House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Justice
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, if some native kid in my riding of Winnipeg Centre gets busted for stealing hub caps, the government would lock him up and throw away the key. The reason it is not getting tough on white collar crime is there are no jail cells left empty because they are full of aboriginal people who were stealing a loaf of bread to feed their families. There is no regularity to this.

White collar crime is a blue collar issue and we have to be able to trust the financial statements of the companies where our pensions are invested.

When will the Conservatives get tough on crime in a realistic way, get busy, like the United States have done Sarbanes-Oxley act, and get tough on crime and clean up the corporate boardrooms? Why do they let their buddies on Bay Street regulate themselves?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, it is really funny. Right now and around election time the NDP and the Liberals like to talk tough on crime, but when it comes time to actually take action, putting in place the real steps that protect Canadians, young people, seniors and law-abiding citizens, where are they? They are nowhere to be found.

Our government is a government that stands up for law-abiding citizens. It is a government that knows we have to end the revolving door justice system. It is a government that is making our streets in our country safer for all Canadians.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Glen Pearson London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Jose DePrato has just the kind of skills and work ethic that our country requires. For nine years his family has been a key contributor to London, Ontario's life and to the business community. However, he and his family are currently at risk of being deported to Brazil on July 3. While there is a humanitarian application waiting to be heard, we fear their loss in our whole community.

This is just the kind of industrious family the government says it wants for Canada. It is now among us with a proven track record.

Will the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration or the Minister of Public Safety show compassion, fulfill their own policy and permit the DePrato family to remain while its application is reviewed?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt I will not comment on a particular case, but I can say we have the refugee protection system that is a model for all of the world. It has a number of processes. Many of them include applications such as humanitarian and compassionate grounds applications. Those applications need to be made. We treat them equitably and fairly and we will look at each case compassionately.

Therefore, I ask the member to allow the process to take its course.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Fabian Manning Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, Canada's coastal communities have faced many challenges and hurdles, but continue on in the proud name of tradition and livelihood. This government has introduced tools to help Canadian fishers such as the capital tax exemption when handing down their enterprise, and the buddying up systems in some fisheries, and reducing the GST by 2%.

One thing that everyone involved in the fishery is aware of is that gas prices are making it harder and harder for fish harvesters to make a living and provide for their families.

The member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte is telling people in Newfoundland and Labrador today of what he believes are the benefits of the Liberals' new tax grab.

Would the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans enlighten us on how the proposed Liberal tax scheme will really affect our fishing communities?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

June 20th, 2008 / noon

St. John's South—Mount Pearl
Newfoundland & Labrador

Conservative

Loyola Hearn Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt about the fact that fishermen are facing hard times trying to meet the cost of operations. As the member mentioned, we have cut the GST and we brought in capital gains exemptions. We help them combine their fishing efforts to save money. We are reviewing licence fees.

What have the Liberals done to help? They have added increases to the gas tax.

I suggest that if the Liberals want to make a splash with this announcement, they go out and try to sell it to fishermen on the wharves. Then they will make a splash.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, as the session draws to a close, I rise in response to a point of order raised yesterday by the member for Timmins—James Bay.

The matter in contention was my use in question period yesterday of the initials B and S in too close proximity to one another and in too close proximity to the initials NDP.

Upon review, the initials B and S, in parliamentary tradition, have been judged as too close to the agricultural vernacular, and I therefore apologize to you, Mr. Speaker, for the farming reference.

With respect to my friend from Timmins—James Bay, while he and I will continue to have differing perspectives on the issue, we share a common birthplace in the Porcupine mining camp. In fact, our parents went to school together. I therefore wish him a marvellous northern Ontario summer.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to that point of order. I have great respect for the House of Parliament and also great respect for my hon. colleague. I love to get up in the morning and know that we are going to clash. As the great Tommy Douglas said, there is nothing like a good fight to make one want to get up in the morning. That being said, I think the member has always handled himself in a very classy manner and I am honoured, actually, to be able to cross swords with him.

Yes indeed, our families are from the same region. I will not say I was the worst hockey player ever born in Timmins, but in the top 10, I am definitely there. He, on the other hand, comes from a much greater lineage in terms of hockey players. However, we do certainly disagree, and I would like to wish him the best of the summer.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, in question period, instead of getting a response or any kind of a straight answer to my question, the hon. parliamentary secretary for FedNor was mathematically challenged regarding my interventions on behalf of my riding. He should have made mention of my numerous speeches here in the House during debates, question period, Standing Order 31 statements, and in committees regarding my riding in northwestern Ontario, so I demand an apology.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry
Ontario

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, I can apologize for misleading the House because it has been brought to my attention that in my absence, while I was gone one weekend on a Friday, apparently the House leader did answer two questions regarding northern Ontario, so I do apologize to the House for misleading it.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Before question period, the member for Edmonton--Sherwood Park had the floor on a question of privilege. We will now hear the remainder of his remarks on his question of privilege.

Committees of the House
Privilege
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, after the good wishes expressed by several of the members to each other and to all, I would like to reflect that and do the same for all of my colleagues. Meanwhile, I do need to continue with the grievance that I have.

Before I read into the record some of the actual words that occurred at committee, I want to make it very clear that my question of privilege this morning has to do with my freedom of speech, my ability to express myself on issues.

As I mentioned earlier, I was a substitute member on the ethics committee last Tuesday when this particular incident happened.

I want to point out to you, Mr. Speaker, on page 71 of Marleau and Montpetit, there are these words:

By far, the most important right accorded to Members of the House is the exercise of freedom of speech in parliamentary proceedings. It has been described as:

...a fundamental right without which they would be hampered in the performance of their duties. It permits them to speak in the House without inhibition, to refer to any matter or express any opinion as they see fit, to say what they feel needs to be said in the furtherance of the national interest and the aspirations of their constituents.

Further to this point, I would refer you to a ruling by Speaker Fraser on May 5, 1987:

The privileges of a member are violated by any action which might impede him or her in the fulfillment of his or her duties and functions.

My contention is that the actions of the chair impeded me from debating the motion and from convincing my colleagues on the committee why this motion should be out of order. The chair's obstructionist tactics caused the committee to descend into disorder to the point where I was not able to participate in the debate.

I believe it is important, in that context, to point out that when the chair finally gave me the floor to address the issue that was before the committee, I got to speak four words before he interrupted me, four words. What were those offensive words that caused him to interrupt me? When he said I had the floor, I said, “Thank you, Mr. Chairman”, four words, and then he interrupted me. He was on such a roll of interrupting members who were speaking that it just seemed natural for him, when I opened my mouth, to interrupt me. Admittedly, what he said was nothing to do with my debate. It was a procedural thing, but he interrupted me after that. Then he said again, “You have the floor, if you wish”. Well, I guess I wished, because I had asked to be on the speaking list and he had recognized me. Then I said again, “Thank you”.

It is important in the context of this debate to hear what I said at the committee. That is why I want this in the parliamentary record. This is a quotation from the record of the committee of what I said:

Mr. Chair, you know that over the years you and I have worked together in many different venues, different committees and different functions. I would like to say that for the most part in those years I have had a good, healthy respect for you. Before I go into the topic of the debate today, I'd like to make a little comment here.

Mr. Speaker, I then went on to say:

I've observed that I've been here as long as you have and some of the other members around the table that in the House the Speaker gives wide latitude on giving individual members the freedom to make their speeches without interruption. It's really very wide. Even if someone stands up on relevance on a point of order, almost always the Speaker returns it to the member speaking and just gives him a little chastisement but lets him make his speech--

The reason I said that was that I observed that the chair was always interrupting members when they spoke. I wanted him to give me some kind of commitment that I would be able to make my point without being interrupted and cut off. That is why I was doing this. Interestingly, at that point he cut me off. All I was asking was that I would not be cut off and with that, he did.

There is a switcher in committees who turns the mics on and off. The switcher usually sits just behind the chair. In this particular instance that was also the case. The chairman of the committee turned around and motioned the switcher to switch my mic off. All he had to do was interrupt me. I am used to stopping. In fact, I have this cute little saying “don't talk while I'm interrupting” and it is totally meant in fun. When I was young I was taught that when someone else is speaking, one does not interrupt. All the chair had to do was say, “order” or whatever, and I would have stopped speaking, as I did earlier today when we approached members' statements and Mr. Speaker, you said you were going to cut my mic off right when I was talking about that. It was a bit of a humorous moment. The chair interrupted me and gave me quite a long lecture, actually longer than the speech that I had made at that point. He once again returned the floor to me at which time I said two sentences before my mic was clicked off once again. This is a direct quotation of what I said:

I have a couple of things, Mr. Chairman, that I would really like to have on the record. This means that I'm asking you, please, to not shut off my mic while I'm speaking. As an MP, who is--

I was going to go on to say, “I have the privilege of expressing myself”. I wanted to cut off his tendency to not allow anybody to speak. I was appealing for that and I wanted to get even just the warmest, fuzziest commitment from the chair of the committee that he would allow me to speak. He could have even gone on to say that as long as I was in order and all that, which I already know, but he did not say that. Instead, he cut me off and said “Mr. Epp, order”. I stopped talking because he was now going to speak. Then he gave another lecture about how he is the master of the committee. I want to quote a bit from that. He said:

I encourage you, this is the second time now, and this is giving latitude just like the Speaker does. I want you now to move to your contribution to the debate on these motions and whether it will assist members in deciding whether any or all of these motions or amendments should be adopted.

I had a very important point that I wanted to make. When we are in committee, or even in the House, what is the purpose of our words? I sometimes kid with my grandkids that grandpa works in the word factory, that every day we get a quota and we are not allowed to go home until we have met our quota. It is just a bit of humour with my grandkids. We use words in this place. I understand in my limited knowledge of the French language that “parler” means “to speak” and this is Parliament. We are here to speak. We are here to debate. We are here to persuade with our words. That is the purpose of this place. As the Standing Orders say, and as the comments which I quoted earlier say, this is a fundamental privilege.

When we have an issue before the House on which we want to persuade someone, it is also important that votes be conducted fairly. I wanted to get this on the record. I was interrupted. Then I said, “I want to point out that when we come to take a vote on this motion then the chair, I believe, should originally be impartial”. The reason I use the word “original” is if there is a tie vote, then of course the chair of the committee has to break the tie just as the Speaker does here. I wanted an assurance that it was understood and I wanted this on the record.

What the chair did on this particular occasion was, because there was a motion on the floor and there were not enough Liberal committee members present, the chair did not call the meeting to order on time. In fact, he delayed the meeting for seven minutes until Liberal members dragged themselves in there. He finally called the committee to order.

The chair was not impartial at the beginning of the meeting. He should have started the meeting on time as was scheduled, but he chose not to do so. There was quorum. We had sufficient members. The obvious reason was that the chair wanted to wait until there were enough members present to win the vote the way he wanted before he was called upon to break a tie. I was going to point that out.

I also want to point out that later on one of the Liberal members left. Members of the Conservative Party are here after all to persuade Parliament and to make sure that the vote on this motion does not carry because it is clearly out of order and beyond the mandate of this committee. We have to persuade, but also when the vote is conducted, it has to be a fair vote.

We want that vote to be defeated on high principle, that the committee is out of order in actually even addressing this issue. It is beyond its mandate. Parliament has not given it that mandate. The House of Commons has not given it that mandate. Members have taken it on themselves.

Through the tyranny of the majority on the committee, minority parties are in majority there, it has moved a motion that is out of order and you, Mr. Speaker, have ruled that it cannot be considered by you until the committee presents its report, but that is what we find offensive. What they are trying to do with this motion, that is out of order, is trying to achieve a goal that they could not do if it were ever ruled in advance. That is the thing that is very--

Committees of the House
Privilege
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Committees of the House
Privilege
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

We are on a question of privilege and it takes precedence over a point of order, so I am afraid the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay may have to wait a little while until this question of privilege argument is done.

Committees of the House
Privilege
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, the chair at this point made a decision that, even though I was going to speak, and I do not know how he knew what I was going to say and say something that he did not like, he was going to shut me off. He said and, again, I quote:

--for the third time, I have to tell you that you are discussing matters which are not relevant to the motion.

All I was doing was trying to get him to give me the privilege of being able to speak and to give me an assurance that he would not do to me what he did to the others before. Mr. Speaker, you can read the record from that committee to find out what I am talking about.

The chair said I was discussing matters which were not relevant to the motion and he gave another member the floor. I was not permitted to address the issue. I was not permitted to actually say anything. I do not know how he knew that what I was going to say was not going to be relevant. He just assumed that, I presume, because I happen to be a member of the governing party, which is in a minority in numbers in this place. He decided that he would just rule. Therefore, as a result of that, I was not able to address the issues.

I also want to point out to you, Mr. Speaker, and this is very important, that the chair of the committee took it upon himself to shut down debate in the committee. He was not able to do this within the rules. He did it outside the rules because, as you have said numerous times and until the rules are changed, the rules are that committees are masters of their own proceedings.

Committees have a lot of latitude with respect to their procedures, but I submit, not with respect to their mandates. They do not have that and so the motion that we are talking about here, of course in committee, directly impedes that mandate.

Notwithstanding that in the committee there had never been a motion that limited the length of speeches, he took it upon himself, without such a motion, to limit the length of speeches.

That is a direct violation of my rights, my ability as a member of Parliament, to speak in committee or in the House. I would like to point out that in this particular committee no routine motion has ever been put which limited the number of speakers or length of speeches on these committees.

I have observed that whenever we are debating an issue here in the House, every time somebody is finished with their intervention, the Speaker says, “Resuming debate”. If no one stands, the Speaker usually says, “Resuming debate”, and if someone stands up, and the time limit in the House has not yet been reached, then the member has the freedom to speak.

The chair of this committee does not even follow those elementary procedures of a democratic debate. He just simply says, “Time's up”. Even though it is not part of my privilege, although it leads into it, the reason that I am raising this is because now my ability to bring my thoughts to the committee have in fact been ended.

Yesterday, without any further notice, he just said he was calling the vote and even though other members were saying, “debate”, he refused to recognize them. He does not have the right to do that.

As I said, even in this House, the Speaker says, “Resuming debate”, and if someone rises they are given the opportunity to debate. It is only when no one rises that the Speaker asks, “Is the House ready for the question?”

The chair of this committee failed to do that. He did not ask if there was any further debate. In fact, there were a number of members who still wanted to speak. They were not given the right to speak because he shut it off and conducted the vote, which he knew would go that way.

It is not an impartial chair and it is one that has substantially reduced the right and the privileges of members to conduct a free and open debate.

I would like to say that, because the motion had never been carried, the chair is totally out of order. I would like to appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to rule that I have a prima facie case of breach of privileges. If you so rule, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion, so that it would go to the procedure and house affairs committee where these things go.