House of Commons Hansard #59 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Fisheries
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The Chair has received a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

I am now ready to hear his arguments.

Fisheries
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 52, I request an emergency debate on the agreement on subsidies and countervailing measures, which the World Trade Organization is discussing in relation to fisheries subsidies.

The situation is critical. There are texts circulating that call for the prohibition of subsidies, which would threaten the future of the fishery not only in Quebec, but in Canada. The texts mention subsidies in three areas. The first is infrastructure. As hon. members know, without wharves, there is no fishery. If we do not subsidize infrastructure, the future of the fishery is in danger.

One text mentions that the prohibition might apply to subsidies for the purchase, renovation and restoration of fishing boats. As in the case of infrastructure, without fishing boats, there is no fishery, because companies depend on financial assistance.

The third area is income support. As hon. members are aware, this could affect employment insurance.

Negotiations are under way at the WTO, and texts are being produced as a result. It is important and urgent that we discuss these texts now, in order to verify the nature and scope of the mandate given to our chief negotiator and to find out the government's position on this urgent and important issue.

Fisheries
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I have considered the hon. member's request. I have read the letter he wrote me, and I have also heard his arguments this morning. In my opinion, this is not an urgent matter at this time. I am therefore refusing his request.

However, I should mention that I have received a notice from the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons indicating that tomorrow will be an opposition day, and I believe that it is the turn of the member's party to choose the motion that will be debated tomorrow. If this is an urgent matter, perhaps he can persuade his colleagues to introduce such a motion, and we will have the whole day tomorrow to debate this issue.

In my opinion, I must leave this in the members' hands for the time being. That is my decision.

Proceedings in Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

March 4th, 2008 / 10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday another colleague in the House rose on a point of order involving the mandate of a committee. I thought it might be helpful to the Chair if I provided a few more remarks which I felt yesterday were not fully addressed.

The question involves the operation of a committee and whether the committee is operating within its mandate and whether or not a committee when it drifts outside of its specific mandate should be communicated with by the House in some way.

I know, Mr. Speaker, you are reluctant and naturally so to interfere with the work of committees. They generally do a pretty good job of carrying on the work that is delegated to them by the House.

The first thing I want to mention of course is the very basics here, the rules of the House. Mr. Speaker, you will know very clearly that the work of the committees is set by orders of reference and Marleau and Montpetit fortunately speak to this fairly clearly. I am not too sure I have to read Marleau and Montpetit, but I will refer to the page numbers just for reference here in the discussion.

On page 853 it states: “The Standing Orders provide standing committees with permanent orders of reference--” and on page 854, the authors write: “Committees are bound by their orders of reference and may not undertake studies or make recommendations to the House which go beyond the limits established by them”.

In this case the particular committee is the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. That particular committee has adopted a motion the contents of which were made available to the House yesterday which purports to, and I will just use the short form here, “investigate the fundraising practices of the Liberal Party”.

That motion of the committee which was adopted has been provided to the House and, Mr. Speaker, if you want me to read it I can, but I probably do not have to.

Mr. Speaker, you are indicating that I should read it. The motion that was adopted states:

That pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(a) in relation to the conflicting reports about the fundraising practices of the Liberal Party, the committee investigate the fundraising practices of the Liberal Party of Canada, which - as evidenced by such recent events as, the February 13, 2008 Fundraising Auction at the Ottawa Congress Centre, the “Stéphane Dion’s Liberal Leaders Dinner” event of February 21, 2008, which accepted corporate money though the federal branch of the Liberal Party of Canada in Saskatchewan, the Halloween Spooktacular Carnival in Mississauga-Streetville of October 26th, 2007, which accepted corporate sponsors, and other prior events - potentially violate the Canada Elections Act by encouraging and allowing personal donations in excess of $1,100 dollars, as well as allowing and encouraging political donations from corporations, unions and associations.

Essentially, it is a Canada Elections Act fundraising focus. Mr. Speaker, you will be the judge of what that appears to be.

In adopting the motion, I am suggesting that the members have gone way beyond the mandate of the committee. The committee's mandate is contained in the Standing Orders. It does not have any specific other reference or guidance from the House in terms of its order of reference.

Mr. Speaker, if you read the order of reference from Standing Order 108(3)(h), you will find that there is really only one sub-category, 108(3)(h)(v) and (vi), which could in any way relate to what the committee is now purporting to do. I will just read subparagraph (vi):

the proposing, promoting, monitoring and assessing of initiatives which relate to access to information and privacy across all sectors of Canadian society and to ethical standards relating to public office holders;

I would accept that if the proposed work of the committee had to do with public office holders there might be a connection. But in fact, the term “public office holders” is defined by the Conflict of Interest Act. It is defined in the definition sections of that statute and does not have a particular section number. However, it is clear that the Liberal Party of Canada is not a public office holder. Public office holders are generally appointees of the government: ministers and parliamentary secretaries.

The focus of the committee's motion here is the Liberal Party of Canada. It is not a public office holder, so there is no reasonable reading of these rules that would allow the committee a mandate to do this type of inquiry.

I suggest that if the committee can clearly go beyond its mandate, then the committee can look at the fundraising efforts of the United Nations Children's Fund in Canada, the National Citizens' Coalition, charitable and political action groups across the country, and it might as well just go and study the Department of National Defence or the employment insurance fund. Once the committee goes beyond its mandate, it is simply beyond its mandate.

The point I want to try and make very clearly here is that the House should not allow its committees to do that. That would seem to be obvious. When a committee appears to be going beyond its mandate, I believe the House leadership should take steps to re-calibrate the committee's focus to ensure that the committee stays within its mandate.

I am suggesting that this committee is on the verge of going rogue. In this particular case, the committee overruled its own chair. The chair believed that this motion and this field of study was beyond the committee's mandate, and ruled it that way. The committee members overruled the chair. That is what I am told. I believe this is a very clear case.

Just as another benchmark, the procedure and House affairs committee, which does have a mandate to look at the Canada Elections Act and financing and fundraising of political parties, is currently doing a study on the issue of political party fundraising. So it is not as though the issue of political party fundraising is not covered in the Standing Orders. It is very clearly part of the mandate of the procedure and House affairs committee.

I am going to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to either make a ruling on this for the guidance of the House and the committee or, in collaboration with the House leaders or the members of the committee, effect some form of reconsideration of their decision to embark on this particular field of study simply for the purpose of following the rules of the House which are fairly flexible but clear, in this case.

I think your guidance to the committee would be very helpful in allowing the committee to get on and do the work it is supposed to be doing.

Proceedings in Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I have a question for the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River. Does he have any precedent where a Speaker has made a ruling to indicate that a committee has exceeded its jurisdiction?

Proceedings in Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very sorry that I do not. It is not something that appears to have happened a great deal. I must say I have not spent hours and hours of research, but I did take a look at the usual sources and did not find this.

It would seem to me to be pretty obvious. If we simply follow the wording in Marleau and Montpetit, which attempts to package all of the historic precedents, we follow here in the House a rule of law and a committee has to stay within its mandate.

In this particular case, should the committee embark without a mandate, it would be in keeping for a person invited or summoned to the committee to simply say, “I am sorry, I do not hear you, Mr. Committee Chair because you are operating outside your mandate. You are rogue. You are not following the rule of law. I might just as well respond to a television reporter than respond to a committee that is clearly operating outside its mandate”.

I will accept any reasonable linkage of the mandate to this particular study, and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you would too. I am sorry that I just do not have a really useful bang-on precedent that would serve at this point.

Proceedings in Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for revisiting a point of order that was first raised yesterday by the member for Mississauga South.

I would like to reiterate some of the arguments that I presented yesterday. The overriding issue is that there has been a long standing practice in this place for the Speaker not to interfere with the business of any individual committee.

Committees themselves, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, are masters of their own fate and of their own agenda. I would suggest even further to that, when my hon. colleague suggested they are exceeding their mandate, he is in fact asking you to prejudge, before this committee has even demonstrated a linkage to its mandate with this issue, and trying to stop this investigation from happening.

Clearly, the official opposition has some fears perhaps about an examination of its own advertising practices and its own books, and perhaps this is why it is trying to quash the motion right now.

I would point out that if in fact it did not have a difficulty with this, it would have accepted the motion from the procedure and House affairs committee in which the Conservative Party, the government, had suggested that a thorough examination of all political parties and their advertising practices, fundraising included, be engaged, but the opposition party has rejected that motion.

It seems slightly disingenuous for any member from the party opposite to suggest that they have nothing against the motion but perhaps it is just in the wrong committee because it exceeds the mandate of one committee when it should rightfully be within the purview and the mandate of another committee.

They have rejected the procedure and House affairs committee's motion to do exactly what the ethics committee is attempting to do.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would point out to you that there have been many times in the past where there has been an overlap of responsibility between committees. I think we all know for an example that some subject material could be examined in the defence committee or it also could be examined in the foreign affairs committee.

There seems to be to me a very obvious linkage between ethical practices of political parties and their fundraising practices, as well as perhaps the procedure and House affairs committee that has a direct mandate to deal with this.

It seems to me perfectly legitimate for the ethics committee to engage in this motion and study. I do not believe it is outside of its mandate, but more importantly, and I keep coming back to this, the primary issue here is whether or not the Speaker should be interfering with a decision made by committee members.

I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that it is not appropriate for you to do so. It would be breaking a long standing tradition and practice of the Speaker not getting involved, and I think that is underscored by your very reasonable question to the hon. member as to precedence.

He has not been able to find any precedent, perhaps as he suggests because he has not done appropriate research, but I would suggest there are no real precedents and it would be a dangerous precedent to start if we now had the Speaker interfering in the business of committees.

Proceedings in Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform for their interventions in this case. I will take both their interventions under advisement as I continue to study the matter.

The House resumed from March 3 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Don Valley East.

I am proud to stand in the House to participate in today's debate on the government's budget. I represent the riding of Churchill, which is a diverse and very large riding. It is over half the land mass of the province of Manitoba.

As diverse and complex as Canada is as a nation, our federal budgets are often equally as comprehensive, or at least they should be. We have over 300 unique constituencies in Canada that require different services and programs due to regional, linguistic and many other considerations.

However, despite our vast geographic size, Canadians are united in the mutual understanding and appreciation of our differences. It is perhaps one of our greatest gifts and one of our greatest strengths.

However, after a careful review of the government's budget, it is clear that the budget is not as comprehensive as it should be. It does not include the vision or needs of northern Manitoba and it is yet another lost opportunity to address the challenges and opportunities for Canada's first nations, the Métis nation and the Inuit.

In addition to the fall economic update, the budget demonstrates poor, long term fiscal planning, particularly with a potential U.S. recession, which, today, in one of our national newspapers, is being called a recession. It provides nothing to address poverty, housing and homelessness and it provides nothing for women's equality or for arts and culture. It provides no support for families in regard to early learning and child care.

I want to focus on a couple of items because I have such a short period of time for my speech. I want to discuss the fiscal planning. It is a bit outrageous that the current government inherited from the previous Liberal government a strong economic picture, consecutive balanced budgets and a surplus of $14 billion.

Had the government been more careful in its previous budgets and its fall economic update, this budget could have addressed the urgent needs of many Canadian communities and families. However, the Conservatives spent all of the surplus and the cupboard is bare, with little focus on vulnerable communities and those most in need.

It is of particular concern that the Conservatives' projected surplus of $2.3 billion for this year and $1.3 billion for next year are well below the $3 billion contingency fund that the Liberal opposition considers the bare minimum to cushion against unanticipated economic shock.

As I said, given the current economic climate in the United States, which is facing a recession, it does not take an economist to understand how dangerous this is.

Moreover, the government lost an opportunity to address Canada's infrastructure deficit through acting on the Liberal proposal to use the $7 billion of this year's debt pay down to fund infrastructure projects across the country.

I would now like to touch on poverty and low income housing. It is troubling for ridings such as mine and it remains one of the most troubling issues in my riding. While in some communities multiple families are forced to reside together, some individuals and families, tragically, do not even have that option.

Extreme poverty and homelessness continues to exist in the north and it is an element that the budget has once again overlooked. In a country as rich as Canada, it is completely unacceptable.

However, implementing the housing initiatives alone will not tackle the homelessness and the poverty that persists across the country. The Conservative budget does little to alleviate any of poverty's root causes. The only party with both the will and the capacity to actually implement a plan to tackle poverty is the Liberal Party of Canada. I am proud to say that this past year the leader of the official opposition announced a plan to reduce poverty.

I will focus my remaining time on two things: first, the labour market needs of my riding and, second, the aboriginal community within my riding. Sixty-five per cent of the population of my riding of Churchill is comprised of aboriginals and first nations people. We have over 30 first nations, dozens of Métis communities and very strong Métis locals. Again, aboriginal people have been left out of this federal budget.

I would like to quote the AFN national chief who called the federal budget “a bitter disappointment”. He said:

It is disheartening that this government sets out reducing the cost of a toaster by a couple cents as a national objective, but not helping First Nations children finish high school or grow up in safe homes. That this government can afford billions of dollars to rebuild Afghanistan but not support schooling, healthcare or jobs for First Nations. It is difficult to believe Canadians support these priorities.

I also would like to quote Sydney Garrioch of the Manitoba Keewatinook Ininew Okimowin who represents 30 first nations in northern Manitoba. He said:

The government's budget does not alleviate poverty in our communities. The lack of substantial funding in the budget announcement for our people does nothing to promote healthy communities. We were optimistic that this government would provide funding and grants to improve crucial housing needs and we were working toward transformative change on health services by building and staffing our own health centres, but the budget does not support this development.

Those are quotes from two leaders of first nations communities in my riding. The impact is devastating for first nations.

I will not go on and reiterate the Kelowna accord and the commitments that the previous Liberal government made which amounted to $5 billion over five years in the areas of housing, health, education, economic development and governance capacity building.

However, in terms of this budget, allocations have been made contingent upon tripartite agreements with the provinces. It is reprehensible that, given the strong financial picture, the government cannot find, not only within its legal responsibility and fiduciary obligation to first nations people, but in terms of an economic picture, the funds to help first nations people.

We have the largest growing demographic of any population in Canada. Fifty percent of aboriginal people, that is first nations, Métis and Inuit people, are under the age of 30. In pure economic terms, it would make economic sense to invest in aboriginal people in Canada.

In terms of my riding, our primary industries include mining, forestry and hydroelectric power and they have labour demands. In 2006, mineral production in northern Manitoba was valued at $2.1 billion. Some of our mining companies have a combined generated revenue of over $1.2 billion. With the continued strength in metal prices, we look to labour market partnership agreements to ensure that we can contribute to the economy.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, listening to the speech by the hon. member brings me to the fact that the budget has no new funding for affordable housing in aboriginal communities, whether on reserve or in big cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, et cetera.

There is really no new funding for child care, no funding to fight poverty and hardly any investment in young people whatsoever.

My colleague talked about the importance of investing in people who are most disadvantaged, and the aboriginal people are certainly part of them, and yet the hon. member's party has decided to support the budget. I do not quite understand how one can talk about what is wrong with the budget, what is missing from the budget and how it is not fair for working families and yet decide not to oppose such a short-sighted and wrong budget. This budget will put Canada on a completely different track, a track that the NDP believes is totally wrong. I do not know why that hon. member is supporting the budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, this is an unfair budget. It does not recognize the urgent and dire needs of vulnerable communities in Canada. Without a doubt, some of the poorest communities in this country are in my riding. Adults and children living in my constituency are going without the benefits of the Canada Health Act and basic health services.

I do not know how the member has the audacity to stand and ask me why we are keeping the government in power when it was her party that put the Conservatives in power in the first place. It is beyond me why those members would have the audacity to stand in this House when we are dealing with such critical issues.

I think that party would have a $350 million election every 18 months if it could because it seems that its game is about its party and not about Canadians. It is going--

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Yukon.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, when the Conservative government cancelled the Kelowna accord it took $5 billion away from aboriginal people. This budget has $660 million, which is about one-tenth of that money, so it leaves the government $4.3 billion behind what it has taken away from aboriginal people.

I would like to ask my colleague two questions. The first one is with regard to the $70 million in the educational part of the budget. There are two years to support tripartite agreements with first nations and provinces. What is wrong with the Inuit and the territories? My understanding is that the minister said, in an interview with the Whitehorse Star, that was a typo, but I hope it will be officially corrected.

My second question is with regard to Inuit and first nation health programs. The budget states:

...First Nations groups have indicated a willingness to discuss integration of the First Nations and Inuit health programs with provincial health systems....

The federal government deals with first nations and Inuit health right now so to have it dealt with by the provinces would be a major policy change. I am not saying that is good or bad.

I wonder if the member could comment on this huge change that shows up in the budget.