House of Commons Hansard #67 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was women.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Judges Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

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10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

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10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

moved that the bill be concurred in.

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10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

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

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10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

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10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

moved that bill be read the third time and passed.

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10:05 a.m.

New Brunswick Southwest
New Brunswick

Conservative

Greg Thompson Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to stand today in support of Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Judges Act.

The amendment proposed in this bill would authorize the appointment of 20 new judges to the provincial superior trial courts, which will allow us to respond to an urgent need for more judges to handle increasing caseloads and mounting delays in a number of jurisdictions across the country. We have heard that in every corner of the country.

This amendment would support the effective and expeditious resolution of specific claims through the newly proposed specific claims tribunal.

As provided in Bill C-30, the specific claims tribunal act, the members of the specific claims tribunal are to be appointed among sitting Superior Court judges and six of the new appointments to be authorized under the bill are intended to help the Superior Courts to free up experienced judges to take on the new work of the tribunal.

The establishment of this tribunal represents the cornerstone of this government's reform of the specific claims resolution process. The remaining 14 appointments will be allocated among the 6 jurisdictions that have previously submitted compelling requests for more judges.

Each one of those jurisdictions of Nunavik, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and my home province of New Brunswick have provided detailed submissions to support their requests, and there is no doubt that these six provinces have an immediate need for these new appointments.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights gave careful consideration to this bill and approved it without amendment, which is key. All parties in this House support this bill because we recognize that there is a real and pressing need for new judicial resources within our trial courts, and so do our chief justices, our judges, members of the bar and, most important, Canadians who are involved in our judicial system.

As well, the first nations communities look forward to having access to the effective and independent process offered by the specific claims tribunal. We certainly do not expect that this amendment is the answer, because it is not the answer to all future requirements of the courts. However, it does respond to the clear needs of the six affected provinces at this time. Our government has made it very clear that we are open to considering future requests for additional judges in due course and when that need is clearly demonstrated, as it has been in this case. When that occurs, the government will respond appropriately.

Before I close, I want to make one final important point about playing politics with our courts and the judges who preside over our courts.

This week in New Brunswick, we have seen the potential harm and danger that such political games can cause. We saw the member for Beauséjour try to score partisan points by claiming that our government was not appointing enough bilingual judges. Even the facts show otherwise. The member for Beauséjour simply refused to do his homework. Either that or he simply did not know or purposely ignored the fact that three of the six judges who we have appointed in New Brunswick are bilingual. Of course that is in a province where francophones make up 30% of the province's population.

I do not need to remind members that New Brunswickers are proud of our place in Canada's only officially bilingual province. We are proud of our linguistic duality. We are proud of how francophones and anglophones work every day, shoulder to shoulder, for a better future, a stronger province and a greater country, and our government supports that vision.

We will not let the political games being played by the member for Beauséjour divide New Brunswick or sidetrack our province in its steady progress. We are very proud of our province and the progress made by all governments, past and present, of the province of New Brunswick.

In that spirit, Bill C-31 represents an important step toward improving access to justice in Canada.

I wish to thank all hon. members for their recognition, the advancement of this significant bill and their support for its speedy passage. It is very much appreciated.

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10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Minister of Veterans Affairs for his comments. He spoke about how proud he is of New Brunswick, which he feels offers suitable legal services in French. I am happy to see how proud he is of his province.

I urge him to extend that pride to the other maritime provinces, particularly Nova Scotia. There were three bilingual Federal Court judges in that province. Two of them are retiring: Justice Boudreau and Justice Batiot. They will be replaced by anglophones. For the entire province of Nova Scotia, from Cape Breton to southwestern Nova Scotia, including the provincial capital, there will be only one bilingual judge. That is completely unacceptable. It is unthinkable that we would move down to one judge from three.

Of the judges I mentioned, Justice Boudreau was appointed by Mr. Mulroney some time ago. Mr. Chrétien appointed a number of bilingual judges in Nova Scotia. Now, this government is replacing two francophones with two anglophones. In just two years of this government, French-language legal services in Nova Scotia have dropped by 66%.

The minister spoke about his pride in the bilingual legal services in the Maritimes, but will he extend that pride to the Acadians and francophones of Nova Scotia?

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10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Thompson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, I was speaking specifically about New Brunswick. I will admit that I do not know the details in Nova Scotia. I am sure the Minister of Justice or the parliamentary secretary would have more knowledge and more background to respond. However, when I do speak it is on what I know has happened in the province of New Brunswick. I also know that the member supports what we have done in New Brunswick.

We have had six appointments: three who are fully bilingual, two who are francophones and one who is anglophone. It is typical of New Brunswick, which is completely and fully bilingual, something I wish I were.

This speaks to the generosity of New Brunswick. When I travel to northern New Brunswick as a unilingual anglophone, I am received as I would be in any part of this country. Some of us do not have the ability to speak both languages. I wish I did but I cannot, not like the member opposite. However, it is a real testament to the generosity of this country that when we go there, the people fully appreciate that we are working on their behalf as best we can.

It is a credit to this country and to my home province of New Brunswick that a unilingual francophone or anglophone can be successful and achieve high office in government and in our court system. However, we are very sensitive to the fact that when people go before the court, we need to have a bilingual capability within our court system, and we have worked very hard to achieve that.

I want to point out for the member opposite that the member for Beauséjour was being disingenuous when he spoke. A point I made when I responded to the newspaper, the Telegraph Journal in New Brunswick, the paper ran what I considered to be a very one-sided story that did not actually represent the facts. One of the judges, who we appointed to what we call the military judges compensation committee, is the father-in-law of the member for Beauséjour. The reason he was appointed was that he is very qualified. His name is Guy A. Richard and, as I mentioned, he is the father-in-law of the member for Beauséjour who stood and suggested that we did not honour bilingualism in the province of New Brunswick. That is totally disingenuous.

In addition to appointing the judges I have mentioned to the superior court, we appointed the hon. member for Beauséjour's father-in-law, and he should consider that and be very cognizant of it when he next speaks in the House of Commons.

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10:10 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, judges are important to us in the Northwest Territories because we have a high rate of criminal charges. We appreciate the work they do.

However, the government is engaged in a cost reduction program. The plan of the Conservative government would salary judges, but how would it ensure that we have the kind of resources required to take on extra judges, given that we have to sometimes fly them and their court staff to locations thousands of miles away from their courthouse?

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10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Thompson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, we responded in a very positive way to a need across the country. I am not sure the member's constituents would be really pleased to hear him suggest that there is a high rate of crime in that area.

There is almost complete agreement on what the Government of Canada is doing, and we all know that seldom happens in this place. We are responding to a real need with the legislation. I am proud of what we are doing. The agreement we see in the House clearly indicates that Parliament supports exactly what the minister has done.

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10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Minister of Justice for bringing the bill forward. I also like to thank my colleague the Minister of Veterans Affairs for speaking to it today. I am a member of the justice committee and I remember discussing this bill briefly.

My question for the minister has to do with the increase in the number of superior court judges from 30 to a pool of about 50.

There are first nations reserves in my riding as there are across Canada. We have a huge backlog of land claims that need to be worked through. Could he minister could provide the House with some more information in regard to how the appointment of these judges will improve the efficiency of the land claims tribunal process and land claims and provide good value to Canadian taxpayers in moving that file forward?

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10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Thompson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Wetaskiwin for the hard work he has done on the justice committee. I had the privilege of visiting his beautiful riding.

I will get more specifically to his point. The land claims issue is a big issue. Again, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development could speak with more authority than I. This legislation is a direct response to some of the needs up there, to free up the court to proceed with some of these land claims.

The member is being much too modest himself in terms of his contribution to the justice committee and the very positive role he has played in bringing the legislation forward. All members should applaud his hard work.

I am quite convinced the bill will reflect the real need in some of the specific areas that he mentioned.

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10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to Bill C-31. It has now been through the justice committee and has returned to the House unamended.

It is a very short bill, but its amends a number change in the Judges Act, paragraph 24(3)(b), and thus creates the authority to authorize the appointment of 20 new judges for the provincial and territorial superior trial courts.

We know these judges are needed to deal with the increasing backlogs in the superior court system. In particular, superior courts in Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Nunavut continue to experience delays and backlogs.

In a former parliamentary life, when the Liberal government was in power, I was a parliamentary secretary to the then minister of justice. I travelled through Nunavut and experienced the fact that unlike the rest of Canada, where we can travel by vehicle from one city to another, there were 26 different fly-in communities. It takes time and there are delays to which we must attend.

I remember at that time we also were starting to introduce our crime prevention programs. That is the other end of the justice system, from the trial and judgment to the prevention of crime. There needs to be a full emphasis on this aspect. It helps reduce criminal activity when people are actively engaged in different crime prevention activities. I wanted to make that point at this time.

Even in the other provinces, those that I did not mention, we are aware that there is a strain with simply population growth, especially stresses that could happen with the family court systems. In a family court system we cannot afford time delays. Children grow up and those issues have to be resolved sooner rather than later.

We also have the issues of mega-trials in the criminal law area. We know a lot of the criminal law is taken care of at the provincial court level, but there are those mega-trials and people can opt to go into the higher court level. The mega-trials are very complex and lengthy and consume a lot of justice system resources.

I know this is important to all Canadians. The introduction and background to Bill C-31 talks about the fact that we now have a specific claims tribunal, which will have the authority to make binding decisions where specific claims brought forward by first nations are rejected for negotiation or where negotiations fail. It is estimated by the government that this tribunal will require the equivalent of six full time judges to manage the caseloads of these types of claims.

The chief justices, I am sure, will have consultations with the minister or his designates to talk about the allocation of these judges. I know that B.C. and Ontario will need these resources, as well as some of the other jurisdictions, because specific claims should be settled.

It is important to have access to justice for all Canadians. It is true that justice delayed can be justice denied. In criminal law, the Askov case reminded us, very bluntly, of the importance of reasonable time limits and reasonable access to the court system. We do not want to have cases thrown out of court just because the delays have been too lengthy.

Apart from the judges needed for the tribunal work, these judges will work in the area of civil law, civil litigation, family law and criminal fields of law. They are expected to perform all their work for us with the independence and impartiality that I think Canadians expect from their justice system.

Judges apply the law to the facts at each case. They do so without imposing any of their own personal bias. Increasingly, as I have said, cases are complex and trials can become very lengthy. Delay is not wanted by Canadians. Canadians want to have justice delivered in their own language, be it English or French. This reflects the linguistic duality of our country.

It is important, and this is not a political or partisan point, that both French speaking and English speaking justices are needed in our courts. In fact, there is often interpretation provided for other languages. Some people before the Canadian justice system speak neither of these languages, but that is not the point with respect to the appointment of judges.

I have great respect for our judicial system in our country. We have an amazingly fair and independent system. I do not want to see that change in any way. I have respect for the judges who do that work. These people are somewhat limited in their association with the rest of Canadian society. There is an expected distancing so they can maintain that impartiality to do their work properly.

These increases for the number of judges have been needed for some time, and we expected the bill sooner. I will go forward. As of yesterday, March 13, even without this bill, 25 judicial vacancies were waiting to be filled. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada is responsible for filling those. In other words, these new positions are in addition to the existing vacancies that have to be filled. This is an ongoing situation. I know we should be encouraging the filling of all positions because it is important for our system to work efficiently and properly.

As many in the House will recall, the new Conservative government stacked the judicial advisory committee to ensure that the justice minister's chosen representatives would have a majority on every provincial judicial advisory board. I will not go in to this too much at this time because it takes away from the most important discussion and subject matter of this bill, but I do note it.

It is important to keep the judicial independence in our country. I remember the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court making comment on this point. It is also important that the positions be filled and that there not be a great delay. Both of those points are important.

With respect to this short bill, we can agree in the House that it should move forward. I know my colleagues and our party want the smooth functioning of the justice system. This is one, but only one, aspect that can be assisted by this House. We must remember that there will not be a smooth functioning system if there are not enough prosecutors and if there are insufficient dollars for legal aid for people who need that assistance before the courts. We need all of the system to work cohesively, and the judges are one part of it. However, it is the full functioning of the court system that has to be brought to bear before justice is actually delivered to Canadians in a timely and effective manner.

I ask fellow members of the House to support this legislation so it can move rapidly to the other house and become law after their deliberations. This is one bill that the House can believe will be good for the country and good for the citizens. We need the expertise and the impartial judicial system in our country, which we all deserve.

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10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to wish you a happy Friday, and happy Easter to you and your family.

First, I would like to tell my colleague from London West that I have wonderful memories of the time we spent working together on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

We all know that the government's record when it comes to its relationship with judges has not always been a good one. We also know that the idea of appointing police officers to various selection committees created quite a stir. And we know that would have subjected the judge selection process to an ideologically negative bias. This is something I would remind the House of, but that is not what my question is about.

I believe that our colleague from London West has a background in law, and I am sure she studied, or at least knows about, a ruling handed down a few years ago in Ontario, the province she represents. I am talking about the ruling in R. v. Askov, which nearly invalidated dozens of cases in Ontario on the grounds that they had not been ruled on, that the justice system had not been diligent enough, and that it was not compatible with the charter provision stating that everyone has the right to a fair and just trial.

Now, the appointment of some 20 judges has corrected that situation, but I would like the member to comment on the ruling in R. v. Askov and to explain why we need a diligent justice system.

I would also ask that she share her thoughts on the attitude of the committee chair, who has refused to call a meeting of the committee because he does not want anyone looking into the ethical issues surrounding the Cadman affair.

I would like the member to take a good five or six minutes to answer these questions.

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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, for many years I sat with this colleague on the justice committee and found that he worked quite diligently on the aspects of criminal law and the bills. We worked well together in that committee.

He is also correct in that I did practise law for 15 years. I did some teaching of law, both at the bar class and at the university part-time continuing education level. Some of us with that training do understand an important decision like Askov.

The Askov decision impacted the criminal courts. In my province of Ontario, some people who were charged were let go without the continuation of those charges. Why? Because of delay. To have fairness in a justice system, we must have timely hearings, which means that we cannot keep putting off court dates. Witnesses disappear. They forget. We must have that court system functioning in a timely fashion so that the court functions at its optimal level.

In those cases, Askov had a great impact. It put a real chill on the system. It took us back. People who did not have their trials completed were let go because the system was not providing the systemic fairness that comes with timely work. That is very important. That criminal law case now applies everywhere in the criminal justice system. There is no case saying that in family law or civil litigation, but the principles are there, which is that both sides get procedural fairness. Timeliness is one very important aspect.

I have another comment. When I was in the justice committee, we always had our meetings. In fact, we had many meetings. I can remember that back in 1995 we were meeting all the time with pieces of legislation, sometimes until late into the night. But I believe there are two or three justice committee meetings now where the chair has refused to do his duty as the procedural chair of the committee and sit and take the votes. He has left the committee, leaving I think two vice-chairs, but this changes the numbers for voting systems. We in this House know that a procedural manual has been given to members of the government, which tells committee chairs how to operate, how to delay and how to get favourable witnesses.

I have chaired the finance committee, for example, three times in former parliaments. I made sure that the system was fair to all. I made sure that everyone could bring forth the witnesses they wanted to and that both sides of the argument were there. In fact, the chair's job was not to do a partisan job but to ensure that the procedural rules were followed.

I think most of us in the House can do that and I am surprised at what is happening in the justice committee. This is a committee that needs to work. This is a committee that has a high volume of legislation. I know that members sitting opposite were with me when we did hard work in that committee. We may disagree on our points of view and the way we want something to come out of the committee, but I also know that there has been a very strong history of everybody working hard in the committee. I think it is a shame that it is not continuing.

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10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand up and share with you the position of my party, the great force of national liberation that is the Bloc Québécois, on Bill C-31. This bill may seem to be rather technical, but it has to do with the workings of the justice system. Bill C-31, which has been called for by people who play a role before or after the court system, is a short bill with only two clauses that will enable the federal government to appoint superior court judges.

At present, the federal government can appoint 30 judges, and there is a definite backlog in the court system. In the administration of justice, it is not uncommon for a year and a half, two years, two and half years, or three years to go by between the time legal proceedings start and the time a judge or a judge and jury hand down a decision. Obviously, we are not talking about the Supreme Court of Canada. We are talking about superior courts, which hear cases involving common offences under the Criminal Code. They do not rule on technical points of law, like appeal courts. And they certainly do not hand down decisions that speak to our values or clarify the constitutionality or validity of legal provisions, as the Supreme Court of Canada does. Superior courts deal with the cases that should be the least contentious possible.

Bill C-31 proposes to add 20 supernumerary judges, bringing to 50 the number of judges who could be appointed to the various superior courts. With your permission, I would like to take a few moments to explain to my colleagues in this House why trial courts should not be confused with superior courts.

Quebec will one day be a country that will enjoy all the elements of sovereignty, you can rest assured. For us as sovereigntists, when we talk about our plans, sovereignty means three things: keeping our own tax dollars, repatriating all powers to Quebec and, of course, deciding on our foreign policy.

As an aside, yesterday, I confirmed something with our research staff. It is estimated that in 2008, Quebeckers will pay $50 billion in taxes to Ottawa. Imagine how things would be different if the National Assembly could keep those tax dollars. Obviously, we would do some things differently. From the information gathered by our research staff—an excellent and very dedicated staff—I read that the National Defence budget will increase from $9 billion to $19 billion in the 2010s. Can you imagine? The military budget will double, primarily because of military procurement.

Do you think that a sovereign Quebec would have made the same decision? As my colleagues will agree, a sovereign Quebec would have placed much greater emphasis on international cooperation and development assistance. We would have been much more present in Africa, especially francophone Africa, and in Haiti, and we would have developed the cooperation practices that seem to be lacking in this government.

Accordingly, a sovereign Quebec would of course enjoy all the attributes of a separate state. However, that is not the case at this time. That is why everyone listening must understand that Quebec, the National Assembly and the Quebec justice minister appoint judges to municipal courts and the Court of Quebec. The Court of Quebec has two divisions: the civil division and the youth division.

By the way, I find it distressing that a bill will soon be before us, but we in the Bloc Québécois will not be supporting it. As I told the steering committee of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights the day before last, gone are the days when there was at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights a climate of frank camaraderie whereby members would give each other a friendly slap on the back or ask one another how they were doing, and there was the notion of caring about one another.

We know that the climate has deteriorated at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. We have a chair who refuses to take his responsibilities and preside over the committee. How did we get to this point of no return?

It is like in a couple when it is obvious that a domestic spat will escalate to a point of no return. Of course, I am not speaking of myself. My home life is totally free from any stormy dispute because I am so blissfully in love.

At any rate, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has not been meeting because the member for Beauséjour introduced a motion inviting the committee to look into allegations made in the Cadman affair and conduct an investigation under section 119 of the Criminal Code. Naturally, that is within the purview of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Is it not our duty—and this question is for all my colleagues—to ensure that at all times, institutions and those who keep them running, parliamentarians, are above any suspicion when the media and a book raise allegations of corruption? Whether these allegations are founded or not is up to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to decide. Other committees could have addressed this issue, but for reasons I do not want to get into again, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics was unable to.

The hon. member for Beauséjour, a generally respectable man with great self-control, did his job as a parliamentarian by tabling this motion in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which the Bloc obviously supported. When the chair of the committee deemed the motion out of order, we challenged the chair's decision, in accordance with the House of Commons Standing Orders. However, the chair refused to hold a vote to determine whether the motion would be challenged and he left the chair, leaving a terrible void that prevented the committee from functioning.

That said, I do not want to get off topic. Let us come back to Bill C-31.

The National Assembly of Quebec oversees appointments to municipal courts and the Court of Quebec. The Court of Quebec has two divisions: the civil division and the youth division. I dreaded the thought of having to deal with Bill C-25, which is a very bad bill.

Bill C-25 deals with the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Before the five-year review of the bill has even taken place, the government wants to amend two provisions. The Bloc Québécois maintains that—

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10:35 a.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

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10:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, please. A member has pointed out that there is a problem because the hon. member for Hochelaga is not speaking about the bill currently before this House, which is an act to amend the Judges Act.

He should perhaps return to the matter at hand, debate on Bill C-31 at third reading, rather than discussing all other bills the government has introduced pertaining to the Department of Justice.

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10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat surprised by your comments because Bill C-31 pertains to justice and judges. I believe that there are links to be made between other bills and I know you will allow me to establish these links.

Bill C-31 before us deals with the appointment of judges. The Bloc Québécois supports this bill, but I was saying how disappointed we are that we did not wait for the Youth Criminal Justice Act to be fully reviewed before introducing a bill which deals with only two provisions. You will recall that, under your tenure as Speaker of the House of Commons, the member for Berthier—Maskinongé, one of the best members ever of this House, tabled 2,700 amendments. That led you to make a ruling—and this is not a criticism—that tightened the criteria for introducing amendments.

Coming back to Bill C-31, I will be mentioning the Askov case. There are constitutional guarantees in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That is not a legal instrument that the National Assembly finds desirable, of course. In 1982, the National Assembly almost unanimously passed a motion opposing the unilateral patriation of the Constitution. Pierre Elliott Trudeau's Liberals at the time disregarded the will of the National Assembly. Even Claude Ryan, the leader of the official opposition in the National Assembly at that time, agreed with René Lévesque.

In any case, this Constitution, which was patriated against the wishes of the National Assembly, contains a charter setting out legal guarantees. We are familiar with the major legal guarantees in the charter. Freedom must be inviolable: the freedom of religion, freedom of association and freedom of expression are protected. The will is expressed that trials be fair and equitable and concern is shown for the manner evidence is obtained. There is a provision in section 24 that allows evidence to be excluded if the manner it was obtained is unconstitutional.

Among the legal guarantees listed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms patriated against the will of Quebec, there is the right to a fair and equitable trial. For a trial to be fair and reasonable, it has to take place within a reasonable time. Obviously, if a year and half, two years, two years and half or three years go by between the time when proceedings are initiated by prosecutors and the time when a judge, or a judge and jury, makes a decision, that violates this constitutional guarantee.

The Bloc Québécois supports the bill before us because it provides for the appointment of 20 new judges who will help unclog the judicial system and ensure that justice is rendered within much a more reasonable time, more expeditiously and more diligently. With respect to these 20 judges, we do not know the details yet about how many there will be for Quebec, Ontario or Newfoundland.

However, there is something I must tell the House, on behalf of my colleague, the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, a friend of aboriginal peoples. He is a man of the law and a dedicated attorney, who has always maintained the balance between defending people who are in the system, and fulfilling the Crown's obligation to sentence individuals if necessary. It was a pleasure to have the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue attend the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. This was at the time when the committee was meeting and the government accepted the fact that there was work to be done in this committee. This is no longer the case, since the Conservative chair refuses to convene the Standing Committee on Justice.

This is very difficult for me because I love my job. I am very happy with my life. I enjoy speaking at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, but first I have to have a chance to do so. During the last three sittings I have not had that opportunity.

That said, the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue spoke. He accompanied me to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to talk to us about aboriginal law. When I studied law at the University of Ottawa, I took a course on aboriginal law, and I become aware of how valuable it is.

As we know, one judge who currently sits on the Ontario Court of Appeal will very likely be appointed to the new aboriginal reconciliation tribunal. This means that the Ontario Court of Appeal will be short one judge. Obviously, we expect that in the arbitration, appointment, provision or allocation of the new resources provided for in Bill C-31, the federal government will take into consideration this potential appointment of an Ontario Court of Appeal judge to the reconciliation tribunal.

Being a vigilant person, the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, who is a friend of aboriginal peoples, asked a question in this House when the Conservative government refused to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, setting us back 20 years. Yet all the opposition parties—the Bloc Québécois, the NDP and the Liberals—were calling for the ratification of this instrument. Only the archaic, backward-looking, old-fashioned Conservative government refused to ratify this agreement. The member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue was good enough to make us aware of this legal tool that the first nations were calling for.

We all know how important the reconciliation commission will be. This historic commission will shed light on the abuse and injustices suffered by the first nations, our founding peoples. The government of René Lévesque recognized the first nations in 1985. When Lévesque was premier, he recognized the 11 first nations in the National Assembly. Hon. members will also recall that Jacques Parizeau's referendum plan, which was distributed door to door in 1995, recognized aboriginal peoples, just as it recognized the historic contribution made by anglophone Quebeckers to Quebec.

I do not want to stray from the issue we are debating. I do want to make it clear that the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-31. We worked hard in committee to deliver this bill to the government as quickly as possible. This very short bill will mean that justice can be administered much more quickly. Everyone remembers the ruling in R. v. Askov, where the Ontario Court of Appeal released some accused persons because they had not been able to stand trial within a reasonable time. The case caused a stir in the justice community.

Since then, governments have been under pressure to appoint more judges to the various appeal courts. Every year, there are more trials, and they are often very complex. As well, stalling tactics are used to delay proceedings. We all know what happens in a court of justice. We should therefore applaud the fact that there will be another 20 judges. As I said earlier, we do not know how many there will be for Quebec. We hope that there will be at least three more, but we will wait for confirmation of this.

In conclusion, I repeat that the Bloc Québécois will support this bill. I will be happy to answer any questions my colleagues may have. I hope to again have the opportunity to attend a meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, just like in the good old days.

Judges Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When debate resumes, 10 minutes will be allotted for questions and comments on the presentation by the hon. member for Hochelaga.

Proceedings in Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Mississauga South on March 3, 2008, concerning the proceedings in the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics at its meeting of February 28, 2008.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Mississauga South for having raised this matter, as well as the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer, and the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River for their contributions.

In raising his point of order, the member for Mississauga South expressed concerns about motions adopted by the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee at its meeting of February 28, 2008. Of particular concern was the motion ordering the committee, pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(a), to investigate the fundraising practices of the Liberal Party of Canada. The member for Mississauga South, indicated that, as chair of the committee, he had ruled this motion inadmissible as it did not include any reference to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members or any ethical standards that may have been violated but rather actually made direct reference to potential violations of the Canada Elections Act. His ruling was appealed and overturned, and the motion was adopted.

The member for Mississauga South contended that the access to information, privacy and ethics committee has now embarked on a study which is beyond its mandate as set out in Standing Order 108. Questioning the committee's authority to disregard the Standing Orders in this way, he maintained that his committee was encroaching on the mandate of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The member for Hull—Aylmer and the member for Scarborough—Rouge River voiced their support for these arguments.

In his comments, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform spoke of the well-recognized procedural principle that committees are masters of their own proceedings.

In the absence of a report from the committee, he suggested that it would be inappropriate for the Speaker to pass judgment on the question raised by the member for Mississauga South and cautioned against prejudging the direction that the committee study might take.

After careful review of all the interventions on this point of order, it seems to me that the crux of the matter is determining first, to whom the House has given a mandate in matters related to ethics, and second, what differentiates one mandate from another.

Standing Order 108(3)(h) states that the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics has responsibility for overseeing the effectiveness, management and operation, together with the operational and expenditure plans, of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, as well the commissioner’s annual reports on activities in relation to public office holders. It is important to note that reports on complaints involving public office holders are provided for in the Parliament of Canada Act and are filed with the Prime Minister, with no provisions to have them referred to a committee.

This committee mandate is not to be confused with that of the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner whose remit is twofold: first, to support the House of Commons in governing the conduct of its members by administering the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons which has been in effect since 2004; and second, to administer the Conflict of Interest Act for public office holders which came into effect on July 9, 2007.

Oversight of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's work related to members under the Parliament of Canada Act and with respect to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members is the responsibility of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. This is clearly indicated in Standing Order 108(3)(a)(vii) and (viii). The procedure and House affairs committee is also responsible for matters relating to the election of members as set out in subparagraph (vi) of Standing Order 108(3)(a).

As was pointed out in a ruling given by the then Deputy Speaker on June 3, 2003, at p.6775 of the Debates, concerning alleged irregularities in the proceedings of the Standing Committee on Transport:

I have said that committees are granted much liberty by the House but, along with the right to conduct their proceedings in a way that facilitates their deliberations, committees have a concomitant responsibility to see that the necessary rules and procedures are followed—

Similarly, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at p. 879 explains that:

Committees are entitled to report to the House only with respect to matters within their mandate. When reporting to the House, committees must indicate the authority under which the study was done (i.e., the Standing Order or the order of reference). If the committee’s report has exceeded or has been outside its order of reference, the Speaker has judged such a report, or the offending section, to be out of order.

Two particularly illustrative examples are included in the footnote to this citation. The first involves a report by the then Standing Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Affairs regarding the radio and television broadcasting of all committee proceedings, which Mr. Speaker Bosley, in a ruling given on December 14, 1984, Debates page 1243, ruled out of order on the grounds that the committee had exceeded its order of reference. The second relates to a report presented by the then Standing Committee on Labour, Manpower and Immigration which likewise was ruled inadmissible by Mr. Speaker Bosley in the Debates on February 28, 1985, page 2603, again because the committee had exceeded its terms of reference.

Even this brief overview serves to remind us all that the House has taken great care to define and differentiate the responsibilities of its committees, particularly where there might at first glance appear to be overlapping jurisdictions. That said, it is also clear that the House has chosen to allow committees great flexibility and considerable powers, including the power to use their own initiative by undertaking studies within their mandates.

Inherent in the power the House grants to its committees is the basic principle that each committee will respect its mandate. Implicit in the flexibility that committees have traditionally enjoyed is the understanding that they will be judicious in the exercise of their powers. Can it be said that the ethics committee, measured against these standards, is acting appropriately in this instance? Frankly I find it hard to answer that question for a number of reasons.

First, as the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader has reminded the Chair, successive Speakers have been reluctant to intervene in the proceedings of committees except in highly exceptional circumstances. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary goes on to caution against presuming on the direction that the committee’s study might take and jumping to conclusions about the nature of any report it might present.

I must acknowledge the validity of that argument. The Chair is not in a position to determine what interpretation the committee will give to the motions that gave rise to the point of order raised by the hon. member for Mississauga South. However, I do wish to make clear to the House that the question of committees respecting their mandates is not one which the House should take lightly.

For the present, I cannot find sufficient grounds to usurp the role of committee members in regulating the affairs of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. However, if and when the committee presents a report, should members continue to have concerns about the work of the committee, they will have an opportunity to raise them in the House and I will revisit the question at that time.

But, if the House will bear with me, I said earlier that I was not comfortable deciding on whether or not what the Ethics Committee had done was appropriate. I would like to return to that statement and I ask for members’ indulgence in hearing me out.

Any observer of the 39th Parliament will realize that the problem of the ethics committee is only one of the recent manifestations of the need for crisis management in committees.

Almost a year ago, in a ruling given on March 29, 2007, I referred to the challenges encountered in this minority parliament, saying, in part:

...neither the political realities of the moment nor the sheer force of numbers should force us to set aside the values inherent in the parliamentary conventions and procedures by which we govern our deliberations.

I went on to refer to situations in committee where, because decisions of the Chair are subject to appeal, decisions that were procedurally sound had been overturned by the majority.

Since that time, appeals of decisions by chairs appear to have proliferated, with the result that having decided to ignore our usual procedure and practices, committees have found themselves in situations that verge on anarchy. Even the prestigious Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which, as the Striking Committee is the very heartbeat of the committee system, has not escaped the general lawlessness. Last week, I understand that the committee elected as its chair a member who stated unequivocally that he did not want the nomination.

What responsibility does the Speaker bear for quelling this anarchy that appears to be serially afflicting committees in recent weeks? I would refer hon. members to a comment of Mr. Speaker Lamoureux on July 24, 1969 when he said:

What hon. members would like the Chair to do...is to substitute his judgment for the judgment of certain hon. members. Can I do this in accordance with the traditions of Canada...where the Speaker is not the master of the house...? The Speaker is a servant of the house. Hon. members may want me to be the master of the house today but tomorrow, when, perhaps in other circumstances I might claim this privilege, they might have a different opinion....It would make me a hero, I suppose, if I were to adopt the attitude that I could judge political situations such as this and substitute my judgment for that of certain hon. members.... But I do not believe that this is the role of a Speaker under our system...

The rules that govern our deliberations and the practices that have evolved over time generally serve the House and its committees very well. As your Speaker, I will sometimes suggest that members take their grievances to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and ask them to look at whether changes to our Standing Orders might alleviate such difficulties in the future. But that would not be a helpful suggestion in the present circumstances.

Hon. members know as well as I do, or even better than I do since they are living with the consequences daily, that it is not by tinkering with the rules that we will solve our current difficulties. Nor do I believe, whatever certain media commentators may say, that our difficulties would be resolved if only I, as your Speaker, agreed to act in loco parentis and scolded hon. members into seeing reason. Frankly speaking, I do not think it is overly dramatic to say that many of our committees are suffering from a dysfunctional virus that, if allowed to propagate unchecked, risks preventing members from fulfilling the mandate given to them by their constituents.

To quote House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 210:

...it remains true that parliamentary procedure is intended to ensure that there is a balance between the government's need to get its business through the House, and the opposition's responsibility to debate that business without completely immobilizing the proceedings of the House.

The Speaker must remain ever mindful of the first principles of our parliamentary tradition which Bourinot described thus:

To protect the minority and restrain the improvidence and tyranny of the majority, to secure the transaction of public business in a decent and orderly manner—

It matters not that the minority in the 39th Parliament happens to be the government, not the opposition, or that the majority is held by the combined opposition parties, not the government.

The Shakespearean quote, “The fault...is not in our stars, but in ourselves...” seems sadly apt in the circumstances.

Like all Canadians, and indeed all hon. members, I realize and respect that political exigencies often dictate the strategies adopted by parties in the House. However, as your Speaker, I appeal to those to whom the management of the business of the Parliament has been entrusted--the House leaders and the whips of all parties--to take leadership on this matter. I ask that they address themselves to the crisis in the committee system that is teetering dangerously close to the precipice at the moment. I ask them to work together to find a balance that will allow the parties to pursue their political objectives and will permit all members to carry on their work. I am confident that working together in good faith they can come to an agreement that will return us to the equilibrium that our procedures and practices have been designed to protect. As your Speaker, I stand ready to lend whatever assistance I can.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Mississauga South for having raised the matters relating to the standing committee he chairs and the opportunity to address the larger picture.

I thank the House for its attention.

Unborn Victims of Crime
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, the public debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-484, is going very well. When people hear and understand the true purpose of my bill and are assured that it is targeted totally and directly to the pregnant woman who has chosen to give birth to her child, they agree that this legislation is urgently needed.

This bill would protect women because a person cannot get to the child without attacking the mother. Studies show that pregnant women are much more vulnerable to attack and the attacks are more vicious. My bill would protect them. A woman should not be left to stand alone in defence of her life and the life of her child.

Seventy-two per cent of Canadians support this legislation. Seventy-five per cent of women support it. Seventy-nine per cent of youth support it. Support crosses political lines, with the lowest level being at 66% for those who identify that they vote for the NDP. Every group has a majority of people in support of this legislation.

When a willing mother is having a wanted child, no one has the right to take that choice and the child that she wants away from her.

Chantale Guay
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, as part of Quebec intellectual disability week, I would like to pay special tribute to a woman of great merit from Laval, Chantale Guay, who passed away in December at the age of 51.

Ms. Guay was the executive director of the Laval association for intellectual disability for eight years. She loved and respected people with intellectual disabilities, giving generously of herself in her devotion to them. They were very dear to her.

For many years, she was a member of the board of directors of the Laval association of organizations for people with disabilities. She spearheaded the annual “Hats off” program, which honoured five people with intellectual disabilities from Laval who achieved exceptional personal growth.

Her commitment made a real difference in people's lives. Chantale Guay very much deserves this tribute on behalf of all of the people of Laval.

Fire Departments
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I am pleased to congratulate the 24 firefighters from Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Beauharnois, Sainte-Martine, Saint-Étienne-de-Beauharnois and Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague who were decorated with medals or bars for distinguished service. The awards were presented by the fire departments of those towns and municipalities.

Whether as a firefighter, chief, captain, lieutenant, deputy or director of a fire department, these men and women serve with dedication in a dangerous profession whose ultimate goal is to save lives, while they place their own at risk. The tragic events of recent weeks confirm, once again, that fighting fires can cause death. Their commitment is that much more praiseworthy.

I have nothing but admiration for these men and women who were recently decorated.

Arctic Winter Games
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, this week more than 2,200 athletes, coaches and officials from the northern regions of Canada, Russia, Greenland, Norway, Finland and the United States have gathered in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, for the 20th Arctic Winter Games.

This is a very special event for the people of my riding. Yellowknife hosted the very first Arctic Winter Games back in 1970.

The games focus on traditional sports such as soccer, hockey, skiing and gymnastics, along with unique Arctic sports, but also place emphasis on the diversity of northern cultures. The general theme of the games is a celebration of sport and culture.

Tomorrow I will be presenting bronze, silver and gold Ulu medals to athletes, and celebrating another successful games with thousands of participants at the official closing ceremonies.

I would like to extend my congratulations and sincere thanks to all who have helped make the 20th Arctic Winter Games the best ever, especially the dedicated volunteers who have worked so hard to make it all happen. I extend my thanks to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

Christian Population in Iraq
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, yesterday morning the body of Mar Paulos Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosel, was found riddled with bullets in northern Iraq. He was kidnapped in late February as he left church.

The death of Archbishop Rahho is a tragedy that illustrates the difficulties faced by Iraq's Christian population. This gruesome murder is just one example of the tragic persecution faced by Iraqi Christians. I would like to take this opportunity to draw the House's attention to the community's struggles.

Iraq's Christian population is dwindling in size because of this new wave of violence levelled against them. This community constitutes only a small fraction of Iraq's predominantly Muslim population. They are one of the oldest communities in Iraq, being distinguishable by their Christian religion, unique culture, and Aramaic language, which was spoken at the time of Christ.

Our government sends condolences to the Chaldean community and all the Christians of Iraq who suffer persecution.

International Day of La Francophonie
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

John Godfrey Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the International Day of la Francophonie allows us to highlight the importance of the French language for our country and also provides the opportunity to reflect on the role Canada should have among francophone nations, thanks to institutions such as The Toronto French School.

Canada must ensure that its participation in the francophone dialogue promotes the French language as well as francophone values among member countries of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.

Our country can make our point of view known to other countries by setting an example and ensuring that member countries respect the same principles as we do, such as justice, transparency and democracy.

By participating fully in the promotion of la Francophonie, Canada has the opportunity to strengthen the credibility of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie and to attract as members other countries with a francophone component.

The significance of the International Day of la Francophonie extends beyond the borders of our country and Canada should be its proud standard-bearer.

Zimbabwe
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canada is concerned that conditions on the ground in Zimbabwe will not allow for free and fair elections that respect fundamental human rights at the upcoming national election on March 29.

We note the lack of a free media, state imposed restrictions on the freedom of speech, assembly and association, and the use of force by the police against the political opposition.

At the last minute Zimbabwe invited some countries and international organizations to observe and monitor the elections, but only those that were expected to provide a positive assessment. Canada was not invited, nor was any international organization of which Canada is a member.

Canada is concerned about the prospect for violence in Zimbabwe during the period surrounding the election. Canada calls on the government of Zimbabwe to ensure that all human rights are respected.

St. Patrick's Day
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, traditionally March 17 is St. Patrick's Day, a day to recognize the contribution of the Irish community to Quebec's development, among other things. The traditional St. Patrick's Day parade through the streets of Montreal will be held on the eve of St. Patrick's Day, on March 16. The parade will go on rain or shine or whatever mother nature brings. Year after year, this parade all in the colour of Ireland, green, draws large crowds. The second largest parade in Quebec will be held in Rawdon, in my riding, which is home to a large Irish community.

As we know, during the 19th century, the Irish massively fled Ireland, which was devastated by famine and disease, to start their lives over. Many of them settled in Montreal. They have greatly contributed to the development of that city with their vitality, courage, joie de vivre and traditions.

This is why I encourage everyone to come out and take part in any of the various activities scheduled across Quebec to mark St. Patrick's Day.

Government Policies
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we rise today, after a productive winter session, it is worth recapping the many accomplishments of this government under the strong leadership of our Prime Minister.

Canadian families are safer today, thanks to the Tackling Violent Crime Act, an act that imposes mandatory minimum sentences on gun criminals, will keep repeat violent and sexual offenders behind bars and protect children by raising the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 years of age. This passed with the help of the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberals.

The Canadian economy is now on a responsible and prudent course, as budget 2008 has passed and we have a balanced budget that pays down more than $10 billion of debt and which provides Canadians with a powerful new way to save through tax-free savings accounts. This budget passed, thanks to the help of the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberals.

The Canadian Forces serving in Afghanistan now have the clear support of Parliament. A consensus motion extending the military mission in Afghanistan to 2011 was passed last night, thanks to the help of the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberals.

The Conservative government announced a real greenhouse gas reduction plan, the first to ever include mandatory emission reduction targets, and an NDP environmental motion declaring non-confidence in the Conservative government was defeated with the help--

Government Policies
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Hull--Aylmer.

André Manseau
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with sadness to mark the tragic death of André Manseau, a young volunteer firefighter in Val-des-Monts.

André Manseau had dreamed since childhood of becoming a firefighter. He had been with the municipal fire department for barely six months. Although he was just 18 years old, André Manseau was very mature for his age. He died tragically, doing what he had always wanted to do, which was help others.

The people of the Outaouais are in mourning. We have lost a member of our rescue team, the people we count on and place our greatest trust in. We respect and admire these people for their courage and determination.

I invite all my colleagues to join me in extending our heartfelt sympathies to the family, colleagues and friends of young firefighter André Manseau, who died in the line of duty. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we prepare to rise, after an extremely productive winter session, I would like to take a moment to reflect on one of the very significant things we have accomplished for Canadians.

As my colleague has stated, Canadian families are now safer due to the passage of the Tackling Violent Crime Act. This Conservative act will impose mandatory minimum sentences on gun criminals, keep repeat violent and sexual offenders behind bars, and protect children by raising the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 years old, is now law.

Kitchener--Conestoga residents asked me to represent them on these very issues and it is gratifying to see that results were delivered on their behalf, with the help of the Liberals and the Senate who helped pass this Conservative act.

The Conservative government wants to wish all Canadians a safe and happy Easter break.

Queen Street Community in Toronto
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, this month alone, the Conservative government has taken the wrong direction on climate change, extended the war in Afghanistan and offered no solution for the doctor shortage or help for our cities to prosper.

However, despite the depressing scene on Parliament Hill, Torontonians are working together and taking action. On February 20, a massive six-alarm blaze destroyed 14 addresses in a historic part of Queen Street West in downtown Toronto. Some 20 families were made homeless, dozens made unemployed and shops, some in business since 1914, were destroyed.

However, Toronto's spirit of generosity and our engaged community came together to raise money, put on benefits, donate clothing and furniture, and help the people affected by this devastating fire.

The Queen Street community's unique spirit, dynamic activism, diversity and talent is what makes it so special. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers and the local councillors in making the rebuilding of people's lives and these historic buildings possible.

I want to urge all members to help out and--

Queen Street Community in Toronto
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Beauséjour.

National Francophonie Week
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I invite all my colleagues to join me in celebrating national francophonie week.

Our country was founded on two great international languages and French is in the spotlight this week.

The French language is more than just a tool of daily communication for us; it is our link to millions of francophones throughout the world. Our ideals of peace, justice and prosperity are strengthened by our membership in this great global francophone family.

Across the country, particularly in Acadia, a region I proudly represent in this House, francophones are inviting their fellow citizens to celebrate the French language with them. This is especially true in schools, where the Association canadienne d'éducation de langue française has developed a variety of activities for teachers to present to their students.

I want to wish everyone a wonderful national francophonie week.

Ottawa Film Festival
Statements by Members

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Ottawa film festival will be held from March 14 to 21, 2008, chaired by Lucie Laurier. Some 50 films from 17 countries will be showcased during the festival.

Things will kick off with a screening of Caramel, a dramatic comedy by Nadine Labaki. The festival's founder, Didier Farré, has selected Florent Emilio Siri's drama, L'ennemi intime/Intimate Enemies, to close the festival.

A gala celebrating the festival's 10th anniversary will begin with a screening of The Counterfeiters, which won the Oscar for best foreign film. The Quebec film industry will be in the spotlight with Continental, a film without guns , Tout est parfait/Everything is Fine, Les 3 p'tits cochons and many other films.

My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I congratulate the organizers and volunteers, and we invite everyone to come out and participate.

Long live the Ottawa film festival!

Ethics
Statements by Members

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, in just two years, the Conservative Party has gone from rhetoric and bluster about accountability to stories of shadowy Conservative operatives working on behalf of the Prime Minister, offering financial inducements to a man suffering from terminal cancer so that he would overturn a democratically elected government.

I cannot help but look across the aisle at my colleagues from the Conservative Party and wonder where it all went wrong. It must be disheartening to those sitting on the government benches.

So much for ideals and so much for promises they made to their constituents. Instead, they watch and listen every day to the changing story of the Prime Minister, the same Prime Minister whose voice was recorded, the same Prime Minister who said that financial considerations were on the table.

Mulroney had Fred, the Prime Minister has Flanagan and Finley, all F's, not very good grades, not good at all.

Government of Ontario
Statements by Members

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, Dalton McGuinty did two things upon taking office. First, he hammered the middle class with the biggest tax increase in Ontario history, the McGuinty health tax. Second, he raised taxes on Ontario businesses, targeting them and making them less competitive.

Because of McGuinty's regime in this province, Ontario has the highest tax on new business investment anywhere in the developed world.

Dalton McGuinty never met a tax he did not hike and, make no mistake, these high taxes kill Ontario jobs.

However, it is never too late to do the right thing. Mr. McGuinty has a budget coming up this month and we would encourage him to do what we have done at the federal level, which is cut taxes for investors, entrepreneurs and their workers. I ask him to liberate our economy, let the eagle out of the bird cage and let us build our economy on low tax and high competitiveness.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Prime Minister again tried to dodge that damaging tape that caught him talking knowledgeably about an offer to Chuck Cadman. He has admitted in the House that it was indeed his voice mentioning the offer to Chuck to replace financial considerations by people legitimately representing the party.

However, yesterday, for the first time, the Prime Minister claimed that the tape had been tampered with. If that is true, why did it take over two weeks to say so, and will he table the complete unedited tape in the House right now?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals keep changing their story but the facts remain the same.

First, the Liberals said that there was a meeting on May 17, 2005. They were wrong. The Liberals said that we offered Chuck Cadman a $1 million life insurance policy and that was false. The Liberals said that Chuck Cadman was not going to run again and that was false. The Liberals asserted that I was somehow involved in organizing a meeting and that was, of course, false.

The Liberals claim outrage but they have had this story for well over a year and yet they continue to ask questions. If they were really sincere about their outrage, they would have asked these questions long ago.

As the Prime Minister has said, when this issue goes to court all the facts will be on the table and the Liberal Party will be sorry for it.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary answers everything but the question.

The tape is from author Tom Zytaruk. He made it public. Dona Cadman and her family stand by their statements that Conservatives did make an offer to deal with their financial insecurity. That is consistent with the tape.

If it is all false, why is the Prime Minister not suing the source of the allegations, Mr. Zytaruk and the Cadmans? Is it not true that his political lawsuit against the official opposition and now this tale about a tampered tape are all a desperate dodge to avoid confronting the Prime Minister's very own words?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister of this country, just as any Canadian citizen, from the newest Canadian citizen who was sworn in yesterday to the Prime Minister of this country, has the right to defend themselves from false accusations.

It is only the Liberal Party of Canada that has falsely accused the Prime Minister of this country of a crime. He has a right to defend himself and that is exactly what he is doing.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is claiming that Mr. Zytaruk doctored the recording so he must find the tape as released by Zytaruk to be truly damaging, otherwise, why attack it.

Is it because of that specific mention of the offer to Chuck? Is it the references to financial considerations, financial insecurity, financial issues? Is it the admission that the people who made the offer were legitimately representing the party?

It is easy to clear the air here. Why will the Prime Minister not just table his own tape un-Grewaled, so to speak?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, the Liberals have falsely accused the Prime Minister of this country of a crime. This will see the full light of day in court and the Liberals will be sorry for what they did.

The Prime Minister of this country has been consistent on this issue. I have answered all the questions that have come before the House of Commons, as has the Prime Minister of this country.

The Liberals should apologize for what they have done in this matter, which is falsely smear the Prime Minister of this country without any evidence whatsoever.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, libel cases begin with a process called examination for discovery where the Prime Minister will be compelled under oath to answer all the questions he is not answering here.

Why is the Prime Minister waiting for a judge to force him to give Canadians answers? Why will he not simply explain here and now why his own voice on a tape confirms that he knew representatives were going to have discussions with Mr. Cadman about financial considerations?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, it sounds to me like the Liberals do not like that part of law that allows people to sue other people for making libellous accusations against them.

Perhaps I would ask the member for Kitchener Centre a question. Was she outraged when the leader of the Liberal Party in 2005 issued a $400,000 lawsuit against the leader of the Bloc Québécois himself for false accusations that he said were made against him?

The Prime Minister of this country, just like the leader of the Liberal Party, has a right to defend himself, and that is exactly what he is doing.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister can try to stop us from asking questions by launching lawsuits but it will not work. He can stonewall the House and even shut down the justice committee to prevent an investigation from happening there, but he will not be able to dodge these questions when he is in court and under oath.

Why will the Prime Minister not simply tell Canadians why he did not stop Conservatives, who, by his own admission, were legitimately representing the party, from discussing financial issues with Mr. Cadman in order to try to get him to switch his vote?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, again, the accusation is entirely untrue, and as I have said before, the Liberals do not have to take my word for it or that of the Prime Minister. All we ask is that they take the word of Chuck Cadman himself who, again, when he was asked on CTV's Mike Duffy show if we were making any offer that was inappropriate, said that the only offer was an unopposed nomination. Pressed again on the issue by Mike Duffy, Chuck Cadman said, “Yes...that was the only offer on anything that I had from anybody”.

The Liberals can cite Dona Cadman. Dona Cadman has said that she trusts and believes in the Prime Minister of this country. So do Canadians. When this comes to the light of day in law, the Liberals will be sorry for their false accusations.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, with the lawsuit he filed yesterday, the Prime Minister is continuing his desperate attempt to rewrite the Cadman story. He maintains that he knew nothing about the financial offers made to Mr. Cadman until meeting with his widow on September 9, 2005. Yet, as he was leaving her home a few minutes later that he told the reporter—in the tape recording we have all heard—that he knew, before the vote on May 19, 2005, three or four months earlier, that the offer made to Mr. Cadman was “only to replace financial considerations”.

Does the Prime Minister realize that this cover-up is useless and that the only thing he has to tell us is what he meant by “financial considerations”?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, there is no cover-up; there are only facts. As I said yesterday, I agree with the deputy leader of the opposition. A few days ago, on television, he said that the fundamental question here is whether a financial incentive was offered to a member of the Parliament of Canada to convince him to change his vote. The answer to that question is no.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister claims that the tape recording has been tampered with, but he has provided no evidence of that. What he cannot deny is that in the recording, we clearly hear his voice say that “financial considerations” were offered to Mr. Cadman.

Can someone tell us what kind of “financial considerations” he was talking about and how this was not a way of buying Mr. Cadman's vote?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, no offer was made to Mr. Cadman, except the offer that Mr. Cadman himself talked about, that is, an offer to return to our caucus, to run as a candidate for the Conservative Party and to have our support for his re-election as a Conservative Party candidate. Mr. Cadman himself said so, and his word should be accepted as the truth.

Access to Information Act
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' trademark is their secrecy and lack of transparency. Former Justice Gomery recommended including the public interest test in the Access to Information Act to avoid abuse by the government and by the Prime Minister's Office. The Conservatives promised this during the election campaign, but they have done nothing.

Does the Prime Minister realize that the Conservatives are just like the Liberals, even worse?

Access to Information Act
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, that is not true. Yesterday, we saw an example of our government's different approach. Yesterday, the House of Commons voted on a resolution concerning the future of the war in Afghanistan, of our military mission in Afghanistan. Only under our government could we have made such a decision in this House. This is an example of how this government's approach differs from the previous government's.

Access to Information Act
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us talk about the war in Afghanistan, since the latest victim of a Conservative cover-up was the Military Police Complaints Commission. In order to stall the commission's investigation of torture allegations in Afghanistan, the Department of Foreign Affairs has refused to grant the commission full access to some documents that are essential to the investigation.

Is that not yet more proof that we cannot trust this Conservative government, and that we must absolutely and immediately include the public interest test in the Access to Information Act?

Access to Information Act
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, once again, unfortunately, the hon. member is mistaken. It is clear that our government has cooperated with the commission. Yesterday, we tabled a letter in the House of Commons explaining this situation. The government will continue to cooperate with the commission in the future. All government departments have prepared the legal documents this commission needs.

Lobbyists
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, Emanuel Montenegrino is the Prime Minister's lawyer. He is also now registered to lobby the Conservatives to approve the sale of RADARSAT technology to an American weapons maker.

Considering Mr. Montenegrino's regular contributions to the Prime Minister's Conservative campaigns, would the government not want to keep its promise of openness and accountability and tell the Prime Minister's counsel to stick to practising law and not political lobbying?

Lobbyists
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, in our tough new accountability act we brought in sweeping provisions, including those which extend to lobbying, and further efforts to ensure transparency, more sweeping than any ever done under any previous government.

Let me assure the member that when the Minister of Industry makes the decision he is required to make on this, it will not be one that is determined by lobbyists. It is a decision that will be determined entirely by the best interests of Canada. He takes that responsibility very seriously. I think all of us in the House know that he will take it on that basis.

Lobbyists
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, that answer is exactly why Canadians do not trust the Conservative government.

It is very simple. Mr. Montenegrino is the Prime Minister's lawyer. He is lobbying for approval of the unethical sale of Canadian RADARSAT technology to an American weapons maker in violation of our national interests, putting Canadian sovereignty at risk

The Conservatives promised accountability, so why is the Prime Minister's lawyer and long time friend lobbying a minister for a rotten deal that should never go through?

Lobbyists
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, this government has taken great steps to advance and assert our sovereignty on the world stage much more strongly than has happened under previous governments. We have seen that with our initiatives in the north, where we are extending Canadian sovereignty with serious commitments and investments, and we are seeing that with our action elsewhere on the world stage.

In terms of the transaction in question, the decision will be made on a simple basis: what is in Canada's best interests? That is how the minister will make that decision.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, Brenda Martin is languishing in a Mexican prison and is at the end of her rope. While this Conservative government drags its feet, Ms. Martin is hitting rock bottom. There are concerns that she will not make it. She is so desperate that she says she is now thinking of taking her own life.

What is this government waiting for to give her a glimmer of hope? Since his ministers are incompetent, will the Prime Minister finally deign to pick up the phone and help Ms. Martin?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, like all members, we are very concerned about Ms. Martin's health. We have expressed our strong concerns to the Mexican authorities regarding inappropriate conditions of her detention, delays in bringing her case to trial, and lack of translation facilities.

I want to assure all Canadians and Ms. Martin that in the coming weeks the Government of Canada will continue to press for a quick, positive resolution to this case.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

It continues, Mr. Speaker, and we will get more of the same. I am not at all certain that the Canadian people really accept this answer.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would not even take Ms. Martin's phone call. The secretary of state could not even be bothered to visit Ms. Martin in jail when she was only 20 minutes away. When she was asked why she did not visit Ms. Martin's cell, where she was crammed in with 11 other prisoners, the secretary of state answered, “It's not my job”.

If it is not her job to help Brenda Martin, will the Prime Minister use this break week to fill the void and make the case to have Ms. Martin immediately returned to Canada?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my previous answer, the government has made the highest of representations to the Mexican authorities. The foreign affairs minister called the foreign affairs minister of Mexico just last week to express his strong concerns on this case.

Again, I can assure Canadians and Ms. Martin that we will continue to talk with the highest levels of the Mexican authorities to have a quick, positive resolution to this case.

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs continues to hide behind his so-called investigation into the leak of confidential diplomatic information, which continues to interfere in the U.S. presidential election. He will not release any details. He will not give us any facts. He expects us to trust him on this one.

Unfortunately, when it comes to trust, the government's record is miserable and Canadians know it. Will the minister ask Ambassador Michael Wilson to step aside during this investigation to prevent any further leaks and any further damage to our relationship with the United States?

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister has already said, we take this matter very seriously.

However, I want to tell members that NAFTA has been a very, very good agreement between Canada and the U.S.A. It has helped raise living standards and it is touted as one of the best trade agreements. Not only that, but we take our relationship with our southern partners very seriously. It is a strong relationship and we will continue to further this relationship.

As I have said, as the Prime Minister has said and as the Minister of Foreign Affairs has said, the investigation is going on and appropriate action will be taken when the results are out.

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, that is no answer, so let me make it specific and easy for the government. Article 41.1 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations says of relations between nations that the government has “a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State”.

That seems pretty clear. Has the minister even sought a legal opinion as to whether Michael Wilson's involvement in the NAFTA leaks constituted a breach of this international convention?

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I fail to understand why they do not listen to what I have just answered, which is very clear and straightforward. The investigation is going on. When the results are in, we will take appropriate action as deemed necessary, but I would like to tell the hon. member that even the U.S. ambassador to Canada has said that this matter is now over.

We take our relationship with our southern partners very seriously and we will continue strengthening our relationship.

Omar Khadr
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the case of Omar Khadr, the young Canadian held in Guantanamo, we have learned that the American sergeant who interrogated him is before a court martial accused of abusing detainees during interrogations. It is even suspected that he caused the death of one of them. We know that, during his detention, Mr. Khadr was subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment.

What is the government waiting for to bring him back to Canada for his trial?

Omar Khadr
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Khadr faces very serious charges. The Government of Canada has sought and received assurances that Mr. Khadr is being treated humanely. Department officials have carried out several welfare visits with Mr. Khadr and will continue to do so.

Omar Khadr
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have also learned that an American army officer allegedly changed a report in order to blame young Mr. Khadr. The first report, the original one, said that the assailant had been killed. Mr. Khadr was therefore not involved in this case. In view of the facts, there is no reason for the government to wait.

When will it take action to bring Omar Khadr home?

Omar Khadr
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as I stated, Mr. Khadr faces serious charges. At the current time, the case is going on, the legal process is on and appeals are on, but from Canada's point of view, we will continue visiting Mr. Khadr to see to his well-being. I can assure members that we have asked the U.S. to treat him humanely.

Manufacturing and Forestry Industries
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, the Standing Committee on Finance adopted a report calling on the government to provide additional assistance to the manufacturing and forestry sectors out of the current year's $10.2 billion surplus.

The crises in the manufacturing and forestry industries are threatening thousands of jobs in the regions of Quebec. Will the minister comply with the wishes of Parliament and forget about putting all that money toward the debt, so that he can improve the assistance plan before March 31?

Manufacturing and Forestry Industries
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Calgary—Nose Hill
Alberta

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Secretary of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Industry has made it clear on numerous occasions that the government has given literally billions of dollars in assistance to the manufacturing sector in terms of tax breaks and in terms of direct funds in money to assist this sector.

It is never enough for the member opposite. I do not understand why he thinks the manufacturing sector is not able to make use of the substantial assistance this government has provided. He needs to have a little more faith in--

Manufacturing and Forestry Industries
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

Manufacturing and Forestry Industries
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, he has no compassion for people who have lost their jobs.

The International Monetary Fund encourages member countries to increase public spending to stimulate growth, which is threatened by a significant global economic slowdown. According to the Institute for Policy Analysis, Quebec and Ontario may already be in the grip of a recession.

Will the minister finally open his eyes and help the sectors affected by this crisis by using part of the $10.2 billion surplus before March 31? He has plenty of time, and he certainly has plenty of money.

Manufacturing and Forestry Industries
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I might add to the previous answer given in the House that Quebec alone received $400 million in equalization payments. That is what this government put together as a start. There was a system in the country that was not equal. That is where we started.

We have included tax cuts, with $10 billion in tax relief for industries. We have put forward a $1 billion community development trust fund to help those people impacted in one-industry towns.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government is so desperate to close the door on immigrants that it will ignore the painful mistakes of previous Conservative governments that tried to do the very same thing. Diefenbaker tried to shut out immigrants by capping the system only to abandon his plan a month later because his policies were short-sighted and misguided.

Why does the minister insist on closing Canada's doors to the newcomers we desperately need to fuel our labour and population growth even though history shows this is absolutely the wrong approach?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is absolutely wrong. In fact, last year this Conservative government welcomed more immigrants to Canada than has been done in almost 100 years.

Not only are we doing more, we are doing it better. In the family reunification class we have made that a priority and now cases are getting processed 20% to 40% faster than they did under the previous government. We are making great strides in cleaning up the Liberals' immigration mess.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Some progress, Mr. Speaker. The backlog has increased by 100,000 in 26 months. I would ask the minister to get to work and not by closing the doors on immigrants.

Let us be clear. The Conservatives say that Canada has received 429,000 newcomers, but that number has been falsely inflated by temporary workers and students.

Why is the government trying to distract people from its plan to significantly reduce the number of newcomers by fudging the numbers and tooting its own horn about its pathetic record on immigration?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, our government has two objectives. The first is to bring more newcomers here to fill jobs and be reunited with their families. The second is to do it faster.

Let us contrast that with the Liberals' record on immigration. They ballooned the backlog from 50,000 to 800,000. They took processing times from three to six months to three to six years. They voted against reducing the head tax that they brought in. They voted against launching the foreign credentials referral office. We are fixing the Liberals' immigration mess.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday every government member voted to rebalance our mission in Afghanistan. A new report by the Canadian Council for International Co-operation clearly shows that peace efforts in Afghanistan are in disarray and they are not supported by the international community. It calls on Canada to rebalance its mission which is crucial to the mission's success.

My question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. What specific plan is his government going to offer to achieve the tribal reconciliation that is absolutely crucial for the success of our mission in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, in fact, the government has been moving in the direction for some time in order to put greater emphasis on the training component and greater emphasis on cultural sensitivity around the issues that relate to interaction with the people of Afghanistan.

We, of course, have committed over $1 billion, most recently $100 million in this budget specifically for issues around infrastructure, investment, and programs, so that more kids can be in school, more women can access microcredit financing, and more effort can be made to develop the situation in Afghanistan so the people themselves can do more for themselves in their country.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is important how much we spend, but it is more important that we spend that money effectively. The Liberal plan offers that peace will only occur in Afghanistan if the people can provide for their own security.

I would like to ask the minister this question. Will he support our plan that his government take to Bucharest a very specific position for NATO to set timelines and hard targets for the Afghan people to have their own police, army, corrections and judicial personnel that are properly paid, trained and equipped? These four pillars for Afghanistan security are--

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. Minister of National Defence.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, that is again, of course, exactly what Canada and NATO are doing. As usual, we are seeing an after the fact recitation from the hon. member about what he would like to see happen.

He and his party supported the vote last night to extend the mission. We thank him for that support. It is now a Canadian position that was endorsed by the Parliament of Canada. This is good news for the soldiers, aid workers and diplomats who are doing this important work on behalf of our country.

It is something that should be a source of pride for all Canadians. Aside from the partisanship, this is something that Canada in the future will look back upon as a tremendous historic vote of confidence in our soldiers.

Government Accountability
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday retired Justice John Gomery appeared at the government operations committee and spoke on ethics and accountability.

It has come to light that two former employees of the Liberal Party, with links to the sponsorship scandal, were hired to work on Bob Rae's leadership campaign. I wonder if they are working on his campaign right now in Toronto Centre.

After Canadians fired the Liberals for their lack of ethics, our government was elected on our promise to clean up government.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board tell the House what measures we have taken to bring back accountability?

Government Accountability
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, yesterday Judge Gomery indicated that he still has not found the $40 million in missing Liberal dollars.

He also pointed back to his report which said that a Mr. Gaetano Manganiello was part of the sponsorship scandal in accepting part of the $82,000 that was paid to Pluri Design, a company for which he did not actually work.

This individual is now part of the Bob Rae team and helped him in his leadership campaign, which means that Bob Rae, who wrote the Liberal election platform, is the worst part of the NDP free spending and Liberal scandal. Bad hybrid.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is not yet a foregone conclusion that Canada will be at war in Afghanistan for another three years. For the extension to come into effect, NATO needs to come up with an additional 1,000 soldiers and the deployment of medium and heavy lift capacity. To date no official announcements have been made on additional troops committed to the war or planned procurement of airlift capacity.

Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs clarify today that if these conditions are not met, Canada will not extend its combat mission in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member, no, I cannot thank the member for his support for the motion last night.

Last night the Parliament of Canada took the position that Canada would continue in Afghanistan. We would continue a whole of government approach which does include, of course, giving our men and women in uniform the necessary equipment to carry out this mission, to execute the security perimeter that will allow for greater development, and greater efforts at the humanitarian relief that is taking place in that war-torn country.

Canada should be very proud of that effort. We are looking forward, with the support of the Liberal Party, to seeing this mission continue and that the resources are--

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Ottawa Centre.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my conscience is clear. I do not know about the members on the other side.

The Manley report spoke very critically about the lack of coordination of combat operations in Kandahar, and from all accounts the situation will likely only get worse, not better.

If the only NATO ally coming forward with additional troops is the United States, can the government explain whether the marines will come under the command of NATO or the command of Operation Enduring Freedom? If they do fall under a separate command, how is having two parallel combat missions in the same place, at the same time, going to help rectify the coordination problems that exist?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, I see the member has been reading his latest copy of Esprit de Corps magazine. I know he is a subscriber to that and he is up-to-date on some of the latest tactical manoeuvres happening in Afghanistan.

This is an ISAF mission. It has the United Nations Security Council resolution. It is a NATO-led mission. Efforts are being made that will help to eradicate one of the worst exporters of terrorism that the world has ever seen.

The member opposite would suggest that we could send a combat unit of mimes to Afghanistan. We would withdraw all the soldiers and then we would have to withdraw all the aid workers as well.

Government Policies
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, in this most unaccountable government: the environment minister is implicated in the Larry O'Brien bribery case while doing more damage than good to the environment; the health minister ignores his promise on hospital wait times; the finance minister undermines Ontario's economy by calling it “the last place to invest”; and the government House leader insults his province's premier.

Why is the Prime Minister sitting back and allowing his gang of four to wreak havoc on this country the way they did on Ontario when they were at Queen's Park?

Government Policies
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, there was one thing that we did learn from that time and that was the importance of doing exactly what we said we would do, and that is what this government is doing.

We are delivering on our commitments with the toughest accountability act ever in Canadian history. We promised it. We did it. We committed to reduce taxes, reduce the GST and reduce personal income taxes. We said it. We did it. We delivered it. We said we would take action on the environment. We said it. We did it. We delivered it. It is the same thing with tackling violent crime. We said it. We did it. We delivered it.

The only thing that stood in our way was--

Government Policies
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

The Liberals.

Government Policies
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Welland.

Government Policies
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, let us not beat around the bush. Four of this government's most prominent ministers continue to insult the intelligence of Ontarians.

Ontario deserves its democratically allotted seats. Ontario does not deserve this unaccountable government. Two to one, Ontarians believe in a balanced approach, not a Mike Harris approach to its economy. Ontarians deserve a government and its elected Conservative MPs to step up and represent them.

Will the Conservative government apologize for the actions of its ministers?

Government Policies
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right in this regard, Ontarians deserve members of Parliament who will stand up for them.

And guess what, when it came to tackling violent crime, where were the Liberals? Sitting in their seats. When it came to tax cuts, where were the Liberals? Sitting in their seats. When it came to ensuring we continued to have a balanced budget and a good fiscal framework, where were the Liberals? Sitting in their seats.

In fact, as I look at their ranks, I think there must be a vote coming today.

Ontario Economy
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister has gone on a crusade to undermine the Ontario economy by calling it the last place to invest.

Why is the finance minister determined to use his federal position to wreak havoc with the Ontario economy the way he did when he was the Mike Harris treasurer?

Ontario Economy
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the hon. minister stated yesterday in this House that he was hopeful that Premier McGuinty's provincial budget on March 25 would provide long term, broad-based support by reducing its provincial corporate income tax and by making a commitment to fully eliminate capital taxes for businesses in all sectors.

It is the finance minister's role to encourage all provinces to get up to speed, to get up to where other provinces are, and to encourage investment.

Ontario Economy
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister's double-talk does go further. The man who pretends to balance the books actually left a $5.6 billion deficit when he was a provincial finance minister.

He claims he supports infrastructure and Ontario communities, but calls them whiners. He says he is not in the “pothole business”.

When will the finance minister censor himself, instead of Canadian films for the benefit of the public good?

Ontario Economy
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the federal finance minister is absolutely within his jurisdiction to encourage that all provinces get up to the same investment opportunities such as British Columbia.

We cannot help but acknowledge what happened in the Quebec budget yesterday. The Quebec government has actually decided to abolish capital taxes. That is simply what the finance minister is encouraging the government in Ontario to do.

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, the fact that Quebec, which represents 54% of the aerospace industry, is not getting its fair share does not matter to the Conservatives. So much so that in the contract for the 17 Hercules aircraft, Quebec will have fewer economic spinoffs than the Maritimes, which represents just 5% of the industry. The Conservative ideology of laissez-faire clearly translates as doing everything it can against Quebec.

When will the ministers from Quebec stand up for Quebec and help it get its fair share of these government contracts?

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, here is one more Bloc Québécois member who is unable to deliver anything for Quebeckers. He walks around Quebec empty handed. Over the past two years, we have corrected the fiscal imbalance, which allowed Quebec to have a balanced budget and gave Quebec an additional $4.5 billion. We have also intervened in the manufacturing sector. We are taking action for Quebeckers in the aerospace industry. We are delivering the goods, unlike the Bloc Québécois.

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, RADARSAT-2, an innovative satellite designed and built at the Canadian Space Agency in St. Hubert, could end up in the hands of a U.S. company.

Is the Minister of Industry going to allow all of Canada and Quebec's contribution in research to be destroyed by disregarding CIDA and IDRC's intellectual property and ongoing development projects and allowing MDA's activities to be sold to ATK, a major weapons and munitions manufacturer?

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, since we have been in power, we have established a fair policy for all the regions. We know full well that Quebec has a very strong aerospace industry. We have encouraged it. We know that Quebec has developed a critical mass around research and development. We have supported it. Quebeckers know that one thing is clear. When the time comes to deliver the goods and keep a promise, they can depend on us. The Bloc Québécois can never do that.

Regional Economic Development
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, Calypso park, in the municipality of La Nation, will create 550 full-time seasonal jobs beginning in 2009. The Ontario government is on-board as is the municipality. But lip service is all that is being offered by the Conservatives and the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.

Why are Conservatives creating false hopes by saying that they are in favour of the project without providing financial support?

Regional Economic Development
Oral Questions

Noon

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am stunned. Finally a member from the greater Toronto area who is beginning to take an interest in another part of Ontario, the greater Ottawa area.

I have to say that this government promised, first and foremost, to work with the provinces on a program for infrastructure renewal throughout the country.

In fact, my colleague made an announcement regarding Highway 174, in his riding, which will contribute a great deal more to his region than other projects proposed by the opposition.

The Environment
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, the previous Liberal government shamefully did nothing for the environment the entire time it was in power. However, that has all changed with this Conservative government, as we are taking real action in the face of climate change.

In fact, the former premier of Quebec, Pierre Marc Johnson, recently said that with the regulatory measures announced last week by the Minister of the Environment, Canada had gained back its international credibility.

Could the Minister of Transport tell the House how he intends to address fuel consumption for the vehicles on Canadian roads and how the Conservative government will continue to deliver real action for our environment and the air that we breathe?

The Environment
Oral Questions

Noon

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we are the first government that has committed to reduce greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020. What is interesting is what Pierre Marc Johnson, the successor to René Lévesque in Quebec, as we all know, said. What did this former premier say? He said:

Canada will now be able to speak once again with credibility in the international community by contributing more than words to the stabilization of the concentration of greenhouse gas emissions—

We are getting the job done.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, new Canadians are getting used to disappointment. Year after year Liberal governments let the immigration backlogs grow. The solution of the Conservatives is just as absurd. They just will not take as many applications.

If the Conservative government were serious about clearing the backlog, it would have restored all the cuts the Liberals inflicted on Canada's overseas offices and relax the point system so more families can come.

Why, instead, does it put corporate tax cuts ahead of family reunification?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

Noon

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I can hardly believe the members of the NDP would have the nerve to ask us about immigration when we look at their record.

They voted against an additional $1.4 billion for resettlement funding for newcomers. They voted against the foreign credentials referrals office. They voted against cutting the head tax on immigrants. Now they want to vote against reducing waiting times.

NDP members should be ashamed of themselves.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an unbelievable answer.

Canada must increase the target number of immigrants into the country to 1% of the population in order to renew our workforce and drive our economy. The Conservatives' answer is to import massive numbers of temporary foreign workers, who are vulnerable to mistreatment and abuse.

Why is the government interested only in providing cheap labour to big corporations and not letting ordinary family members bring their loved ones into Canada?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

Noon

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, we have made significant progress on reuniting immigrant families. In fact, we are now processing those cases 20% to 40% faster than they were before we took office. We want to get families reunited faster and more skilled workers here sooner. That is our objective. We are going to do it, even if the NDP continues to vote against us.

Agriculture
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, we know the parliamentary secretary's vendetta against the Wheat Board leads him to say ridiculous things. However, he seriously crossed the line when he attacked the president of the National Farmers Union and released confidential information on Mr. Wells' business through the Board. The minister confirmed yesterday such information was requested.

As demanded in a letter from Mr. Wells, will the parliamentary secretary apologize for his unsubstantiated, defamatory, incorrect and disgraceful remarks? Will he stand in his place today and apologize?

Agriculture
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, it is always good to see the Liberals focus on agriculture at 12:10 p.m. on Friday. That is the only time that they ever ask questions. It is also good to see they are disconnected with agriculture because their questions are always full of misinformation.

I really object to what the member is doing today. He is following the NDP leader from yesterday. The minister answered the question yesterday.

Mr. Wells is well known as an organic farmer. If they are accusing me of saying that he was one, the NFU website says that. My question for Mr. Wells is simply this. Has he been able to take advantage of the organic grower special buy-back this year? If he has, why is he telling other farmers that they cannot have the same deal?

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, earlier this week the member from Beauséjour publicly accused the government of failing to appoint bilingual judges to New Brunswick benches.

As a member from New Brunswick, I am proud of our heritage and of the fact that ours is the only bilingual province. I would like these remarks clarified.

Could the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice correct this erroneous statement and in the process set the member opposite straight?

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as a member from the province of New Brunswick, I am pleased to reply to this question.

Our government has appointed six of the forty federally appointed judges in New Brunswick. Of the six, three are fully bilingual. We are guided by the principles of merit and legal excellence, as well as thinking linguistic competence.

As the member from Beauséjour should know, it was his colleague, the member from Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, who said “They look like pretty good appointments and I am glad they are filling the vacancies”. We agree.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, the upcoming Olympics has led to crackdowns against human rights advocates in China. This week marks the 49th anniversary of the failed uprising in Tibet against Chinese rule.

In recent days we have seen the arrest and release of Teng Biao, Beijing human rights lawyer and activist, as well as the use of force against protestors and Buddhist monks in Tibet today. What specific steps will the government take to address this situation? I do not want the general platitudes that we heard yesterday.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we are alarmed at the deterioration of the situation, including increasing reports of violence. We have expressed our concerns to the Chinese ambassador and, through our embassy in Beijing, to the Chinese government. We are also asking for some clarification on the current situation in Lhasa as well as information on the whereabouts and the well-being of Canadians in the affected area.

Oral Question Period — Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

That concludes question period for today. With the consent of the House, I would like to go back briefly to the question of privilege raised yesterday by the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst and the statements by the hon. member for Gatineau and the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier.

As I mentioned yesterday, when I quoted page 433 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, I still believe that:

In most instances, when a point of order or a question of privilege has been raised in regard to a response to an oral question, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is a disagreement among Members over the facts surrounding the issue. As such, these matters are more a question of debate and do not constitute a breach of the rules or of privilege.

However, having read a letter sent to the Standing Committee on Official Languages by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages, I can see that there may have been a misunderstanding about what the minister said during oral question period on March 12.

In order to clear up what was likely an misunderstanding, I believe it would be highly appropriate for the hon. minister to clarify the facts when the opportunity arises in the near future.

I thank the hon. members for their attention.

The hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons on a point of order.

Oral Question Period — Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Oral Questions

12:10 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, this is relevant and rises out of the comments you just made.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage is not here today, but she did want me to table the correspondence before the House that she provided relating to it. The suggestion was that she had indicated she was not prepared to appear at committee. Her letter to the chair of the committee, on February 25, states quite clearly the opposite. She indicates:

I will be pleased to appear before the committee to discuss the next phase of the action plan as soon as I have finished working on it.

Therefore, I think that helps complete the record and explains her answer. If you wish, Mr. Speaker, she could explain it further, but I am happy to table this document on her behalf.

Comments by Member for Malpeque and Member for Toronto—Danforth
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I want to address the strange and almost bizarre accusation or mistake that the member for Toronto—Danforth made yesterday and the member for Malpeque has made again today.

I want to point out that I have never in fact implied, as the member for Toronto—Danforth said, that I was aware of the individual business relationship of one farmer, the head of the National Farmers Union, no less, and the Canadian Wheat Board.

Apparently what he was referring to yesterday were my comments in the House of Commons where I called Mr. Wells an organic farmer. I had asked Mr. Wells, as farmers across western Canada have asked him, to explain if he was taking the special deal that the Canadian Wheat Board offers to organic producers at the same time his organization was taking the position that other farmers should not have those same opportunities.

Mr. Wells, his neighbours, his own organization and the Internet, if you go on it, Sir, all recognize him as an organic farmers. Therefore, if that was the members' accusation, I guess they have demonstrated, once again, the failure of their research abilities, particularly the NDP.

Even with those limitations, it seems to me that both the member for Toronto—Danforth and the member for Malpeque have the responsibility to ensure they are accurate and to tell the truth.

I would appreciate if they would actually have the stomach, the guts, to stand up today to acknowledge their mistakes and apologize for their misleading comments. They have misled western Canadian farmers. They have misled the House as well. Therefore, I would appreciate that apology.

Comments by Member for Malpeque and Member for Toronto—Danforth
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the incident that I believe the leader of the New Democratic Party yesterday brought forward and myself again today relates to a personal attack that was launched by the parliamentary secretary during the emergency debate on livestock on February 13 in the House. You can refer to that debate and see the remarks.

I have in my hand, and I would be willing to table it, a letter that is directed to the parliamentary secretary, signed by Stewart Wells, president of the National Farmers Union. He states clearly:

I am writing regarding a personal attack that you launched against me during an emergency debate on "livestock" on February 13, 2008 in the House of Commons.

You are hiding behind your parliamentary immunity by attacking me in the House of Commons, where I cannot defend myself nor can I find a remedy for your defamation through the courts. Your comments in the House of Commons are unacceptable and a disgrace to you and your party.

You have deliberately implied—

This is the meat of the evidence, Mr. Speaker:

—to the House of Commons that you know how I market my grain through the Canadian Wheat Board. The only way you could have any knowledge of my personal business dealings is if you have been abusing your powers and investigating my transactions with the Canadian Wheat Board.

On the parliamentary secretary's point that he just raised, the minister yesterday, in response to the question by the leader of the NDP, said that this information was requested from the board.

Therefore, this is a serious matter of commercial confidentiality coming from the board that the member released in the House.

Mr. Wells goes on further to say:

Have you been abusing your office as Parliamentary Secretary and investigating my personal business transactions with the Canadian Wheat Board? Either you have intimate knowledge of my business dealings with the Canadian Wheat Board, or you are lying to the House of Commons when you pretend to know how I market my grain-which is it?

I will conclude by the request that Mr. Wells made, directed to the parliamentary secretary, when he said:

Do you have the integrity required to stand in the House of Commons and apologize to your colleagues and then make a further apology to me for your unsubstantiated, defamatory, and incorrect remarks?

That relates to the point of order raised. Clearly the member has used confidential commercial information in attacking a constituent in his own riding and a president of a national farm organization.

Comments by Member for Malpeque and Member for Toronto—Danforth
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. parliamentary secretary, a brief response, but this sounds to me like a dispute as to facts.

Comments by Member for Malpeque and Member for Toronto—Danforth
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, it may be a dispute as to the facts but he is also twisting what the minister said yesterday in the House, so I would refer you to that as well. He clearly fails to understand the issues here and has tried to mislead Canadians, western Canadian farmers in particular, and, I would suggest, the House as well.

Comments by Member for Malpeque and Member for Toronto—Danforth
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre rising on the same point?

Comments by Member for Malpeque and Member for Toronto—Danforth
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do rise on the same point just briefly, if you will allow me a moment, as it was the leader of my party who asked the question yesterday that seems to have set this off.

We too are speaking on behalf of Mr. Wells who, as a private citizen and as a personal individual, had his personal and private information dragged before the House of Commons in a way that only someone with privileged inside access could have knowledge of.

I would just remind the Chair of one ruling in Marleau and Montpetit that speaks to this. I hope the parliamentary secretary is taking note and that he will pass this on to the minister from yesterday.

On page 77, under “Privileges and Immunities”, dealing with the right to free speech in the House of Commons, Speaker Parent is quoted as saying:

“...paramount to our political and parliamentary systems is the principle of freedom of speech, a member's right to stand in this House unhindered to speak his or her mind. However when debate in the House centres on sensitive issues, as it often does, I would expect that members would always bear in mind the possible effects of their statements and hence be prudent in their tone and choice of words”.

Speakers have also stated that although there is a need for Members to express their opinions openly in a direct fashion, it is also important that citizens' reputations are not unfairly attacked. In a ruling on a question of privilege, Speaker Fraser expressed his concern that an individual who was not a Member of the House had been referred to by name and noted that this concern had also been shared by some Members who had participated in the discussion....

When we drag the personal, confidential, commercial information of a private individual before this House of Commons in a way that could easily be taken as a politically slanted and biased opinion, because let us face it, the government of the day is virtually at war with the friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, the National Farmers Union and all farmers who are opposed to its ideological crusade to smash and undermine the Canadian Wheat Board, when the minister uses that information to sully the reputation or to try to smear the reputation of a private citizen, they have abused their privileges of the right to free speech in the House and left no avenue of recourse for the individual.

The flip side of the coin, of members' privilege to say whatever they want in the House, is the right of citizens to be able to defend themselves. However, they have no such recourse when those comments are made within the parliamentary privilege. That is why the Speaker has to take care that members do not abuse that privilege and malign private citizens.

Comments by Member for Malpeque and Member for Toronto—Danforth
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The Speaker has heard the points that were made today. I thank the hon. member for Malpeque, the hon. parliamentary secretary and the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

As the Speaker has noted, there seems to be a dispute on fact and not a dispute related to a point of privilege. In any event, the Speaker will return to the House, if necessary, but I think that the House has heard sufficiently on that topic for moment.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

12:20 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 simply wish to do what I would have had the opportunity to do on Thursday but the opposition House leader did not conduct the usual role of the opposition House leader in asking the Thursday question. As a result, there has not been an opportunity, because of the failure of the opposition to play their traditional role, to advise the House of the following.

At this time, I would like to designate Monday, March 31, Tuesday, April 1, and Wednesday, April 2, as allotted days. Those will be our first three days back after the Easter break.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's responses to seven petitions.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the third report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics presented on Friday, February 29, 2008, be concurred in.

The particular report from the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics states, in part:

As your Committee has now completed its examination of witnesses in this matter it recommends...“That the Government immediately initiate a formal public inquiry into the Mulroney—Schreiber affair.

The committee has been the subject of much news and the last report I saw was that we had conducted four months of hearings. The fact is that we only had 11 hearing days, only heard from 12 witnesses and only had 25 hours of testimony from those witnesses. We did, however, receive some 3,000 pages.

Having said that, I can think of no other proceeding at a committee that I have been at where I have heard more contradictions, more discrepancies and more situations where people are clearly not being truthful with the committee. This is very important because we have now had a situation where the government has indicated that there will be a public inquiry and that the matter will be going back to Dr. Johnston, who will formalize the terms of reference and the scope.

Dr. Johnston also issued an interim report in which he laid out some of his preliminary thinking based on what he had heard from the ethics committee witnesses up until, I think, December 13. Subsequent to this, we heard from probably some of the more significant players in this matter.

I was prepared to start talking about some of the things that we found which would demonstrate why it was necessary, not just to have a public inquiry but to have a formal public inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act, which would give the Speaker the opportunity to subpoena or the power to subpoena. That is an essential element because we found in our proceedings that there were witnesses who were reluctant to appear. In fact, the committee granted to the chair, myself, the authorization at my discretion to subpoena any witness at any time.

The committee was very aware of the problems that it was having with witnesses and, indeed, it was the situation even with former prime minister, Brian Mulroney, who had declined our offer to come back for a second appearance so that he could answer the questions. That was so serious that in his initial appearance before the committee on December 13, he was asked, and agreed, to provide certain information related to what he did for the moneys that he received from Karlheinz Schreiber.

Mr. Mulroney had indicated that this had to do with international business, not with domestic affairs and nothing related to the government. He also indicated that he visited China, Russia, France, had planned to go to the United States and even to have a meeting with the secretary general of the United Nations to promote light armoured vehicles built by Thyssen Industries.

After two months of waiting, asking and reminding, there was still no response from the former prime minister as to who he had met with, the dates, the locations and the outcome. Those were vital pieces of information, because if the activities were not international, i.e., they were then domestic and may be related to government contracts or other items, such as Bear Head Manufacturing Industries, that would have put the former prime minister in a situation where he would have been in violation of section 41 of the Parliament of Canada Act related to influence peddling.

This was very important and, as a consequence, the committee authorized me, as the chair, to issue a summons for that information to be provided by a certain date before our hearings resumed. That summons was not respected by Mr. Mulroney. He refused to answer and, in fact, the message from his lawyer was to the effect that these were private matters and none of the business of the committee.

If we consider those two issues alone, the failure to honour a summons from the committee which has the right to call for a person's papers and records, as well as not being willing to come forward to give testimony when there were clearly ample questions to ask of Mr. Mulroney after we had heard from 10 other witnesses, this in my view is a very important consideration to take into account when determining the form of the public inquiry. Should it be a formal public inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act? Should it be informal and simply under the Inquiries Act alone which does not have subpoena power? Should it be somehow limited? Or should there maybe even be no inquiry whatsoever?

It is extremely important that questions be answered. People will look at the evidence that has been presented to the committee which is on the official website of the standing committee. There is a litany of contradictions, discrepancies and disputes of information. I cannot think of any issue that people actually agreed upon. There were contradictions on almost every point raised.

The committee could have called more witnesses. It could have tried to corroborate this information and find out who was not being truthful with the committee. It would then have had the option to deal with this matter directly with the House and recommend that certain persons be considered to be in contempt of Parliament for having misled or lied to a committee. That was an option.

However, in the environment that we have come through, it was very clear that the committee was not going to have the time nor the resources or expertise to call the necessary expert witnesses and forensic accountants, to call for banking records, tax returns, and the like. Those activities are best done in a public inquiry.

As a consequence, instead of considering a list of some 40 witnesses, the committee decided to reduce it down to 12 witnesses. Some of the principal witnesses would be able to give us an idea of the dimensions of what was going on and why.

I do not believe for a moment that this matter is simply to do with whether or not Mr. Mulroney received $225,000 or $300,000. That amount of money is inconsequential when we consider the relationship between Mr. Schreiber and Mr. Mulroney which goes back some 20 or 25 years. In fact, Mr. Mulroney and Mr. Schreiber were meeting even before Mr. Mulroney became the leader of the Conservative Party. When he was still a lawyer with Ogilvy Renault they were having coffees back in the early 1980s.

That relationship grew. In fact, Mr. Schreiber was involved with dumping former prime minister Joe Clark. Mr. Schreiber was also involved with getting the leadership of the Conservative Party for Mr. Mulroney. This is the way that Mr. Schreiber does business. It is clear.

As an example, he was involved with the Saudi government in a $440 million project to sell tanks to the Saudis, special tanks made by Thyssen Industries. About half of that money was grease money, bribe money for officials. In fact, when we look at that particular case we will find that a number of senior government officials were prosecuted and found guilty of influence peddling, bribery, et cetera.

This is the pattern. This is how it is done. Mr. Schreiber clearly was establishing a close relationship with virtually everyone that he possibly could in the Conservative Party. It was not only federal. It was also provincial. There was a lot of activity going on in Alberta. At that time members will know that there were some people who got involved in some activities which turned out to be bad and there was a lot of bad blood. Some deals just went bad.

When we consider some of the activities that went on, such as the former prime minister when in Davos, Switzerland taking a two-hour limousine ride to Zurich to have lunch with Mr. Schreiber and then going back to Davos, we have to get the sense that this is a pretty serious relationship.

Then there is the situation where Mr. Mulroney sued the Government of Canada for $50 million and ultimately settled for $2.1 million. During his examination for discovery under oath, and this is very puzzling, he was asked about his relationship and whether he ever did any business or got any money from Mr. Schreiber. His answer was that he barely knew the guy, that maybe they had had a coffee or two. This was in 2005.

We know now that Mr. Mulroney had accepted, he says, $75,000. He had stepped down as prime minister, but he was still a member of Parliament. This was in August 1993. Subsequently he received at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel another $75,000, he says, and at the Pierre Hotel in New York, another $75,000. We have to ask why. Mr. Schreiber says he was helping us with the Bear Head project. We wanted to promote light armoured vehicles. We wanted to build this plant in Cape Breton. It was going to create jobs. All of a sudden people started to get involved and many people were asked about this.

I found it very interesting to note that in Dr. Johnston's report he considered matters such as Airbus, and the Eurocopter case, and the Bear Head case to be well-tilled ground.

This is a 20 minute spot, Mr. Speaker. Maybe you could advise me how much time I have left.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

There are eight minutes left on the clock. My clock shows zero.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, there were a number of things going on.

It is very interesting to note that according to some of the testimony at the committee, there is an indication that the moneys involved were much greater.

For instance, it is well documented in the evidence tabled with the committee that an employee at 24 Sussex was in fact asked to go to the Prime Minister's Office to see a Mr. Fred Doucet. He would pick up from Mr. Doucet envelopes of cash every week in the range of $10,000 to $11,000. Where did this cash come from? As it turns out, some of it came from cheques from the PC Canada Fund to the chief of staff at the time, Mr. Doucet. Mr. Doucet would cash the cheque and put the cash in an envelope to give to the employee to take to 24 Sussex, apparently to give it to Mrs. Mulroney. One has to ask why the cheque from the PC Canada Fund, or whomever, simply was not sent to Mrs. Mulroney. Why is it that an employee had to go over to the PMO to pick it up?

Interestingly enough, the employee, who appeared before the committee, denied that he did this. However, another employee was occasionally asked to go and get the money when the chef was not available. There are people who witnessed this in the PMO. There are people in 24 Sussex who will testify to this. There are people who had interviewed this employee and have written transcripts of the conversations. There is no question that particular person was not truthful with the committee. We are not sure why, but there is a reason.

The amount of money involved is much more. In fact we found that about $20 million was made available with regard to the Airbus Industrie affair. Half of that was going to Canadian persons. None of the evidence was able to determine or to identify who got that money, but we did find some of the money, and it was clear where it was going.

I could spend a lot of time tantalizing you, Mr.Speaker, but I found it kind of interesting that things did not come out and it was because there was not much time.

One of the issues was about a gentleman by the name of Bruce Verchere. The committee did not do anything with regard to Mr. Verchere, but he seems to be a key player. Mr. Verchere was the manager of Mr. Mulroney's blind trust while he was the prime minister. Mr. Verchere's background would show he had developed a skill in hiding money and that he was involved with Panamanian shell companies and other offshore entities. Moneys would end up, ultimately, in two banks in Geneva, both specializing in wealth management and infinite discretion. He was an expert in hiding money.

We have not even looked at this. I do not know whether the RCMP ever looked at this. It is going to be difficult. There is some evidence. Not too long after the Mulroney Airbus settlement, I believe it was in August 1996, Mr. Verchere walked into his bathroom, put a shotgun into his mouth and blew his head off.

These things have happened.

Mr. Schreiber also testified that in the early 1990s Mr. Doucet asked him to send to Mr. Mulroney's lawyer in Geneva a portion of the secret commissions from the 1988 Airbus sale to Air Canada. Mr. Doucet denied the claim, calling it a fabrication. But Mr. Schreiber went on and told the committee that the Geneva lawyer was in fact Bruce Verchere. He was the lawyer. Mr. Mulroney may have been correct in saying he never had a lawyer in Geneva. He was from Montreal. He just happened to have accounts there.

All I can suggest is there are more questions than there are answers.

An absolutely astounding story was published in today's Globe and Mail. It is an interview with Senator Lowell Murray. He was the first minister to head up ACOA, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, when it was started.

On the day he was appointed, Mr. Mulroney gave him a file. What was the file on? The file was on Bear Head Industries and the building of this plant in Cape Breton to do those Thyssen vehicles. This is the plant and the project that the RCMP included in its list of well-tilled ground. This has just come out today.

We have brand new evidence. In fact, when we look at some of it, it is clear that this was a proposal that was important to Mr. Mulroney. It goes on. There is some great information.

I do not have time to go through it, but suffice it to say that things happened. For instance, Mr. Fred Doucet, who was working for the prime minister, suddenly left government after the Airbus contract was awarded, and within three months, on November 2, 1988, billed Karlheinz Schreiber $90,000 for professional services.

Frank Moores of GCI also, on the same date, billed Karlheinz Schreiber for $90,000. Gary Ouellet of GCI also billed $90,000 to Mr. Schreiber. Gerry Doucet, Fred Doucet's brother, also billed $90,000 for services. Then, GCI, as a lobby firm that was the linchpin in all of these activities, billed $250,000 on the same date.

That is $610,000 just three months or so after the Airbus contract was awarded, and paid on November 15, just days before the 1988 election was called.

These are not coincidences. It is not a coincidence that there is no paper trail, that cash was used, that thousand dollar bills were appearing everywhere, which have been described as falling from the trees.

We have an hon. senator, who knows nothing about what is going on, saying that these things were happening, and it was clear Mr. Fred Doucet was totally involved even though he told the committee he had no involvement with Bear Head. Senator Murray has now shown that Mr. Doucet was not truthful with the committee.

All that being said, I only have to conclude that the circumstances we are now passing over to Dr. Johnston and the public inquiry must be dealt with by a formal public inquiry under the public inquiries act, with subpoena powers, because it is very clear the people who are now engaged in this have been caught in lies and mistruths and have shown contempt for Parliament.

I do not believe we should tie a new commissioner's hands in any way. He should have an opportunity to be involved in determining the scope and terms of reference and he should be able to follow the money.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to seek unanimous consent to deal with the responses to Question No. 161, Question No. 183, Question No. 184, and Question No. 189.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House?

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Question No. 161, Question No. 183, Question No. 184, and Question No. 189.

Question No. 161
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

With respect to allegations of administrative error and erroneous advice under section 66(4) of the Canada Pension Plan, what are the statistics for the years 2004, 2005 and 2006 concerning: (a) the total number of allegations made; (b) the total number allowed in the client's favour; (c) the total number still pending; (d) the total number not allowed; and (e) the total number of clients who proceeded to Federal Court?

Question No. 161
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Medicine Hat
Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, in response to (a) through (d), statistics on investigations of allegations of erroneous advice and administrative error for the years 2004, 2005 and 2006 cannot be provided as they were not maintained since such investigations were considered part of regular business operations. However, steps are now being taken to ensure that these statistics are collected in the future.

In response to (e), the approximate numbers of Canada pension plan, CPP, section 66(4) cases which proceeded to the Federal Court for the fiscal years 2003-04 to 2005-06 are as follows:

Question No. 183
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

With respect to An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, the Wage Earner Protection Program Act and chapter 47 of the Statutes of Canada, 2005, assented to on December 14, 2007: (a) what steps must be taken for the government to issue an order of the Governor in Council for the sections of this act to come into force; and (b) what is the expected time frame for the government to issue the order of the Governor in Council?

Question No. 183
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, in response to (a), in respect to the insolvency provisions of Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, the Wage Earner Protection Program Act and chapter 47 of the Statutes of Canada, 2005, the act, there are numerous steps that need to be completed to issue an order of the governor in council for the sections of this act to come into force.

First, the necessary regulations must be in place. In this regard, the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy, OSB, must consult with stakeholders in order to draft regulations for the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, BIA, and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, CCAA. The OSB will need to prepare a regulatory package which includes the triage questionnaire, the regulatory impact analysis statement, the draft regulations, a communications plan, a supplementary note, a notice of pre-publication, a letter of transmittal addressed to the Assistant Clerk of the Privy Council, and a draft ministerial recommendation. Once the regulatory package has been approved by the Department of Justice and the Minister of Industry, it has to be approved by the Privy Council Office and Treasury Board, TB. The regulations need to be pre-published in part I of the Canada Gazette for a period of 30 days. The OSB will then need to update the regulatory package and include a draft order in council. Once the package has received approval, the regulations will need to be approved by the governor in council, registered, published in part II of the Canada Gazette.

In addition to preparing regulations under the BIA and CCAA, the OSB will need to amend forms and directives under the BIA, update their computer systems, and offer information to trustees in bankruptcy who are responsible for the day to day operations of the BIA. For the issuance of an order of the governor in council for the sections of this act to come into force, Industry Canada will also have to prepare an order in council package. After approval at the TB meeting, the order in council will need to be sent to the Governor General for signature. The order in council will be effective on the date set forth in the document.

In response to (b), certain transitional provisions of Bill C-12 came into force upon royal assent on December 14, 2007. However, most of chapter 47, as amended by Bill C-12, will come into force on a day or days fixed by the governor in council, which is expected to be within six to 12 months of royal assent of Bill C-12.

The OSB, which is responsible for regulations under the BIA and CCAA, requires this time to prepare regulations, revise certain directives, and revise forms and prepare new ones. In addition, the OSB needs to update their computer systems to implement the legislative reform. The OSB will also need to develop a new computer system to fulfill its role as depository for CCAA filings and to assist in the superintendent’s new role to oversee the conduct of monitors. Furthermore, the OSB will need to train their staff and offer information to trustees in bankruptcy who are responsible for the day to day operations of the BIA.

Question No. 184
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

With respect to An Act to establish the Wage Earner Protection Program Act, to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, assented to on November 25, 2005: (a) what steps must be taken for the government to issue an order of the Governor in Council for the sections of this act to come into force, specifically section 1; (b) what is the expected time frame for the government to issue an order of the Governor in Council for the sections to come into force, specifically an order of the Governor in Council for section 1 to come into force; and (c) what is the expected time frame for eligible workers to receive payments under the Wage Earner Protection Program provided for in the bill?

Question No. 184
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, in response to (a), there are a number of steps which must be completed before the Wage Earner Protection Program (WEPP) act and its amendments, Bill C-12, can come into force, most notably, the development and adoption of regulations.

In order to advance the regulatory process, the labour program, Human Resources and Social Development Canada, prepared draft regulations prior to the amending legislation receiving royal assent, but steps could not be taken to commence the formal regulatory process until after the amendments were adopted. The formal regulatory process involves targeted consultation with stakeholders to refine the draft regulations for the WEPP Act.

The regulatory package is then approved by the Department of Justice, DoJ, the Minister of Labour, the Privy Council Office, PCO, and Treasury Board, TB. The regulations must be pre-published in part I of the Canada Gazette for a consultation period to be established by TB. Following this step, the documents need to be revised taking into account comments received and then approvals must be obtained at all levels. Once approved by the governor in council, the regulations are registered and published in part II of the Canada Gazette. Lastly, the government will issue an order in council to proclaim the WEPP Act in force.

Work also remains to be done in preparation for the coming into force of the WEPP Act, for example, setting up automatic systems for processing applications. Furthermore, licensed trustees who administer the insolvency system, and who will play a role under the WEPP, will need to update their information technology systems to account for the legislative and regulatory changes.

In response to (b), the coming into force of the WEPP Act will depend upon the time it takes to finalize the regulations. Development and finalization of other recently adopted regulations by the labour program, such as the hazard prevention program, ergonomic, regulations, workplace violence prevention regulations, and the non-smoking health regulations each took about six months.

In response to (c), initial processing of applications for the WEPP will depend on when the legislation comes into force. Work is under way to ensure that initial processing of applications for the WEPP could begin in the summer of 2008. A fully automated system for processing applications is expected to be in place in autumn 2008.

Question No. 189
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

With regard to the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into certain events at the Prison for Women in Kingston: (a) how has the government provided action on the recommendations of the report; and (b) how will the government provide further action on the recommendations?

Question No. 189
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla
B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, in response to (a), the Correctional Service of Canada took the recommendations from the Arbour report very seriously; it was the catalyst for pervasive policy change throughout the organization and led to the strengthening of the organization’s focus on respecting the rule of law and accountability.

The report contained 14 main recommendations with over 100 subrecommendations that focused primarily on women’s corrections but had broad policy and management implications throughout CSC. The report broadly addressed issues such as human rights, segregation, the inmate complaints and grievances process, as well as the investigative process.

Various committees were convened to examine the findings and develop action plans to address the recommendations. Many recommendations were addressed immediately, or in the short term, while others required multi-year implementation. A prominent example of an action taken by CSC following the Arbour report’s recommendations was the creation of the Deputy Commissioner for Women, DCW, in June 1996. The DCW and the Women Offender Sector provide corporate expertise on women offender issues, and leadership on program and policy development and implementation.

In April 2006, the Women Offender Sector published the “Ten-Year Status Report on Women’s’ Corrections, 1996-2006” to coincide with the anniversary of the release of the Arbour report in 1996. The “Ten-Year Status Report” addresses the recommendations and changes that resulted from the Arbour Report as well as from subsequent major reviews since 1996.

CSC has made progress in addressing the unique needs of women offenders; however, an ever changing correctional environment requires constant organizational evolution. The service must therefore continue to improve approaches in order to ensure they are current, results focused and demonstrate the highest degrees of accountability. In this context, CSC is committed to meeting the needs of women offenders, while ensuring the protection of public safety.

In response to (b), CSC considers many of the recommendations put forth in the Arbour report that were either ‘accepted’ or ‘accepted in principle’, to be complete. For those recommendations identified in the status report as ‘ongoing’, the corrective actions undertaken have become an integral part of the way the service conducts its business on a daily basis. Nevertheless, the business of corrections is dynamic and work is continually under way to ensure the effectiveness of the women’s corrections system and strengthen the protection of Canadians.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the chair of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, for moving concurrence in the report from our committee today. As I remember, it was a very straightforward and simple report. It simply announced to the House of Commons that our committee had concluded the witness phase of the study into the Airbus Mulroney-Schreiber scandal, as it has come to be known.

First, I want to thank my colleague, the member from Mississauga, for the work he has done on that committee and for having the fortitude and the wisdom that it takes to be a good chair juggling a very difficult issue of national importance and of interest to the whole country. I think he has done a great service to Canadians by keeping an even keel on this study and making sure that it moved forward to its logical conclusion.

I would like to remark on a few of the points he made.

First, there is no excuse any more for the Government of Canada to postpone the full public inquiry that this report calls for. The Prime Minister said he did not want to begin the public inquiry because there might be overlap between witnesses that the ethics committee calls and witnesses that the public inquiry calls. We have finished with witnesses. We have announced that formally. Our chair stood in the House of Commons and made a public declaration. We are done. There is really no excuse or reason not to begin the public inquiry.

I will also say that there is no excuse for the Government of Canada to announce a very narrow public inquiry, limited, for instance, to just the cash payments given in hotel rooms to the former prime minister, because as recently as today, as my colleague points out, this ground that Dr. Johnston said has been well-tilled and adequately researched is still revealing new truths.

Just today, a senator in the current Parliament of Canada has revealed how important that Bear Head file was to the former prime minister, Mr. Mulroney, how it was key and paramount, and how it was the very first file given to him in the newly struck ACOA portfolio that he was given.

I have a simple question for my colleague. It is my view that no amount of bafflegab will ever take the stink off those sacks full of cash and secret hotel room meetings. There is no amount of excuses that the former prime minister can offer Canadians to defend that, but let me ask my colleague if it is not just as important that we go beyond the sacks full of cash and research the genesis of the scandal, which is Karlheinz Schreiber, an unrepentant Nazi, which is what the German media calls him, interfering with Canadian politics by buying our next prime minister.

That is shocking: the CEO of Airbus creating a prime minister and then having that prime minister buy airplanes from him. If that is not worth investigating, I do not know what is.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not disagree with the points made by the member.

We are going to have a public inquiry. The issue really is what form will it take. In his preliminary report, Dr. Johnston had given a range or a menu of options. Now that we have heard more witnesses than he heard previously, I think he may want to reconsider at least one of the points, and that is that the RCMP did a thorough, effective investigation of the facts.

Let us take one example. In his testimony in examination for discovery, Mr. Mulroney said that he barely knew Mr. Schreiber, that they had a coffee or two, when in fact if the RCMP had done a thorough investigation, and it even says in Dr. Johnston's report that the RCMP had knowledge of the cash payments, why did the RCMP not advise the Government of Canada at those proceedings in 2005 that Mr. Mulroney just lied in his discovery?

Why not? Does the RCMP not support the Government of Canada in its legal proceedings? This was a $50 million lawsuit. There was perjury there. Canadians are entitled to have that matter reconsidered. In fact, the justice minister of the day appeared before us and said that had he known those payments were made, it would have changed the way the case was approached. Canadians probably would not have had to pay that money.

I think there has been a presumption, somehow, that the RCMP has done a very good job so let us just assume everything the RCMP concluded. I do not think that is a valid conclusion. Errors were made. The ball was dropped.

New evidence has shown this even with regard to Senator Murray's testimony, as it were, through the media today in the Globe and Mail. It is very clear. This is brand new evidence and in fact brings into question the credibility of yet another witness who appeared before our committee to say that he knew nothing about it and had no involvement. Yet this is the same person who was sitting in the Pierre Hotel with Brian Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber when Mr. Mulroney apparently gave a one hour to one and a half hour report to Mr. Schreiber about his international work, which Mr. Schreiber says never happened.

When we ask Mr. Doucet if he knows who the prime minister met with in China, for instance--it is a pretty big country--he says he has no recollection.

Those are the kinds of situations that a formal public inquiry is going to have to deal with. There are people who have lied to the committee and lied to Canadians. The testimony is in contradiction at almost every spot.

It is very clear that to do this properly, to resolve it once and for all, we need a commissioner who is involved in determining the scope and terms of reference. We need to make sure that the commission has the powers to call for persons, papers and records by subpoena, and also that this commissioner has the full latitude and confidence that he will not go anywhere except where the material evidence leads him to determine the truth and nothing but the truth.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Ottawa South might want to look at the Chair as he formulates his question.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a member of Parliament in this House, I am shocked by what I have heard here from my colleague, the chair of the standing committee. It is more than disturbing.

In a question for my colleague, to paraphrase Mr. Mulroney himself, let me say that the government here, sir, has an option. It has an option and that is to proceed in an open, transparent way.

I would like to hear more from my colleague, more information, more shocking revelations, as we have heard from the senator today. I would like to hear more from my colleague to substantiate his call for a fully open, funded, properly empowered inquiry to get to the bottom of this, because I think it speaks directly to the whole question of the office of the prime minister and whether it has been brought into disrepute and sullied.

What exactly happened here? I really need to know more and I think Canadians deserve to know more as well. Perhaps I could put that question to my colleague.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Mississauga South has a minute and a half for his answer.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, when we asked for records there were no records. When we asked for banking documents we had trouble getting them.

The RCMP did investigations over a long period of time but when we asked the RCMP to share the information it had from its closed investigations, we were denied the information. Why? It said that the investigation may be reopened. Who is saying this to the RCMP? What information do they have? The RCMP has more information. There are more developments and the RCMP is doing further reviews. The details continue to come out.

Let me throw in some of the other facts. Thirteen of the fifteen members of the board of directors of Air Canada, then a crown corporation, were fired and replaced by Mr. Mulroney before the Airbus contract award. It is interesting to note that the president and CEO of Air Canada at the time, after the Airbus contract was awarded, retired. Where did he retire to? He retired to Telus, France, which happens to be the headquarters of Airbus Industries.

When we look at some of the details, everything that we touched looked like an impropriety, but the conclusion that continues to be reached by people is that there is no evidence. It is clear that there is substantial evidence that a full public inquiry should look into and I hope that we proceed--

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon., member. Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister for Western Economic Diversification.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale
B.C.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address the House on this subject.

It comes as a bit of a surprise that we are even having this discussion because I do not think anyone expected concurrence in this particular motion since the motion that we are here to debate is an extraordinarily small motion. In fact, it is quite unique I think in this chamber that we are having this debate at all.

I will give a bit of background. Our committee began its investigation into this matter last November after some spurious allegations were printed in the paper. At that point, the Prime Minister indicated that he would appoint someone to investigate the matter. He subsequently hired Professor Johnston to look at this issue and provide a report to the government that was later tabled in January.

However, not satisfied with the steps that the government was taking--

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. parliamentary secretary.

The hon. member for Hull—Aylmer is rising on a point of order.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would request that you check whether we have in the chamber the quorum required to continue.

And the count having been taken:

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I thank the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer. We do have quorum in the chamber.

The hon. parliamentary secretary has the floor to continue with his statement.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's vigilance, as he now leaves the chamber and the opposition is now vacant. It is quite ironic that they are calling for quorum when their own members are not even present.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. parliamentary secretary knows full well, as I explained yesterday, that we do not point out the absence or presence of members of the House.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

I apologize for that, Mr. Speaker. It seems ironic that the opposition is calling for a quorum call at this particular moment.

Before I was interrupted, I was providing some background as to how we got to this place. The Prime Minister had asked for Professor Johnston to provide a preliminary report but before Professor Johnston could complete his work, the opposition members took it upon themselves to force this matter on to the ethics committee.

The ethics committee had other issues that it was in the process of investigating. In fact, we had put forward some issues related to the Privacy Act that needed to be addressed urgently but all of these matters were set aside because of this matter that had come before the media and Parliament.

Seized with this new opportunity to investigate a 15 year old incident, the committee took upon itself the obligation of requesting witnesses and the first witness, of course, was Mr. Schreiber. We heard from Mr. Schreiber, I think, on four occasions, for a total of eight hours initially. He later came back and provided us additional testimony. Following that, we heard from Mr. Mulroney and then a number of other witnesses.

I want to note that throughout the entire time, at least at the point when we heard from Mr. Schreiber, it was apparent to government members that there was no evidence of wrongdoing, certainly at that point. The member opposite stated just a moment ago that there was substantial evidence of wrongdoing. In fact, he has declared that a number of the witnesses, without naming them, actually lied to the committee. I find that quite a surprising statement coming from the chair when he himself had the opportunity to confront those witnesses, had he chosen to do so, when they were before the committee.

Needless to say, based on the testimony that we heard, we reviewed the Parliament of Canada Act and the code of conduct that applied at the time and, based on the testimony we heard from Mr. Schreiber, there was no evidence of wrongdoing. However, the opposition insisted on inviting, initially I think it was close to 40 witnesses before the committee, but it later pared that down.

I need to note that Conservative members did not ask for any particular witness. We did not think it was appropriate to do so but we listened to the witnesses who were provided by the opposition.

We went through the scenario every Tuesday and Thursday for two hours, and sometimes double appointments in some meetings. We heard from witnesses who came before the committee and offered what they knew about the Mulroney-Schreiber affair. However, in not one instance did anybody offer anything of substance in terms of ethical wrongdoing.

The reason I can say that with such certainty is that with every witness who came before the committee, I or one of my colleagues dutifully asked the question of whether that witness had any evidence of any wrongdoing by any public official related to this matter. Not one of the witnesses provided such evidence and, in fact, not one of them could even refer to such evidence existing, whether the witness knew it or not. Each one of them, given the opportunity to clarify for Canadians whether they were aware of any evidence of wrongdoing, dismissed the question or denied having any evidence.

However, the committee persisted and we continued to listen, at least on my part, with some hesitation. I was always fearful and said from the very beginning that I thought this was going to turn into a political partisan witch hunt, which, at times, it certainly did, and at other times appeared to be a bit of a political circus.

This continued and we heard from all the witnesses. Mr. Schreiber came back after the other witnesses and had nothing new to offer, despite his claims to the media that he had documents that had not been released. We got to the point where we had heard from all the witnesses and the committee had to decide whether it would call more witnesses or call it a day and try to summarize its evidence.

At that point, the committee had a discussion and decided that enough was enough, that it would not call any more witnesses. The opposition admitted that it had dragged this on long enough and the committee notified witnesses and the chamber that no more witnesses were needed and that it would summarize the evidence.

The committee agreed to the third report of the ethics committee. It is very brief so I will take a minute to read it. It states:

The Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics has the honour to present its THIRD REPORT

Your Committee met on Thursday, February 28, 2008 to discuss the Mulroney Airbus settlement and agreed to the following recommendation:

As your Committee has now completed its examination of witnesses in this matter it recommends, as it did in its Second Report to the House; “That the Government immediately initiate a formal public inquiry into the Mulroney—Schreiber affair”.

Then it goes on to give some details of minutes tabled and that sort of thing.

This is the motion that we are now debating before this chamber. I find this quite ironic because concurrence in this motion is simply that. We are simply acknowledging that no more witnesses will be called. The silence behind this motion basically indicates that we will be putting together a report, which is exactly what we are doing right now.

We are taking the time to summarize the testimony that we heard from the witnesses and to compile the thousands of pages of documents that were submitted to our committee. We are putting them together so we can fulfill our responsibilities as members of this committee and provide this chamber with a summary, a conclusion or recommendations of what we heard in the four months of testimony that we had.

Why we are now debating this particular motion is rather ironic and perhaps unique to this chamber. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, you might know how often in the history of this chamber such a limited non-motion or non-report has been discussed. However, that is where we find ourselves.

I want to make a few more comments on why I think it is inappropriate for this committee at this point to even pretend that we have a report to discuss.

We are beginning to consider a draft report. It is many pages in length, simply summarizing the issues that we have heard and, as I said earlier, none of it has any evidence of wrongdoing. For the opposition to press this chamber to consider this issue, as it did two weeks ago, is a bit misplaced. I will explain why.

Two weeks ago we had an opposition day motion in this House where we debated whether or not the government should proceed with the public inquiry immediately. At that time I argued very strongly that because this committee had not finished its work it would be improper for us to do so.

Here we are again. This feels a little bit like Groundhog Day, where we are coming back to an issue that was addressed some weeks ago. The bottom line is that Professor Johnston has a mandate to provide recommendations to the Prime Minister as to the scope of a public inquiry. The Prime Minister hired him to do that and he has partially completed his responsibilities by providing an interim report in January. However, he cannot complete his report until he has seen the report that our committee is supposed to provide him.

We are in the process of working on that report but we are nowhere near completion. However, we do hope that in the next couple of weeks we will be able to complete it.

It is a bit nonsensical for the member opposite to suggest that the government proceed immediately to a public inquiry when it does not have the benefit of what our committee has put its hand to for the last four or five months. We have heard 25 to 30 hours of testimony from more than a dozen witnesses. It would be improper for the government or even Professor Johnston to recommend to the government the parameters of a possible public inquiry without the benefit of hearing from our committee.

Again, our job as committee members is not simply to listen to testimony and say, “okay, enough is enough, you guys go off and do the rest of the job for us”. We need to finish our work and for us to finish our work means that we need to compile the testimony and debate whether or not there are recommendations that the committee should make to the House. Perhaps there are some conclusions that we can draw.

Personally, I am quite skeptical as to whether or not there are any recommendations that we can make in light of the fact that there was no evidence of wrongdoing. I am also skeptical of the fact that we may not have any conclusions that we can provide for the very same reason.

Nonetheless, the committee has an obligation to fulfill its responsibilities and finish its work, and, hopefully, that will be done in the very near future.

However, for the party opposite to suggest twice within a two week period of time that it is imperative that the government proceed with this public inquiry before it has had the benefit of a report is a little bit nonsensical.

I would ask the opposition to perhaps put more forethought into its use of the time that this chamber focuses on this in the future. Nonetheless, we are here debating this issue. I think it is a bit hasty to suggest that the government proceed with this without that further information, but that is its purview.

I want to draw attention of the House some points that I made the last time we had this debate, because they are particularly relevant.

I remember telling this chamber about the mandate that was given to the independent adviser, Professor Johnston. The mandate assigned to the independent adviser included four areas: first, to conduct a review of the allegations concerning the financial dealings of Mr. Schreiber and the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney; second, to make recommendations as to the appropriate mandate for a full and public inquiry in these allegations, including the specific issues that warrant examination; third, to determine whether any prima facie evidence existed to suggest that criminal acts had taken place; and fourth, to indicate whether any additional course of action was appropriate.

To fulfill this mandate, the Prime Minister hired Professor Johnston, who is a very reputable individual. He is the president of the University of Waterloo. In fact, he has impeccable credentials, which are widely admired because of his considerable legal experience and expertise.

It should be noted that during the course of his career, Professor Johnston has served on numerous provincial and federal task forces and committees. He is therefore perfectly suited to fulfill this responsibility. However, nevertheless, I think it is improper for us to expect Professor Johnston to fulfill and to complete these responsibilities until he has had a chance to see our final report.

Again, here we have the opposition simply trying to manipulate the process when it is obvious to everybody who has been following this issue that this is not necessary. We are all confident that once our report is complete and Professor Johnston has had a chance to review our ethics report, he will make the recommendations that he chooses to make to the Prime Minister. At that point, the Prime Minister will look at those recommendations and make a wise decision, as he always does.

However, at this time, I have said all that is necessary to be said on this topic.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale.

Earlier, he said it felt like Groundhog Day. It certainly does. Does he know why? In fact, it is exactly like in the movie. As long as an individual has not developed an honest, responsible attitude, and figured out the proper way to behave, it is indeed like Groundhog Day, and that day just keeps starting over and over. That is what is in store for the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale.

On January 11, his leader, the Prime Minister, announced that a public inquiry would be called once the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics had completed its public hearings. He did say public hearings. Then, this member came and said that it would be called after the final report was tabled.

Let me ask him this. Once this final report has been tabled, will the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale once again contradict his leader and change the timing again or think up some new obstacle to holding a public inquiry?

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the member would ask this question. If I recall correctly, this was the same question she asked about two weeks ago when I spoke to the matter as well.

She misrepresents the facts. She is suggesting that the government made a commitment that it did not make. The government made a commitment to address this matter at the appropriate time, based on the recommendations of Professor Johnston.

Professor Johnston's mandate is clear, I spoke to it a moment ago. His obligation to the Prime Minister, not to this chamber, is to provide some recommendations as to the scope of an appropriate mandate for a public inquiry.

At no time did the government or the Prime Minister say that as soon as the committee had completed listening to witnesses, that they would proceed with a public inquiry. What the Prime Minister said, and this was affirmed by Professor Johnston, is once the committee had completed its work, or words to that effect.

Our work is not done until we submit a report to this chamber. To suggest otherwise is a bit offensive to the members who serve on the numerous committees in the House.

It is not our job to listen to witnesses and then once they are finished speaking, to say that our work is done. That is not the case at all. Our obligation is to listen to the witnesses, synthesize and consider the testimony we have heard. Once the witnesses have all departed the chamber, then we take some time to summarize the testimony we have heard, thankfully, with the able assistance of so many of the researchers on these committees. The researchers are able to help us with the draft of the testimony, summarizing the key issues.

Once that is all considered and we have had a chance to look at it, we put our minds to recommendations or to the conclusions that we have heard, things that we can share with the government based on our new-found expertise in a particular subject matter, things from which this chamber and this government can benefit from.

The member opposite is suggesting that we should not take the time to do any of that. Because we have finished hearing from witnesses, the government should immediately proceed with a public inquiry. That is a little irresponsible.

She is suggesting that her own contribution to our report would not be worth reading or listening to. That is an offence not only to me, but to her own contributions on this committee. She diligently works on other reports that are currently before our committee. In fact, she puts forward numerous motions, recommendations and amendments to the draft documents that we have considered from previous studies we have done.

Yet now she inconsistently suggests that the contributions she makes in one study should not be considered in another area of study. It is quite hypocritical for the member opposite to think that her contributions in the area of the Afghanistan report, which we are currently working on, are worthwhile and deserve the time to diligently make amendments, word by word, throughout the document. However, on this other study, she has nothing to add. In fact, she is making the assertion that no member should have an opportunity to review a report or to make edits or recommendations to a report. It is a bit hypocritical and ironic that the member makes such a statement.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the hon. member for his comments on the article in today's Globe and Mail, entitled, “How one file set of Schreiber's string of mystery payments”, “Mulroney's Atlantic minister speaks out on proposed arms plant”. I want to connect that to the rather curious statement by the hon. member that they had done everything they possibly could do at the committee and there were really no more questions to be answered.

The articles states, “Mr. Murray said he couldn't recall speaking about the factory with Mr. Ouellet”, Mr. Murray is Senator Lowell Murray, one of three Progressive Conservatives remaining in the chamber, “and he said he has a vague recollection of meeting with Mr. Moores”, who is the former premier of Newfoundland, “but said he couldn't remember the exact date”. It goes on to say:

Fred Doucet's only public comments about his role with the Bear Head project came in February when he testified before the House of Commons ethics committee. In his sworn testimony, the former Mulroney staffer was asked--when he started working for Mr. Schreiber. His answer--“I believe I got on the payroll in February of '90”--was 14 months after he issued his $90,000 invoice to Mr. Schreiber. When the contradiction was exposed in the media, Mr. Doucet's lawyer sent a letter to the committee apologizing and explaining that his client was “mistaken”--but neglected to explain how Mr. Doucet came to make that mistake.

Questions about what Mr. Mulroney knew about the commission deal, and why he selected the Thyssen file as the only file to hand Mr. Murray during his first day on the job remain unanswered.

The public relations firm handling inquires for the former prime minister declined to comment.

In December, Mr. Mulroney testified before the House of Commons ethics committee that he was “supportive of the project” but was never asked about the money that was funnelled back to Canada...

I am therefore a bit surprised that the hon. member seems to have no interest in speaking to Senator Murray at the committee, or Mr. Doucet, or Mr. Doucet's public relations firms, or Mr. Mulroney's public relations firms, or Mr. Mulroney's lawyer, or Mr. Mulroney again. It seems to me that the hon. member would prefer to know much less about this file than more.

I would be interested in his comments on this Globe and Mail article, which is quite an extensive article.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will certainly respond to my colleague's question, although I regret he has not had an opportunity to follow this matter as closely as perhaps he would have liked. Had he had that opportunity, he would know it was the opposition, his party in fact, that provided the list of witnesses. Perhaps he should be asking his own colleagues on the committee why they did not call Senator Lowell Murray as a witness before our committee.

In fact, they have called absolutely everybody else who could be considered. Why they did not include Mr. Murray, I am not sure. In fact, they called so many witnesses that they stretched the bounds of credibility by even calling the former chef of 24 Sussex Drive, Mr. François Martin, who, unfortunately for him, was put on the spot with nothing to offer to this committee. He did offer his recipes, but they were not really relevant to the study we were taking upon ourselves at that time.

However, if he has to question as to why Senator Murray was not invited, perhaps he could call on his colleagues to answer that very question.

My colleague from the Bloc earlier made a statement that suggested that the Prime Minister would call a public inquiry immediately once our committee had finished its work. I want to quote what the Prime Minister stated on January 11, which clarifies this matter. He stated:

I have also asked Professor Johnston to finalize his recommendations on the terms of reference for the public inquiry on an expedited basis once the Committee has completed its work. I am pleased that he has agreed to do so.

There we have it. Once the committee has completed its work, we will be in a position to have Professor Johnston provide recommendations to the Prime Minister. However, we have not completed our work yet. As I have said earlier, our work will be done when we have tabled the report to this chamber, which summarizes our testimony and perhaps includes some recommendations and conclusions.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, in response to the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, I must say that as I understand it, on January 11, the Prime Minister said that he would launch a public inquiry as soon as the committee wrapped up its hearings.

Furthermore, the Conservative Party's House leader repeatedly said in the House that he did not want to launch the public inquiry until we had finished our hearings, because he did not want two public hearings to overlap.

There is certainly no danger of that happening. Everyone knows that it can take six months from the time an inquiry is launched to the time it begins its hearings. In the case of the Gomery commission, it took seven months.

But those were just excuses. The Conservative Party seems to be using one excuse after another to delay the public inquiry for as long as possible. The Conservatives are doing everything they can to delay the inquiry, and they are doing it in the committee too. As Justice Gomery said—and this was reported in the papers this morning—if they have nothing to hide, why are they hiding?

I can see that I have very little time left and that I will not benefit from the regulation time, so I will move on to my conclusions. I will then return to the beginning of the argument I wanted to make.

Here is the most recent explanation I have heard: the money Mr. Schreiber paid to Mr. Mulroney was a private transaction, and none of the government's, the public's, the voters' or the taxpayers' business.

Canadians learned that their former Prime Minister had received $225,000 or $300,000 in cash from one of the most powerful lobbyists around. They learned that that same lobbyist had cashed in on a windfall of contracts that allowed him to collect $225 million in commissions, and those were just the commissions that he told the committee he had received. The contracts themselves were worth some $2 billion.

The $225 million was spread around to people in the former Prime Minister's entourage. Right after he left office, and perhaps even before then, Brian Mulroney began depositing cash into a bank account. People in my riding—if not those in South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale—cannot help thinking that the cash he deposited was received in return for services rendered while he was in office. That is why the transaction in question is not a private transaction, and that is why we have to look into this affair.

We have heard some contradictions. The member from Mississauga pointed out several of them. Indeed, there is a long, endless list of these contradictions, facts that do not add up and people playing tricks on one another. When there are so many contradictions, some light must be shed on them.

Furthermore, some light needs to be shed on the correspondence addressed to the Prime Minister's Office. We know that Mr. Schreiber sent some letters to the Prime Minster denouncing some of the facts that were heard during the hearings held by the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. Some light must also be shed on how that correspondence was managed within the current Prime Minister's Office.

Several things must be taken into consideration. Why did Brian Mulroney make this mistake? Why did he admit—mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa—that he had made the worst mistake of his life?

Here is what we must ask him: why did he make that mistake? Why did he accept so much cash from one of the most powerful lobbyists under his government? Why did he do it? What was clouding his judgment at the time? How did he rationalize it? What were his motivations?

He must be asked these questions. Brian Mulroney told us that Schreiber always paid in cash. Marc Lalonde told us the opposite. Mr. Lalonde, who is a former justice minister of this House, also added that it made no sense to sell armoured vehicles to China, as former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney claims was the case. Instead of correcting the negative perception of his actions, Mr. Mulroney tried to show that he did nothing illegal.

Brian Mulroney should have corrected that negative perception, but he was too busy showing us that he had done nothing illegal. He told us a preposterous story which did not add up.

This is about a contract, but what contract? The two parties do not agree on the nature of the contract. I have never seen such a thing; it is quite extraordinary. The parties do not agree on the amount of the contract. Obviously, one of the men is telling the truth, and the other is lying. One is talking about $300,000 and the other is talking about $225,000. Clearly, one of them is lying; that is the only explanation. One man said that he got the contract to travel the world, and the other man said that he awarded the contract for lobbying the Government of Canada. This is also rather unbelievable, because at that time, it was no longer a Conservative government. The two versions are unbelievable.

Furthermore, Brian Mulroney reported the money to the tax authorities five years later, when he started to worry that the truth would come out, because Mr. Schreiber was having legal problems and was facing extradition.

Brian Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber will have to provide solid evidence to prove that the money that changed hands, whether it was $225,000 or $300,000, was not a payment for services rendered or a thank you or a bribe for the contracts awarded to Karlheinz Schreiber by Brian Mulroney's Conservative government.

Taxpayers have a right to know whether or not their taxes directly or indirectly paid for commissions so that large corporations could obtain government contracts. They have the right to know whether these taxes then helped pay—too much—for airplanes or helicopters or anything else as part of the contracts obtained by Mr. Schreiber. As I said earlier, all the contracts obtained between 1984 and 1993 by Karlheinz Schreiber totalled at least $2 billion, which would be $225 million in commissions. And those are the amounts we have been told about; we do not know about the rest.

A public inquiry must be launched as quickly as possible, with as broad a mandate as possible, and it must absolutely require proof. Brian Mulroney will have to testify, and this time, he will have to do so under oath.

Back now to the contract I mentioned earlier. The Mulroney-Schreiber contract was dealt with as if there was something illegitimate about it. The very nature of the contract was questionable. Both explanations that were given are equally unbelievable.

In addition, Brian Mulroney contended that he had the approval of his law firm to accept contract work as a sideline, so to speak. I realize that may not be the proper term, but it says what I want to say. We asked him how come his law firm would allow him to accept such contracts, such sideline work. He told us he was allowed to do so and would provide us with the contracts signed with his firm. We have asked him on several occasions to produce them and, eventually, a sheet of paper with a single paragraph, and a very vague one at that, was produced. There was no proof that this paragraph on a sheet of paper was part of a legitimate contract between the firm and Brian Mulroney and that the clause in question was indeed in effect at the time when Brian Mulroney accepted money from Karlheinz Schreiber.

The public inquiry will have to demand from Brian Mulroney's legal associates office that they provide the actual contract and scrutinize it to determine whether that clause is indeed part of the contract and was in effect at the time when Brian Mulroney was accepting contract work outside his law firm.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings on the motion at this time. The debate on this motion is deferred to a later sitting. When we resume consideration of the report R-72, there will be 10 minutes left for the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert to finish her presentation and 10 minutes allocated for questions and comments.

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from February 7 consideration of the motion.

Status of Women
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to debate Motion No. 400, which asks the Government of Canada to include equality in the mandate of the women's program at Status of Women Canada.

As hon. members know full well, our government has already included the word “equality” in the mandate of the women's program at Status of Women Canada. I know some opposition members were surprised by this announcement, when the minister appeared in committee, but it is the reality.

I have to admit that I do not really understand why we are still debating this motion, when it has already been rendered obsolete. The word “equality” is, as I said, included.

I am a member of the standing committee and I recall a question that the member for Beaches—East York put to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages during her appearance. She asked:

Are you saying that you've now changed the policy and you've put the word “equality” back in the mandate? That's what I understood you to say.

The minister responded with the word, “Exactly”.

Yet, here we are debating a motion asking that the focus of the women's program be equality. So, what do the opposition members do? They change their minds.

Through the shock and surprise of the minister's words at that committee, the opposition members decided that what they really meant was to say that equality means advocacy, and groups that receive funding for advocacy.

Indeed, the raison d'être of Status of Women Canada is the advancement of equality of women in Canadian society. As a country, Canada has a strong legal framework for protecting human rights and this foundation has provided a fertile ground for promoting equality, including equality for women.

The women's program at Status of Women Canada reflects this legal foundation. It focuses on promoting the equality and full participation of women in the economic, social and democratic life of Canada. Equality for women and their full participation are not only important for women, their families and their communities but also for the country.

In the future, to ensure Canada remains one of the most prosperous countries in the world, we must increase the participation of women in the workforce and fully support their career choices. Canada's population is aging. During the next two decades it is predicted that the ratio of older persons to active workers in Canada will increase by some 20%. Most of those people will be women.

More than ever, we will need strong female leaders to keep our country strong, economically, socially and as a democracy. Having more women in the labour force, including older women, will fuel economic growth and productivity gains in the long term, and that benefits all Canadians.

It is because our government remains committed to equality that we fully support this motion. But actions speak louder than words. In December 2007 our government amended the terms and conditions of the women's program at Status of Women Canada to include equality.

In support of this noble goal, the women's program provides financial and professional assistance to organizations. Organizations in turn carry out vital projects that improve women's lives at the local, regional and national levels. The projects selected for funding focus on key areas, such as women's economic status, violence against women and girls, and all of this within an accountable and transparent framework.

Strengthening the women's program at Status of Women Canada is just one of our government's impressive list of accomplishments that are improving the lives of women across this land. Included in this list is this government's increase in the women's program budget to $20 million, an increase of 76%, the highest level ever.

This is proof positive of our confidence in the program's work and our commitment to achieving results for women. With the creation of two new funding components, the women's program is poised to continue to achieve results for women directly in their respective communities throughout the country.

As a result of the first call for proposals, which took place in June 2007, $8 million in funding has been distributed to 60 projects across the country through the women's program. Over 260,000 women and girls will benefit from these projects.

These projects will address everything from the barriers they face, help to teach them about violence prevention, educate them on how to achieve better financial literacy, and encourage cooperative peer support networks.

The second call for proposals took place in November of last year for the women's community fund. We received a record number of proposals with a total of 342 proposed projects. Of these projects, 107 have been accepted and will best achieve results for women by promoting women's economic security and prosperity, health and safety, and ending all forms of discrimination and violence against women.

With the newly added convenience of online application forms, the women's program can reach more organizations than ever. With the funding of the women's program now being at its highest level ever, the number of proposals receiving funding and the number of new organizations accessing funding is growing. The best news is that the number of women expected to benefit directly increases as well.

All projects funded must support the advancement of all women in Canada, and that is exactly where equality comes in. It is a complex legal concept, but it lies at the very heart of what Canadians hold dear and what Status of Women Canada is working to achieve.

In recent months women's program funding has supported invaluable projects. For example, in the Atlantic region one project will result in a strategic model for mentoring and intergenerational consultation dealing with the obstacles faced by younger and older women who live in official language minority communities.

A project in the Ontario region will result in the development of tools, training, mentoring and networking programs for aboriginal women, immigrants, older women, and members of racial minorities who are trying to establish their own businesses based on microskills.

In the western and northern regions there is a project to develop a program that community groups and governments can use to support female sex trade workers during their transition to a new and better life.

These initiatives, focusing on the economic security of women, will provide meaningful results for women and girls today and in the future. They will bring about real and lasting change. They represent a rapid increase in opportunities for women and girls to participate in the life of their communities and their country, and to enjoy a life that offers financial security and the freedom that brings.

In other words, they advance equality for women who might otherwise continue to face disadvantage, discrimination, poverty and violence as daily realities.

As announced in the last budget, over the next year we will develop an action plan that will advance the equality of women across Canada through the improvement of their economic and social conditions and their participation in democratic life.

In addition, we will be fostering the participation of women in leadership and decision-making bodies. Women's participation in governance bodies in Canada is vital to achieving enhanced economic prosperity now and in the future.

An organization's actions should accurately reflect its goals. With equality now included in the mandate of the women's program, the mandate, actions and goals of the women's program once again reflect a synchronicity that is fitting and makes sense.

Status of Women
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was listening very carefully to the hon. Conservative member for Simcoe North and I must say that there is a big difference between what he says and what he does, as Status of Women Canada would certainly agree.

I would like to commend my colleague from Laval, who explained the Bloc Québécois position so well during the first hour of debate on this motion by the hon. member for London West, whom I would also like to congratulate for her motion on promoting the status of women, a motion that is totally non-partisan. I would like to congratulate both hon. members.

In the days following International Women's Day, I must say that it worries me deeply to sit in this Parliament under a Conservative government. I was elected almost four years ago and I have never had to make so many speeches to promote the status of women. This is unusual. I feel like the rug is being pulled out from under us.

It seems to me that this Conservative government is attacking the promotion of the status of women. Some attacks are obvious. The most obvious, of course, are the cuts made to Status of Women Canada, so that the organization would stop promoting the status of women. There have been many other attacks. The most recent is Bill C-484, introduced by a Conservative member, a legislative measure that greatly concerns me. The bill has to do with unborn victims of crime. Under the pretense of protecting fetuses and protecting women, it would give a legal status to the fetus. This could mean sending women to prison for having an abortion. It would turn back the clock on women's rights by decades.

I am surprised that, as I speak here today in 2008, I am forced to defend women's equality, to defend women's bodies and to tell men they must stop trying to legislate on women's bodies. They cannot simultaneously be a legal entity and have another legal entity inside them. That is schizophrenia. I say this jokingly, but I am really very worried.

As the labour critic, I would simply like to draw the House's attention to some of the elements in the Bloc Québécois platform that improve the living conditions of women working under federal jurisdiction. In Quebec, the status of women is not under threat as it is in this Parliament and working women have privileges not enjoyed by women working under federal jurisdiction. Among others, the anti-strikebreaker legislation significantly reduces the number of person days lost due to labour disputes. There is also the protective reassignment of pregnant women. If we truly wish to protect women and their unborn children, we must support this measure. It allows a woman working in a factory or workplace that is unhealthy for her or her fetus to leave her employment early and to be paid under the protective reassignment program, without affecting her maternity leave. That is what is currently happening at the federal level. That is what this Conservative government is forcing on all women working in the public service, in ports, airports or telecommunications.

In addition, women earn less than men. I have the statistics and I have provided them many times. I believe everyone is aware of this.

As I said earlier, the anti-strikebreaker legislation and protective reassignment are very important measures in support of working women.

I do not wish to take up too much time but I do wish to reiterate my concerns about this Conservative government that is causing the status of women to be eroded.

Status of Women
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to support the motion presented by the member for London West. I know that she is very committed to women's equality and has fought for that. Therefore, I am pleased, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, to support her motion.

I am assuming that the motion will get support from all members of the House. As we know, because of the outcry that has happened across the country and because the Conservative government took out the mandate of equality from Status of Women Canada, it has now had to rethink its position.

Based on the massive opposition from women's organizations across the country, the minister responsible for the Status of Women has finally agreed that equality will go back into the mandate of the Status of Women.

Therefore, that is a victory and it is a victory for all of the women's organizations and members of the House who pushed back on the government and said that it was completely unacceptable that equality be taken out of the Status of Women mandate.

Having said that, I want to focus on what this issue of equality for Status of Women in Canada means. As we just celebrated International Women's Day, I think it is important to note that while we have won equality in a legal sense, equality in a real sense, day to day in terms of programs and services and the wage gap, and equality in terms of access to the law are still things that are being fought for.

For example, when we look at the wage gap that still exists in this country, the Canadian Labour Congress has produced excellent information that is really quite shocking. It shows us that women working full time all year still make only 70¢ for every $1 men earn. For racialized women it is even worse. It is 64¢. For aboriginal women it is 46¢. In fact, the gender pay gap in Canada is even bigger than the wage gap in the United States and that may surprise some people.

What was most shocking to me to learn from this information is that by age 51 women's average income in this country is only 41% of the average income for 51-year-old men. That is truly appalling to know that, after years of striving for women's equality, we are still so far behind.

We have further evidence of the struggle and what needs to be done by looking at the last federal budget. In fact, at the parliamentary committee on the Status of Women just a couple of days, March 13, Kathleen Lahey, who is a professor at the Faculty of Law at Queen's University, pointed out in her presentation that the only reference to women in the budget had to do with the fact that $20 million was allotted to the Status of Women to develop an action plan for women.

However, when we examine this, we find out that the $20 million that has been allocated in the Conservative budget is actually $4 million less than Status of Women Canada received in the year 2002-03.

Therefore, we are not even keeping pace with the cutbacks that have happened over a number of years in terms of this department fulfilling its responsibilities for the equality of women in Canada.

If we take that number of $20 million and apportion it out for the number of females in Canada, Professor Lahey pointed out that it amounted to $1.21 per woman and child in Canada. That is what women's equality is worth to the government in the budget. That is something that we find quite outrageous and one of the reasons that we voted against the budget.

Another benchmark to see whether or not we are actually meeting the goal of equality for women is to again look at the budget to see what is happening with some of the tax cuts. Again from the professor's analysis, corporate income tax rates have been established and the Conservative government, with the support of the Liberals, has rolled back corporate taxes. This means a loss of about $60 billion in public revenues. Professor Lahey points out that low income individuals, most of whom are women, now pay higher income tax rates than even large corporations.

So much for this gender analysis in the budget because when we strip it all away and look at the numbers, we can see the impacts of cuts and that the tax load is disproportionately being carried by women and in particular low income women.

The corporate income tax cuts “shift the overall tax burden onto low-income individuals at the same time they drain revenues needed to redress growing gender disparities”. That is from Professor Lahey's brief.

I believe that in passing this motion today we should see it as a step forward, but we should recognize that we have a huge struggle here in terms of attaining equality for all women in Canada. I am very proud to say that in the NDP we have a very strong action plan, “Fairness for Women”, which covers everything from political representation to violence against women, pay equity, programs and services, support for women, and child care.

These are the basics that we need to see happen. When we look at a federal budget, we see that there are some very basic choices made by any government when it brings in a budget. Clearly, in the last budget that we saw, those choices were made in favour of people who already have very significant resources. It was a budget that clearly said the government does not care about women in this country and is leaving them behind.

Like my colleague from the Bloc, I have to say that along with other women in this House I was truly dismayed that the private member's bill, Bill C-484, passed through this House a few days ago. We see this as an absolute attack on women's equality and on reproductive rights. It was a bill brought in by a Conservative backbencher. It is clearly a back door way of trying to unravel the decades of struggle for women's equality in this country, for reproductive rights and for choice on abortion. I know that from the emails and messages that I got from across the country, people could not believe that today we are still in this battle to uphold those rights.

Today we are debating this motion to insert the word “equality” in the mandate of the status of women department, and of course that is essential. It is symbolic. It is the whole essence of what that work is all about, but while we do that, and while I have no doubt that this motion will pass today, please let us be committed and understand the reality that women in this country, particularly low income women, immigrant women, racialized women, aboriginal women, and women with disabilities, are struggling for their lives. They are struggling for dignity. They are struggling to have the basic necessities of life, whether it is housing, education, a living income, access to programs and the legal system, and so on.

On behalf of the NDP, we are very pleased to support this motion. I want to congratulate the member for bringing it forward. It is an important motion. We want this Parliament to speak with one clear voice and say that women's equality must be part of the status of women program and mandate. It could not be otherwise. We could not let this go unchallenged. I am thankful to the member for bringing it forward.

However, let us be clear that we have many other struggles and issues to face to ensure that women's equality truly is living and breathing in this country.

Status of Women
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Diane Marleau Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to be speaking today to support the motion of my colleague from London West.

Since this motion was tabled, the government did hastily add the word “equality” back into the mandate of Status of Women Canada. However, we are not sure that is worth very much, because we really do not think the Conservatives get it.

The clock was turned back in 2006 when the Conservative government removed the word “equality”. The government removed it from the funding guidelines of the women's program. After taking a quick look at the status of women website, one can see that this year's International Women's Day theme was “Strong Women, Strong World”.

Status of Women Canada's website states, “This theme draws in part from one of the fundamental beliefs underlying the modern woman's movement, that a woman's place in society marks the level of civilization of that society”. How ironic is this given the government's actions that have hurt the advancement of women so much?

For example, there is the issue of denying funding to groups that advocate for women's equality. The Conservatives do not get it.

There was the dismantling of the court challenges program. Again, they do not get it.

There was the decimation of the policy and research unit in the status of women department, another big problem, and there was the closure of 12 of the 16 regional status of women offices across Canada.

Taken collectively, these actions deny women access to services and support that would help improve their lives and those of their families.

The Conservative government is in denial about the place of women in our society. It hides behind the fact that in law women are equal to men in all aspects. No one disputes this fact, but equality under the law does not translate into equality in everyday living.

The statistics are clear: women get paid less than men; women are more likely to be victims of violence; and women are undeniably under-represented at all levels of government, including local, provincial and federal.

They are the hardest-hit victims of poverty in our society, yet the Conservative government continues to ignore the status of women in Canada.

The government has a role to play in ensuring that women are full participants in all aspects of our society: economic, social, political and cultural. This is why the Liberal government in the 1970s established Status of Women Canada: to help women overcome the challenges and barriers they face in their lives.

However, in September 2006, the Conservative government cut $5 million from the Status of Women Canada in what was called at the time “an effective savings exercise”, claiming that these funds were an inefficient use of taxpayers' dollars. I remember at the time hearing the minister responsible actually wonder what was the use of this money, because, after all, it was only going to pay for phones and things like that. That shows a big lack of understanding.

As a result of these cuts, 61 of 131 staff positions were eliminated and 12 of the 16 regional offices that provided assistance to local women's organizations were closed. The policy research fund, a highly successful program that funded independent, high quality research about policy affecting women's equality, was disbanded.

What is a little sad to realize is that while the government has been cutting research and funding for advocacy for women and for women's groups, it certainly has not cut funding for advocacy and research for national defence. National defence directly funds all kinds of advocacy and all kinds of research in support of national defence. I am not saying that is wrong, but why cut the same programs that help women who really need the help? It has to be because the Conservatives do not get it.

At the same time as the cuts, the government announced new terms and conditions for the women's program, which is the main vehicle used to fund projects. These changes included removing the word “equality” as one of the goals of the women's program. We do know that they now have put the word back, but it is only a cosmetic thing, I believe. The government was denying funding to any women's organization that undertakes advocacy activities, restricting capacity building in organizations, except under very special and narrow circumstances, and opening up the women's program to the for profit organizations.

In March 2007, the government claimed this measure was never meant to be a cutback, that is, the cutting back of the $5 million, despite having said so earlier. It announced that the $5 million in savings would be transferred to the women's program, which was being divided into two components: the women's community fund and the women's partnership fund. The women's community fund will support projects at the local, regional and national levels, and the newly created women's partnership fund is, the government says, an enhancement to the existing grant program.

However, since the introduction of the new terms and conditions put in place by the Conservative government, the women's program no longer supports projects that seek to promote women's equality. In other words, there is money available, but not to equality seeking organizations that do advocacy work. But remember, the Conservatives are still funding for profit groups. It is a little sad to see that happening, because for profit groups generally do not need the money, but the other groups, which are always begging for anything, are not going to get any funding.

The March 2007 federal budget gave Status of Women Canada $20 million over two years. But it is not clear how that money is to be distributed. Perhaps we should ask the government for an accounting.

The Conservative government refuses to admit that it has done irreparable damage to the status of women by preventing Canadian women from playing an equal role in all recommendations or initiatives affecting all aspects of our society.

Why is this happening? Because the Conservatives just do not get it. Maybe it is because there are not enough women as part of its caucus. I am sure the women understand that they are not strong enough to influence the thinking of the Conservative caucus.

Women work differently than men. They work collegially. They test ideas to ensure that they work, that they are sound and valid. Status of Women's offices, for example, were places where women could meet and work together to advance their cause. It is a shame that vehicle has been shut down for many women.

I would ask that the government follow the example set out by the Liberal women's caucus, which came out with two studies on a number of policies. We went across the country asking for advice and opinions. We did not formulate it by itself. We did it collegially, with women across the country.

I ask all members to please support the motion for true equality, not just with words but with real actions.

Status of Women
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank every party in the House for participating in this debate. It is an important discussion that our country needed.

I was very affected as were all women and the men who were supportive of women, when back in 2006 the mandate of the Status of Women changed and the word “equality” was removed. The word was not put back because the Conservative Party felt different about equality.

I have already had my opportunity in the first hour of debate to give my full speech. However, when I tabled this motion, it was because the equality provision was not there. In fact, I attended the meeting of the Standing Committee on Status of Women, on February 5 , when the minister gave her opening remarks, of which I have a copy. Again, there was no discussion and certainly no press announcement of change, no announcement of this happy news.

On that date, the face page of the website of the Status of Women had changed. My first hour of debate was February 7. On the morning of February 7, I came to Parliament and turned on the computer to check whether anything had really changed. If anyone went to the women's program that day, the program mandate read:

The mandate of the WP is to facilitate women's participation in Canadian society by addressing their economic, social and cultural situation through Canadian organizations.

It continues, but there is no mention of the word “equality”.

I was to speak a few hours later. A couple of hours before I spoke, I went to the website and the program mandate miraculously said:

The newly revised mandate of the Women's Program is to advance the equality of women across Canada through the improvement of their economic and social conditions and their participation in democratic life.

There we have it. There was a change, but real change has to be followed through with real guidelines, real programs, real financing and advocacy for equality is an important part.

The government has put the word back in now, thankfully. I do not think it would have happened without this motion. I do not think it would have happened without the voices from women of every party and women's organizations on the ground fighting for this.

However, to make it real, to make it worthwhile, to make it something that actually changes the status quo, advocacy and research for equality is important. I hope the government does not demean this. It is important enough when there is lobbying from the military establishment. It gets dollars for that. It cannot say that is not important, and I do not disagree with that. However, I also think advocacy for equality is vital if we are to do more than just help people manage with the status quo.

If we want real change in our country, the women in these halls, in this chamber and out there on the ground, who work in not for profit organizations, need to know that a government will stand behind them, that it really wants equality of women to be the goal. The women's program is certainly not the only thing, but it is one thing that can help. If the government has put the word “equality” back in, it should follow through with the advocacy so women can have a better life in Canada.

I thank all who have spoken on this. I appreciate their work and support. However, it is not for me; it is support for the women of our country.

Status of Women
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The time provided for debate has expired. Accordingly, the question is on the motion.

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

Status of Women
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Status of Women
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

(Motion agreed to)

Status of Women
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It being 2:07 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, March 31 at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:07 p.m.)