House of Commons Hansard #101 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was police.

Topics

Use of Member's Parliamentary Email Account
Points of Order

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. An email was sent from my office that contained a solicitation, which was improper. I stand here to personally apologize to the House for any improper use of parliamentary resources.

All of my staff and volunteers are very well aware of all of the rules, and in this case as always, they complied with those. I wish to take full responsibility personally. This was, in fact, my doing.

The email in question was originally sent properly. I decided to send a copy to my colleagues here on the Hill because, ironically, it was an invitation to my 50th birthday and I was trying to encourage multi-partisan activity. That does not excuse the impropriety of sending the email, and I hereby personally apologize.

National Defence Standing Committee
Points of Order

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I guess this is a day for apologies.

The House may remember the matter of Twitter and the tweeting that I apologized about last Tuesday, and that was an error on my part. Subsequently that day I was approached by the media to talk about the nature of the three different motions, one having been before the defence committee in camera. The motion itself was public. The other two motions by two members before the special committee on Afghanistan were also public.

I discussed those motions, the broadness or the narrowness of the individual motions, but there is a genuine belief on the part of some members that doing so was part of the same transaction of disclosure that occurred on Twitter.

While I may disagree, there are certain members who hold that belief genuinely, and I respect that, and I believe an apology is due from me and one is made sincerely. If members believe that I made an error then I was in error, and I accept full responsibility. I apologize to the House and to the committee.

National Defence Standing Committee
Points of Order

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. members for their apologies this morning.

Is the hon. member for Joliette rising on a point of order?

National Defence Standing Committee
Points of Order

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to know whether you would like me to wait until the end of routine proceedings to raise my question of privilege. That is fine with me. What would you prefer?

National Defence Standing Committee
Points of Order

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am prepared to hear the hon. member now if he wants to raise his question of privilege.

Introduction of Bills
Privilege

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, after the apology made by the Minister of Justice regarding the question of privilege I raised last Thursday, you said that, unless you heard further, you considered this matter closed. But this morning, I have more to add.

I would first like to say that although my question of privilege had to do with two ministers, only the Minister of Justice apologized. But the Minister of Public Works and Government Services also disclosed critical information about Bill C-52 before it was introduced in the House.

However, the main reason I have brought the issue up again today is that we are still very concerned about government ministers publicly disclosing information about bills before their first reading in this House. Despite the apology from the Minister of Justice, we fear that the government did not fully learn its lesson.

Although the Minister of Justice apologized in this House for disclosing information about Bill C-52 before it was introduced in the House, the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, yet again, held a press conference on Bill C-53, which was on notice but had not yet received first reading in the House. In a press release and a backgrounder that were made public before first reading of the bill, it is clearly indicated that the government intends to eliminate accelerated parole review from the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. Moreover, I sent you these documents with my letter.

Having read Bill C-53, I can say that this is exactly what it does. It eliminates accelerated parole review and makes some consequential amendments. Once again, the government disclosed the content of a bill before it was introduced in the House.

As the Bloc Québécois House leader, I am often called on to advise my colleagues on the legislative process and private members' business. If there is one thing I stress, it is that bills that Bloc Québécois members want to introduce must remain confidential before they are introduced in the House. I always advise my colleagues to hold their press conferences after their bill has received first reading.

So, Mr. Speaker, if there is no longer any reason to strictly apply the rule of confidentiality of bills on notice, I would just like to know so that I can give my colleagues different advice.

Consequently, Mr. Speaker, I ask you again to consider the question of privilege I raised last Thursday and the new information I have brought to your attention this morning concerning Bill C-53.

I repeat that if you find that there is a prima facie question of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Introduction of Bills
Privilege

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

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice yesterday expressed regret and his most sincere apologies to the House for releasing any information on Bill C-52 in advance of the bill being tabled.

As we know, once a bill has been put on notice, it is inappropriate to speak to the bill until such time as it has been tabled. The Minister of Justice indicated that he would be advising all of his cabinet colleagues as well of the inappropriateness of this type of action, and he offered his most sincere apologies on behalf of the government for any inadvertent release of information, which should not have happened.

Mr. Speaker, you indicated in your ruling yesterday that you accepted the apology and considered the matter to be closed. I can assure you, on behalf of the government, that this type of early release, if you will, will not be forthcoming again any time in the future.

Introduction of Bills
Privilege

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would just ask the House for a bit of clarification.

The parliamentary secretary has referred to the incident in respect to Bill C-52, regarding which the Minister of Justice has acknowledged that an error was made. As the parliamentary secretary indicated, the minister also indicated that he would be advising ministers generally that the practice of calling premature news conferences should not continue.

However, I took it from the remarks of the representative for the Bloc Québécois that his concern related not only to Bill C-52 but also to the incident that occurred yesterday with respect to Bill C-53, as the practice that was complained about was indeed repeated, with the holding of a premature news conference about a subsequent bill having to do with justice matters.

It is important to have confirmation from the government that it not only acknowledges the mistake in respect of Bill C-52 but also acknowledges that exactly the same mistake was made with respect to Bill C-53, and that the commitment undertaking by the Minister of Justice that this practice will stop is in fact going to apply to each and every minister on each and every bill so that we will not have this ongoing succession of premature news conferences that do in fact encroach upon the privileges of members of this House.

Introduction of Bills
Privilege

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, you heard some arguments yesterday from various representatives. Just so that you have heard from all parties in the House, because we do consider this a very serious matter, I would like to raise the same point on behalf of members of the New Democratic Party. I would also underline that it is a very serious matter when ministers go out and basically pre-empt the introduction of bills and usurp the privileges of members in the House. It is a fundamental principle in the House that they should not do so, and that the House is the first priority in terms of bills coming forward, being introduced and debated. We consider it a very serious matter.

Although I have heard what the Parliamentary Secretary to the government House leader has said today, I do think it is important that the government be very clear that they are apologizing for what happened and that it does apply to all ministers and to all bills, so that something like this does not happen again.

Introduction of Bills
Privilege

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I just want the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to know that I have a problem not only with the fact that the Minister of Public Works and Government Services did not apologize for the Bill C-52 incident as the Minister of Justice did, but also with the fact that, yesterday, both the Minister of Public Safety and, once again, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services did exactly the same thing with Bill C-53. I offer as proof the press release that I provided to you as well as the backgrounder that goes into great detail about Bill C-53.

Once again, I believe that there has been a breach of parliamentary privilege. I hope that you will consider this fact if you believe it to be relevant.

Introduction of Bills
Privilege

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank all of my colleagues for their interventions with respect to the remarks made, particularly the opposition House leader and the House leader of the Bloc Québécois.

I can only speak to the statements and the apologies made yesterday by the Minister of Justice with respect to Bill C-53 and the interventions that my hon. colleague from the Bloc Québécois had made about ministerial statements on that bill. I cannot confirm that, since I was not aware of that. However, I will be speaking with my colleagues, both the Minister of Public Works and the Minister of Public Safety, at my first opportunity, encouraging them to respond to these interventions at their first opportunity.

Introduction of Bills
Privilege

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, once again, I would like to second the member for Joliette's remarks.

The parliamentary secretary referred to regret that any information in advance of a bill being tabled became public.

I would like to urge you, Mr. Speaker, when you review this matter, to look at a pattern. With Bill C-52, the Minister of Justice acknowledged that it was inappropriate. You said that you considered the matter closed, and probably at exactly the same time, the Minister of Public Safety was preparing to release details of another bill.

This is not an accident by an overenthusiastic communications assistant in a minister's office, it is a pattern involving many, many bills, particularly in recent weeks. I would urge you, Mr. Speaker, whatever ruling you ultimately decide on, to make clear the rules surrounding this kind of information, and not simply to accept that somebody comes in and apologizes while a colleague at the same time is doing exactly the same thing. There seems to be a communication confusion in the cabinet. Mr. Speaker, and you are the best person to clarify that for everybody.

Introduction of Bills
Privilege

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank all hon. members for their submissions on this point. I will take the matter under advisement.

As indicated by the Parliamentary Secretary to the government House leader, he will be conferring with his colleagues who may wish to respond to the points of order that have been raised. Certainly clarification can be provided if necessary, but I think it was clear, with respect to the statement by the Minister of Justice, that he acknowledged that what had happened was incorrect and improper. The Chair would probably have ruled to the same effect had I given a ruling in advance, but since he indicated that he felt it was improper and then apologized to the House, I considered the matter closed.

I had not realized there were two ministers involved in that press conference. We have heard that today in the arguments advanced. Of course, I missed the press conference as usual. We also had the suggestion that there had been another press conference on another bill yesterday, so I will take those two items under advisement and come back to the House if necessary. However, I think there will be other submissions on the point, from what the parliamentary secretary suggested, so we will wait to hear those additional submissions.

I thank all hon. members for their intervention on this matter.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Income Tax Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-466, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (transportation benefits).

Mr. Speaker, I am please to introduce my commuter choices bill this morning. The twin threats of climate change and poor air quality demand that we creatively encourage alternative modes of transportation to the single occupancy vehicle.

Today, I am proposing to allow employees to receive tax-free employer-provided benefits to cover the costs of transit, carpooling and bicycle commuting. This bill compliments and is an improvement to the current government transit tax credit. The employer-related commuter benefits that are proposed for tax exemption would apply to an employee's highest personal income tax rate. It would also save payroll costs for employers and remove administrative barriers that exist presently.

As this bill illustrates, government can help make better commuter choices easier for Canadians. It would help us to meet our eventual commitments to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

I want to thank my constituents, Sarah Webb and Dan Pollock, who inspired this bill, and CUTA, the Canadian Urban Transit Association, for the policy work it did on this bill.

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