House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was military.

Topics

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 11 petitions.

Food and Drugs Act
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement Minister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement Minister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-52, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Income Trusts
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present yet another income trust broken promise petition on behalf of a large number of my own constituents in Mississauga South. The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts, but he broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax which permanently wiped out over $25 billion of the hard-earned savings of over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.

The petitioners therefore call upon the Conservative minority government, first, to admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions; second, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise; and finally, to repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

Canada Student Loans
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a number of petitions on behalf of Canadian students and their families who are facing crushing levels of debt notwithstanding the very welcome creation of a grant program by the government in the last budget.

The petitioners feel very strongly that the government has not gone far enough to address the debt levels. The petitioners are asking the government to reduce the federal student interest, or to at least give a nod in that direction, and to create a ombudsperson to help them navigate the many problems in the Canada student loan system.

Consumer Price Index
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I also have a petition to present on behalf of many seniors who are faced with paying for a mistake made by Statistics Canada. It made a major error in its calculations of the consumer price index and it resulted in Canada's inflation numbers being underrated by half a percentage point from 2001 to 2006.

The petitioners are asking the government to take responsibility for this error and to repay every Canadian who was shortchanged by the government program because of this miscalculation.

Human Trafficking
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to present today containing the signatures of numerous people across Canada. The petitioners are calling on the government to continue its good work on fighting human trafficking.

The petitioners are cognizant of the fact that it is a growing crime here in Canada and want to make sure that the government and all members of this House continue to combat this horrendous crime.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Royal Recommendation--Bill C-445 and Bill C-490
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:05 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, I rise on a point of order. I want to speak to the question of the need for a royal recommendation on two private members' bills.

On March 11, 2008, you noted that the spending provisions in two private members' bills appear to infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown. You invited members to make arguments on whether those bills require a royal recommendation. That is what I intend to do at this time.

The two bills are Bill C-445, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for loss of retirement income), and Bill C-490, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (application for supplement, retroactive payments and other amendments).

Let me begin with Bill C-445. This bill would create a new refundable tax credit for the loss of retirement income.

Refundable credits are direct benefits paid to individuals regardless of whether tax is owed or not and are paid out of the consolidated revenue fund. As a result, any legislative proposal to create a refundable tax credit requires a royal recommendation.

I would draw to the attention of the House two recent rulings wherein the Speaker of the House and the Speaker of the Senate concluded that creating or increasing a refundable tax credit requires a royal recommendation.

On June 4, 2007, there was a Speaker's ruling that a proposed amendment to Bill C-52 to create a refundable tax credit could not be selected for report stage because the amendment required a royal recommendation.

On May 11, 2006, the Speaker of the Senate ruled that Bill S-212 was out of order because it would have increased a refundable tax credit. The Speaker of the Senate stated:

--bills proposing to alter refundable tax credits need a Royal Recommendation.

This is because the payouts that will be made to taxpayers, who are entitled to claim them, must be authorized. This authorization is the Royal Recommendation. These payments can only be made from the Consolidated Revenue Fund; they are expenditures of public money.

Since Bill C-445 would create a refundable tax credit, it needs to be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Now, in regard to Bill C-490, this bill proposes a number of changes to the old age security program which would result in increased spending and would therefore require a royal recommendation.

Clause 1 of Bill C-490 would apply to a person who ceases to have a spouse or common law partner because of the spouse's or common law partner's death and would provide that person with the old age security pension that would have been payable to the person's spouse or common law partner, for a period of six months. This extension of benefits would be a new program requirement, which would result in additional spending.

On December 8, 2004, a Speaker's ruling in the case of Bill C-278 concluded that a similar extension of benefits for the employment insurance program constituted a new and additional requirement for spending, and therefore required a royal recommendation.

Clause 2 of Bill C-490 would eliminate the requirement to make an application for a supplement for old age security benefits. Formal application is needed since the information available from the Canada Revenue Agency is sometimes insufficient to determine eligibility. This change would result in benefits under the old age security program being provided to persons who otherwise would not be eligible to receive them. This would be a new program requirement that would require additional spending.

On October 24, 2005, a Speaker's ruling with respect to a provision in Bill C-301, dealing with other proposed retroactive payments under the old age security program, concluded that:

Bill C-301...proposes to alter the process by which compensation is awarded to old age security recipients in the manner that retroactivity is handled.

Clauses 2, 3 and 4 remove the requirement that the recipient must make an application before they can receive a payment...This changes the conditions of the compensation process and creates new or additional spending.

Clause 3 of Bill C-490 would increase the guaranteed income supplement monthly benefit by $110. The Department of Human Resources and Social Development estimates that this change could cost up to $2 billion a year. This would constitute additional spending for a new and distinct purpose and would therefore require a royal recommendation.

Clause 6 of Bill C-490 would provide for retroactive payments where a person has not received a supplement, or a portion of a supplement, to which that person would have been entitled under the act.

On October 24, 2005, a Speaker's ruling on the retroactivity of payments in the case of Bill C-301, respecting the monthly guaranteed income supplement under the Old Age Security Act, concluded that:

--retroactivity is limited by the date upon which the application was made. Late applicants may only be eligible for the period dating from the application. It would appear then that this modification authorizes increased spending which would require a royal recommendation.

The Department of Human Resources and Social Development estimates that Bill C-490's provision of unlimited retroactivity for guaranteed income supplement monthly benefits could represent an initial lump sum payment to beneficiaries of up to $6 billion.

In conclusion, Bill C-490 would result in increased spending for the old age security program in the new and distinct ways I have just outlined. The bill therefore requires a royal recommendation.

Royal Recommendation--Bill C-445 and Bill C-490
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the comments of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. Before you make a ruling, I seek your permission to allow the Bloc Québécois to comment at a later time. We are still interpreting the Standing Orders. We would get back to the House as quickly as possible. I ask for your usual understanding.

Royal Recommendation--Bill C-445 and Bill C-490
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord for his comments. As the member knows, after hearing arguments such as the ones made by the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, I am certain that the members who introduced these bills in the House would like the opportunity to present their arguments in response.

I will certainly consider the matter in due course. I will wait to hear further argument on it, and if it comes from the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, fine, I look forward to it.

We will have further discussion on this, I am sure, before the Chair renders a ruling, but I thank the hon. government House leader for his able arguments. I am sure he enjoyed reading all those rulings.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Mission in Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

moved:

That a special committee, consisting of 12 members, be appointed to consider the Canadian mission in Afghanistan as referred to in the motion adopted by the House on March 13, 2008 (Government Business No. 5); that the committee have all of the powers of a Standing Committee as provided in the Standing Orders; and that the members to serve on the said committee be appointed by the Whip of each party depositing with the Clerk of the House a list of his or her party’s members of the committee, providing that each party shall have the same number of members on the committee as it now has on the standing committees and provided that the said lists shall be deposited with the Clerk no later than April 10, 2008.

Mr. Speaker, with the consent of the House, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Richmond Hill.

I cannot help but note, Mr. Speaker, as you take your seat, and members in the House should know this, but the person who is now occupying the Speaker's chair was at one-time my seatmate many years ago and it was a wonderful experience. I fear I may have driven you out of the House, Mr. Speaker, but I want you to know, sir, that my recognition of your great talents, your oratory and your commitment to the people of Winnipeg remains outstanding. I want to continue to express those thoughts, whatever way partisanship may have taken us over the last while.

The purpose of this motion is to set up a committee, which was called for by the motion that was passed by the House a few weeks ago.

It is rather extraordinary that the official opposition is having to use one of its opposition days in order to get the House to do its business. It says something about the government that we have today to actually implement the motion that was agreed to by the House. It has been left to us to put forward this motion because the government has simply sat on its hands.

The current government ran on transparency and accountability. There is no issue upon which transparency and accountability are more important than our efforts in our mission in Afghanistan.

Just last week we heard the tragic news of the passing of yet another soldier in the line of duty. This is a war among the people in Afghanistan which has taken over 80 Canadian lives, in which many other soldiers have been killed from other NATO countries and in which literally thousands of Afghan citizens have lost their lives.

It is, without question, the most sweeping commitment that Canada has made to an international military struggle since the Korean War. It is an effort that has taxed all of our commitments in terms of the military, the political, the diplomatic and the aid mission that we have in Afghanistan.

It was clear to us that if there was ever an issue on which we would have expected the government to want to be transparent and accountable, it was the mission in Afghanistan.

Instead, I regret to say that we have not had the kind of leadership from the government with respect to the mission in informing and advising the Canadian people on what is going on.

I borrow the words of General Sir Rupert Smith when he described this war, as others, as a different kind of war, as a war among the people, increasingly the kind of struggle in which Canada and other countries will be engaged over the next while.

These are difficult conflicts. They are difficult to participate in and often difficult to see the resolution of. Experts from around the world have been talking about the struggle in Afghanistan in ways that tell us that the easy solutions are simply not there, that we cannot simply go on rhetoric, that we cannot simply go on saying that we support the troops or not. We need to have an understanding of the difficulties and challenges that are facing, not only our troops but our aid workers and our diplomats.

It is our view in the Liberal Party that the House itself must take much greater control and much greater interest in what is taking place in Afghanistan on a detailed basis. We need to hear from a range of experts on an ongoing basis in terms of what is happening. We need to tell Canadians what the challenges facing this mission are and how we will succeed.

We need benchmarks to tell us how we are doing. We need to share this information with the people of Canada and we need to recognize that without their support, their knowledge and their participation this will be increasingly difficult for us to sustain. That is the purpose of our motion.

I know there have been some discussions with the government with respect to some proposals for effecting some changes to the motion, which the member for Richmond Hill will be referring to, t but in terms of the substance of the mission, I want to refer to a few short issues that need to be addressed.

The first issue is that this is a different kind of struggle. It is a war among the people and it requires a different set of strategies and a different set of skills than the ones we have at present.

The second issue is that the border with Pakistan is open, and there are some very important insurgent bases not in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan. This requires a different response from the government and NATO. We have no choice; this is not like any other war. There are major differences that we must understand and discuss.

The third issue is that Afghanistan now has a narco-economy that is increasingly reliant on the sale of opium. It is estimated that more than 50% of Afghanistan's economy is dependent on an illegal industry. The drug industry leads to violence and corruption, and allows a special class that is very close with Afghanistan's political leaders to get richer. This is a huge problem for us. But this situation has not really been discussed in the House, and we have not had a frank discussion with Canadians.

Finally, we need to recognize that this is not simply a military struggle like others. As Mr. Manley has said, there will not be a simple military solution to this challenge that we face in Afghanistan.

Ultimately, our objective is stability. Our objective is to create sufficient stability and capacity in the government of Afghanistan that it can take full responsibility for its own security.

What we face is a situation where right now we are not fully aware of all the circumstances that would lead us to say that this is the progress we are making toward that stability and these are the benchmarks that we are reaching.

I will close where I started by saying simply this. It is, to put it mildly, a little unusual for an official opposition to come back to the House and say to the government that this is what it said it would do and this is why it is important.

I can recall watching the Prime Minister on television, together with millions of Canadians, talk extensively about transparency and accountability. I must say that I am not impressed with how the government has responded to the need for that very transparency and accountability in the House.

We see committees that are not able to work. We see a government that resists, at every step of the way, any form of inquiry into issues that are clearly matters of public importance. We see a government that is simply not prepared to take its responsibilities in an open, frank and fully democratic manner with respect to the work of the House of Commons.

Nothing is more important for Canada than this mission. These are our men and women who are putting their lives at risk. Nothing is more significant for this country at this moment than what we are trying to do in Afghanistan. We should be setting the test in the House for how well and how effectively we can cooperate. We need to find information and share it, which can lead to a better and a more successful mission than we have seen so far.

That is our objective and that is what we are striving to do, which is why the Liberal Party has taken an opposition day today to do just that. We should do no less for the women and men who have sacrificed their lives and those who are now facing the great challenges and difficulties on the line in Afghanistan.

We need to do our job and, frankly, the government needs to give the House the means to do the job. I hope very much that if the motion passes we will begin to get the kind of information, the kind of accountability and the kind of transparency that Canadians want in the management of a mission of this kind.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Mission in Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the new member of Parliament on his recent victory. He recently joined the foreign affairs committee and is now saying that nothing has been going on. It seems strange to me that when new Liberal members of Parliament come into the House they forget all the work that has been done in the past.

I would like to advise the new member of Parliament and his colleague from Richmond Hill, who also sits on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, that for the last six months the committee has been doing an in-depth study on the mission in Afghanistan. We have heard from all the witnesses who he has talked about. We even heard from the Manley panel, a panel that was appointed by the Prime Minister. We have been doing that for a long time. We have had two days of debate here.

It is not right for the member to stand and say that there was no accountability and no debate. We had two nights of debate in this Parliament and the foreign affairs committee is about to issue its report. For the new member to say that this government has not done anything, I would tell him that if he were to talk to his colleagues he would actually find out that a lot of work has been done by Parliament and by this government to bring accountability and transparency.