilots, including weather briefings, flight planning and remote and enroute radio communications.

The rationale to offer FIC services to the Yellowknife area from the North Bay FIC was a Nav Canada decision. North Bay employs highly skilled flight service specialists, providing what Transport Canada assesses to be a safe and reliable service. In addition, Yellowknife continues to have a flight service station which is an on-site air traffic service unit, which provides aerodrome advisory services and aviation weather observations. Transport Canada conducted an audit both of the Yellowknife flight service station, in September 2006, and North Bay FIC, in December 2006, where it was determined that both units are providing a safe and adequate service to the users.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

On May 9, 2007, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs tabled its 50th report.

The committee's report recommended that Motion M-322, standing in the name of the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, be designated non-votable.

The hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville informed me that he will not put forward a motion to appeal the decision in the committee's report. Consequently, pursuant to Standing Order 92(4), the 50th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is deemed adopted, and Motion M-322 remains a non-votable motion on the order paper.

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities—Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on May 1, 2007 by the hon. member for Argenteuil-Papineau-Mirabel concerning the intimidation of committee witnesses.

I would like to thank the hon. member for having drawn this important matter to the attention of the House as well the hon. Government House Leader and Minister for Democratic Reform for his comments on the question.

In his presentation the hon. member for Argenteuil-Papineau-Mirabel stated that in an appearance before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities on February 21, 2007, the chair of the Canadian Federal Pilots Association, Mr. Greg Holbrook, had alleged that the Director General of Civil Aviation, Transport Canada, Mr. Merlin Preuss, had attempted to intimidate potential witnesses before the committee.

In support of that allegation, the chair of the Canadian Federal Pilots Association tabled with the committee an affidavit from the Association’s executive assistant, Ms. Kathy Marquis, detailing a telephone conversation between herself and Mr. Preuss.

In further support of his claim that this attempted intimidation was not an isolated event, the hon. member for Argenteuil-Papineau-Mirabel provided the Speaker with further documents which he claimed displayed similar behaviour.

In his remarks made on May 3, 2007, the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform presented arguments relating to two points. First, he claimed that the information presented to the Chair did not support the existence of a prima facie breach of privilege.

Secondly, he pointed out that our procedures ordinarily require that a report from a committee be presented to the House before questions of privilege or points of order are raised dealing with the committee's proceedings.

The Chair views the matter raised by the hon. member for Argenteuil-Papineau-Mirabel as one of considerable importance and has made a close examination of the case. House of Commons Procedure and Practice states at p. 89:

The protection of witnesses is a fundamental aspect of the privilege that extends to parliamentary proceedings and those persons who participate in them. It is well established in the Parliament of Canada, as in the British Parliament, that witnesses before committees share the same privileges of freedom of speech as do Members.… The protection of witnesses extends to threats made against them or intimidation with respect to their presentations before any parliamentary committee.

The House and its committees cannot carry out their duties unless they can rely upon the testimony of witnesses who are able to speak freely without any outside interference or fear of reprisal.

Members will know that it is not usual for the Speaker to comment or rule on procedural issues arising in committee until a report from the committee has been presented in the House. It may be helpful to members if I repeat the citation from page 128 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice referred to by the government House leader:

Speakers have consistently ruled that, except in the most extreme situations, they will only hear questions of privilege arising from committee proceedings upon presentation of a report from the committee which directly deals with the matter and not as a question of privilege raised by an individual Member.

Nevertheless, circumstances do exist in which the importance of a question may require intervention by the Chair. On December 4, 1992, Mr. Speaker Fraser ruled on a case concerning threats made to a witness who had appeared before a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General. The ruling, found at p. 14631 of the Debates, points out that there are occasions on which it is not appropriate to wait for a report from the committee before dealing with a serious breach of privilege. In that case, Mr. Speaker Fraser was faced with the fact that it might well be a period of several months before the subcommittee could meet to deal with the matter. The case before us today strikes me as being significantly different in that regard.

The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities met on March 28, 2007 for the express purpose of examining the remarks attributed to Mr. Preuss. He was present as a witness at that meeting and was vigorously questioned by committee members. At a subsequent meeting on April 23, 2007, the matter was addressed a second time, again with Mr. Preuss present as a witness.

Under these circumstances, it would be highly inappropriate for the Speaker to break with our past practice and pre-empt any decision the committee may choose to make. The committee is seized of the issue and if a report is presented I will of course deal with any procedural questions which may be raised as a result. Until such a report is presented however, I must leave the matter in the hands of the committee.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Argenteuil-Papineau-Mirabel for having raised for the benefit of all members this very important question relating to the protection of witnesses.

Opposition Motion—Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Leader of the Opposition

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government's mistaken policies with respect to interest non-deductibility and income trusts are making it increasingly difficult for Canadian businesses to succeed internationally, while making Canadian businesses increasingly vulnerable to foreign takeovers, thus putting Canadian jobs, head offices and investment at risk and contributing to a hollowing out of Canadian enterprise;

and this House calls upon the Prime Minister to instruct his Minister of Finance to resolve these dangers by withdrawing his interest non-deductibility proposal and entering into meaningful public consultations on appropriate measures to combat tax abuses, and by withdrawing his proposal to tax income trusts and replacing it with the Liberal alternative as summarized in the 14th Report of the Standing Committee on Finance, presented on February 28, 2007.

Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the hon. member for Markham—Unionville.

I rise in the House today on behalf of all Canadian families and workers who want to know when this Conservative government will stop endangering Canadian jobs with its harmful, poorly designed policies.

The world economy is caught up in a frenzy of corporate takeovers. Canadian companies are being swallowed whole, and when head offices leave Canada, good jobs disappear along with them.

What is the government doing to protect these jobs? What is the government doing to ensure that the most highly trained and best educated Canadians can continue to work in our country and for our country?

What is our government doing to protect the next generation of Canadian professionals, the next generation of lawyers, accountants, managers, sales directors, advertising executives, business consultants, and the hundreds of thousands of service jobs that depend on the wealth that those professionals generate? What is the current government doing?

Under the current government, the sorry answer is nothing at all.

In fact, the government is doing worse than nothing. Doing nothing at all would be a substantial improvement for this government. Instead of helping, the government is making things worse.

First, the government broke its promise not to tax income trusts. Instead, it imposed a punitive tax of 31.5%. Canadian shareholders and pensioners paid the price and Canadian companies were weakened.

Not content to stop there, the government decided to follow one bad idea with another, by reversing Canada's policy on interest deductibility. That misguided decision is another blow to Canadian companies eager to compete on the world stage.

That this policy is a mistake is beyond question. Tax experts and business leaders have dismissed this policy as wrong-headed.

Tax expert Allan Lanthier calls the decision “the single most misguided policy I've seen out of Ottawa in 35 years”.

Nancy Hughes Anthony, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, calls it “a real step in the wrong direction”.

The chief executive of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan says, “I can't believe any sensible person would do this”.

This policy makes it harder for Canadian companies to keep up with their competitors in other countries. Companies in the United States, Europe and Japan can all benefit from interest deductibility when they want to take over Canadian companies.

Why is the Prime Minister giving a green light to foreign takeovers in Canada and a red light to Canadian expansion abroad? Why? Does the Prime Minister not care that by hurting Canadian companies he is also hurting Canadian families, Canadian jobs and Canadian workers?

Instead of admitting that their policy is wrong-headed, the Prime Minister and his Minister of Finance are trying to fudge the issue.

The Minister of Finance, after weeks of ignoring the criticism of every expert, is now suggesting that he may extend the transition period for Canadian companies to adjust to his wrong-headed policy on interest deductibility.

What a ridiculous compromise. Executing a bad policy more slowly is not a solution.

Canada's companies should not be forced to compete with their hands tied behind their backs, and the issue is not how slowly or quickly we tie their hands. We should not be tying their hands at all.

Instead, we should be arming our companies with every available policy to help them compete. That is what a good government does and that is what Canadians expect.

Judging by this government's disastrous policies on income trusts and interest deductibility, Canadians have every right to ask themselves what is coming next.

What can we expect from a government that raised income tax? What can we expect from a government that cut new spending on research and education? What can we expect from a government that hurt Canadian exporters by closing consulates and cancelling trade missions? What can we expect from a government that, by design and by incompetence, is refusing to implement the most basic economic policies in order to serve Canadians' interests?

It is high time the Prime Minister put reason before ideology. I call on the Prime Minister to reverse his irresponsible decision and restore the previous policy on interest deductibility.

I call on the government to shelve its interest deductibility plan and create a task force to review Canada's international tax policy to ensure that it is addressing the competitiveness agenda while at the same time tightening up the system. The task force would review Canada's some 90 international tax treaties with a view to ensuring the treaty partners are living up to the original policy expectations.

I call on the Prime Minister to withdraw his proposal to tax income trusts and replace it with the Liberal plan, which would replace the Conservatives' 31.5% tax with a 10% tax refundable to Canadian investors.

I call on the Prime Minister to develop a comprehensive plan so that Canada comes out on top in the current frenzy of corporate takeovers and to present that plan to the House of Commons.

Canadians deserve a visionary government with an ambitious goal for our country, a government that seeks to make the most of our enormous potential instead of eroding it, a government that strengthens and energizes Canadian businesses and protects Canadian jobs instead of putting up obstacles to business. A Liberal government will implement policies to stimulate Canada's economy, just as the Liberal governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin did.

While the Conservatives have slashed funding for research and education, we will invest in these crucial areas. While the Conservatives have cut ties with our trade partners, we will strengthen those ties. While the Conservatives have cut programs that encouraged companies to invest in clean energy, we will restore them to make Canada a green superpower. And while the Conservatives have hurt the competitiveness of Canadian businesses, we will help those businesses excel and prosper.

Until that time, we are left with the present government and the Prime Minister to whom, it seems, all we can ask, for the sake of working Canadians everywhere, is that he please stop making things worse.

Opposition Motion—Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, that was quite a speech. In fact, it emphasized what the--

Opposition Motion—Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Opposition Motion—Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

I am encouraged, Mr. Speaker, to see that they have all lumped themselves in with the same group. That is great because last week the headline in the Toronto Star indicated “Dion wrong on trusts”. However, that is not all--

Opposition Motion—Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order, please. The hon. member knows better than that.