House of Commons Hansard #145 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is true that the Conservatives have been in power for 16 months. In June 2005, the now Prime Minister wrote a letter to a widow of a veteran and said that a Conservative government would immediately extend the veterans independence program for all widows of all veterans.

This year alone we will lose about 35,000 to 40,000 of our brave World War II and Korean veterans. Many of them will leave widows behind. These widows are asking for the VIP so that they can stay in their homes longer.

The Prime Minister made a promise and we expect him to keep it. When will the Prime Minister stand up and honour his promise?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

New Brunswick Southwest
New Brunswick

Conservative

Greg Thompson Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the member will acknowledge that we did more in our first 13 months than the Liberals did in 13 years: five OSI clinics, front line workers for veterans, an ombudsman for veterans, a bill of rights and we implemented the new charter.

We are committed to enhancing the VIP. I want to let the member know that this year alone we brought 12,000 new entries into that program. That is not a bad record.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, what absolute nonsense. I asked the Prime Minister to keep his promise, not to have his underlings answer this question.

I have a question on another point for veterans. Many thousands of veterans are suffering from asbestos from the ships used during the war. Many of these veterans are applying for DVA benefits but they are being denied because of their asbestos problems.

My question is for the Prime Minister or the Minister of Veterans Affairs. When will the benefit of the doubt, which is in the new veterans charter, be honoured so we can help these veterans who served us so gallantly in World War II and in Korea?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

New Brunswick Southwest
New Brunswick

Conservative

Greg Thompson Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the member has to be intellectually honest in his remarks but he is not being intellectually honest because he must acknowledge the 12,000 we brought in this year alone.

In terms of the veterans who are applying for disability pensions, he is referring to an issue that we worked on with our counterparts. We have the best pension entry plan in the world and the best arbitration in the world in terms of appeals. We are getting the job done for veterans.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, OPP commissioner Julian Fantino has had enough of the government's failures in Caledonia. The Ontario Provincial Police are under pressure because it is holding back both sides in the dispute. However, the Minister of Indian Affairs is nowhere on this file.

Residents of Caledonia are wondering why the government is missing in action. The only thing the minister has done is to appoint a Conservative retread with no land claim experience and no mandate to negotiate.

Why will the minister not lift a finger and actually solve the dispute?

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, the hon. member should get his facts straight. First, this is the first government in Canadian history to recognize the Haudenosaunee Council and to actually be at the table with the Six Nations. Our negotiators are there and they are able people who are doing an exceptional job.

The OPP will continue to be responsible for policing in Ontario. We will continue to work at the table with the first nations in a respectful way toward a resolution.

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Senate backed off on its delay tactics and finally allowed the bill fixing dates for elections to become law. However, the Liberal dominated Senate is still stalling on the bill to limit senators' terms to eight years.

Today we learned that the Liberal senators are looking for a new obstruction tactic and are actually considering sending the bill to court to keep themselves from ever passing the bill.

The Liberal leader said months ago that he would get his senators to pass this bill. What happened?

Would the Minister for Democratic Reform comment on the Liberal senators' defiance of their leader and on the future of this bill?

Democratic Reform
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, as Liberal senator David Smith has often told me, “the devil finds work for idle hands to do”. Well, it seems there are idle hands in the Liberal Senate and they are creatively finding new ways to avoid doing their jobs.

Top constitutional scholars testified that the term limit in the bill is constitutional. Even a Liberal Senate committee found that it was constitutional. Apparently, they do not even believe themselves.

Why will the Liberal senators not listen to their own leader and go ahead and pass term limits? Maybe it is because they do not like this Faustian pact with the unrepentant Green Party leader.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. During the course of question period, there were discussions from time to time about the cost of gasoline and a comment was made by a member of the government alleging that the Leader of the Opposition had said that high gasoline prices were good. I believe it was the environment minister who said that. If he were to check the quotation, I believe he would find that the comment in question can be attributed to a newspaper but not to the Leader of the Opposition.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear in the Calgary Herald of August 24 where it states:

[The Leader of the Opposition] said high gas prices are actually good for Canada....

I can also tell the House that in the Liberal leadership debate on June 10, 2006, the deputy leader of the Liberal Party said, “We've also got to have popular, practical, believable policies that may involve some form of a carbon tax...”.

The Liberals' record is very clear on this issue.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I just want to confirm what the Minister of the Environment has, in effect, now admitted. He has admitted that the language he referred to in question period was in fact in the Calgary Herald, not in quotation marks and, therefore, not attributable to the Leader of the Opposition.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am sure that all hon. members appreciate the clarification that we now have in respect of statements made during question period.

Parliamentary Precinct--Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington on March 29, concerning the issue of confidential files in the possession of the Liberal Party of Canada. The hon. member commented further on the matter on April 17 and April 27. In reviewing this important question, the Chair also considered carefully the documentation forwarded by the hon. member on May 1.

I would like to thank the hon. member for having raised this matter, as well as the hon. member for Ajax-Pickering for his comments.

In his remarks, the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington referred to statements made to the media by the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, in which they indicated that they had in their possession several boxes of documents which they claimed to have found in drawers and filing cabinets in the offices customarily occupied by the staff of the leader of the opposition.

The hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington confirmed that the documents in question were the property of the Conservative Party of Canada, that they were confidential in nature and that they included the personnel files of approximately 30 past and present employees of the party, himself among them. He stated that the hon. members for Ajax—Pickering and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine had admitted inspecting the documents in question and that the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering had made specific reference to “five years worth of performance appraisals of Conservative staffers” before going on to allege “gross ineptitude” on the part of the Conservative Party.

In response to the claim that the documents had been found in drawers and filing cabinets, the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington disputed this assertion. He noted the presence, on the boxes containing them, of address labels that he said had been placed there by Conservative staff, clearly indicating the intended destination.

The hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington also reported that while the majority of the documents had been returned to the Conservative Party, the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering had told the press that, and here he said he was quoting the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering, “the Liberal caucus is retaining possession of some of the documents to determine whether or not they contain other issues that are in the public interest”.

The hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington expressed concerns that documents of the Conservative caucus were still in the possession of the Liberal caucus and were being retained with a view to making them public at such time as this might be politically damaging to the government.

In reply, on April 17, 2007, the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering stated that all of the remaining documents had been returned to the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms on April 10, 2007. He declared that the documents had not been copied or mishandled and that only one Liberal staff member had been involved in their examination. He denied that all the documents had been boxed and the boxes labelled, stating that “the only labelled box contained videotapes of the 2004 Conservative election ads and all other materials were found in desk drawers and cabinets”.

The hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington then made a further submission on his point of order, commenting on the manner in which confidential documents had been displayed at a news conference on March 26, 2007 and on the detailed description offered to the media by the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering of their contents. He identified discrepancies among a number of statements to the media by the member for Ajax—Pickering and others in his caucus, and he emphasized the diligence with which Conservative staff ordinarily manage the relocation of confidential documents.

The hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington charged that the Leader of the Opposition was “guilty of facilitating actions that are an ongoing contempt of Parliament” if some of the documents had not been returned. He demanded that the identities of those involved in inspecting them be disclosed, that he be told whether any of the documents had been scanned or otherwise reproduced, and that the Leader of the Opposition explain why some of them had been displayed on his website.

In seeking recognition from the Chair that a prima facie breach of privilege had occurred, the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington maintained that his ability to discharge his duties as a member of Parliament had been impeded. He cited Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, page 229, to the effect that interference with the functioning of a member of Parliament “may be treated as a contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence”, and he adduced a precedent from 1996 in which an inappropriate press release by a member of Parliament had been deemed to constitute a prima facie case of privilege.

I have looked into this question with care, as I indicated was my intention when the issue was brought before the House. House of Commons Procedure and Practice states at p. 50:

“Parliamentary privilege” refers … to the rights and immunities that are deemed necessary for the House of Commons, as an institution, and its Members, as representatives of the electorate, to fulfill their functions. It also refers to the powers possessed by the House to protect itself, its Members, and its procedures from undue interference, so that it can effectively carry out its principal functions which are to inquire, to debate, and to legislate.

Members are aware that parliamentary privilege is strictly limited in its application. With respect to individual members, privilege provides them with a guarantee of freedom of speech, freedom from arrest in civil actions, exemption from jury duty and from appearing as a witness, and freedom from obstruction, interference, intimidation and molestation.

As I indicated in my remarks on April 17, 2007, the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington may have a grievance. However, as Speaker, I am limited to a determination of whether or not the treatment of the documents in question has interfered with the member's ability to carry out his responsibilities as a member of Parliament. It does not seem to me that this is the case.

All members, I am sure, appreciate the seriousness of this incident. Issues of personal privacy are of importance not only to those of us in this place but to all Canadians. At the same time, I can see no grounds at present to justify a finding that the use made of the documents in question constitutes a breach of the privileges of this House or of the individual member in this case, the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington.

The hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington continues to participate in debate fully and freely, and to attend to his other responsibilities as a member. While he may have concerns about what has occurred with respect to these documents, the Chair cannot see, on a prima facie basis, that the member's privileges have been violated.

Perhaps the hon. member should bring his concerns on this matter to the attention of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in respect of the proper handling of found documents pertaining to matters of parliamentary business and belonging to another member or to the caucus of another recognized party.

In respect of his concern regarding the privacy rights of individual members or employees of members and caucus staff, perhaps the hon. member might ask the Board of Internal Economy to review the matter of how found documents are to be handled, as an administrative matter, where the documents relate to individuals in their personal or private capacity. However, I do not think this is a case requiring the intervention of the Chair, since it fails to meet the standard required of a question of privilege.

Once again, I thank the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington for having brought this matter to the attention of the Chair.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the Table the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation to the Hellenic Republic, the United Kingdom, and the Kingdom of Norway, from March 8 to 18, 2007.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

May 2nd, 2007 / 3:20 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, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 11 petitions.