House of Commons Hansard #110 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was home.

Topics

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of Supply--Opposition Motion--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, please, if the House will grant some indulgence.

On Tuesday, October 27, the hon. government House leader rose on a point of order concerning the admissibility of an opposition motion placed on notice on October 26, in the name of the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North. The hon. member for Vancouver East intervened on the matter, as did the hon. member for Wascana. So that the work of the House could proceed without delay, I immediately stated that the motion was out of order and I promised to return to the House at a later date with a fully considered ruling.

I would now like to put before the House the reasons for my decision that day.

For the benefit of the House, the motion printed in the notice paper read as follows:

That Bill C-311, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change, be deemed reported from committee without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

In explaining why he felt the motion was out of order, the government House leader's main argument was that what this motion was proposing to do could be done only by unanimous consent.

He added that in his view the best the House can do to expedite legislation, without the unanimous consent of the House, is to offer a motion that considers each stage separately with a separate vote. Otherwise, he argued, a situation would arise in which any opposition party could put forward a similarly draconian motion on any private member's bill and have it expedited through the legislative process.

For her part, the House leader for the NDP stressed the wide latitude given to opposition parties on supply days to propose motions of their choosing.

In support of this argument, she quoted from House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 724:

The Standing Orders give Members a very wide scope in proposing opposition motions on Supply days and, unless the motion is clearly and undoubtedly irregular (e.g., where the procedural aspect is not open to reasonable argument), the Chair does not intervene.

The House will remember that on March 21, 2007, in a situation analogous to the one before us, I ruled out of order an opposition motion submitted by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. In that case, the motion in question sought to expedite the consideration and adoption of several government bills in a manner similar to the motion of the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North.

As I pointed out in a subsequent ruling on March 29, 2007, past interventions from the Chair regarding opposition motions have been rare, restricted to cases in which a motion is “clearly and undoubtedly irregular”. I also explained that there is nothing whatsoever in the relevant procedural authorities to suggest that opposition motions on supply days were ever conceived of as a means of fast-tracking bills already present elsewhere on the order paper. House of Commons Procedure and Practice stresses, at page 701, that a key principle underlying the business of supply is that the House, and by extension the opposition via motions proposed on allotted days, has:

--the right to have its grievances addressed before it considers and approves the financial requirements of the Crown.

As I stated in 2007, (Debates, March 29, 2007, p. 8138) it is evident from their historical background that opposition motions on supply days were never envisaged as an alternative to the legislative process:

The very high threshold of unanimous consent creates a pivotal safeguard in ensuring that every measure before the House receives full and prudent consideration. What is being proposed not only does away with that safeguard, it takes advantage of the stringent regime governing supply days. In that regard, for example, it is important to note the precedence accorded to opposition motions over all Government supply motions on allotted days.

Furthermore, recent amendments to the rules dealing with such motions offer an especially stringent regime: first, the rules provide what amounts to an automatic closure mechanism since the motion comes to a vote at the end of the day, thus guaranteeing a decision on the motion; and second, no amendment to the motion is possible without the consent of the mover.

In stark contrast, any motion which could be brought forward by the government to expedite consideration of a bill would be debatable and amendable, and the imposition of time allocation or closure would necessitate a separate question from the motion proposing adoption of the bill at a particular stage or stages in the legislative process.

In addition, as mentioned in my initial comments when ruling the motion out of order, as worded, the motion fails to provide members any opportunity to debate the bill itself, in effect short-circuiting the legislative process. The Chair is mindful of the wide latitude available to the opposition with regard to supply motions, but as your Speaker, it is my duty to ensure that matters placed before the House are in keeping with our rules. The reasons outlined above make it clear why the motion of the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North was ruled out of order.

In conclusion, I would ask hon. members to bear in mind today's ruling and the ruling of March 29, 2007, when they are preparing future opposition motions. The Chair will continue to give the traditional latitude to the sponsors of motions to be debated during supply proceedings, but the Chair counts on the co-operation of the sponsors to respect, and not go beyond, traditional limits for such motions.

I thank the House for its attention in this matter.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-51, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on January 27, 2009 and to implement other measures, be read the third time and passed.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When the matter was before the House for debate the last time, the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona had the floor for questions and comments consequent upon his speech. There are four minutes left in the time remaining for questions and comments.

The hon. member for Mississauga South.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the aspects of this bill has to do with extending the borrowing authority of the CBC to what I believe is $220 million from a nominal amount. I thought it was something like $2 million.

In any event, this appears to be simply a facility for the CBC to be able to discount a future revenue stream from rental payments on buildings that it owns but does not use. In effect, I believe it represents that the CBC is mortgaging its future even further as a consequence of not being able to get the support from the government for its operations during this difficult time.

I would like to ask the member whether he shares my concern that we are hurdling toward the privatization of the CBC at fire sale prices?

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member is probably accurate in his assessment. Even under the previous Liberal government, the CBC was downgraded somewhat and being forced to rationalize its services, I thought in the interests of having the private sector move into the more profitable parts of the business. Certainly, with a Conservative government in place, that is even more cause for alarm because of its propensity to sell off crown assets.

In particular, the member will recall that last year the government made a statement that it was looking at selling off crown assets. It did not give a list of crown assets. The government did not decide to start selling off crown assets in 2006, 2007 or 2008 when the market was in pretty decent shape. It waited until Iceland declared bankruptcy and the world is in the worst recession in many years. All of a sudden, surprise, there is a list of government assets that it might be willing to sell off.

That gets to the question of the member's reference to the issue of a fire sale. Many people would support the government selling crown assets under certain conditions. However, Conservative governments always tend to sell public assets at fire sale, cut rate prices.

If I had time, I would explain what happened with the sale of the Manitoba Telephone System in Manitoba. The government, under Gary Filmon, valued the shares at half their price and sold them. Shares which were worth around $23 a piece and even today are trading in that vicinity were sold for $13 and half of that $13 was subsidized. That is exactly what happened. It was a big reward to the government's friends in the investment business.

So yes, the member is absolutely right.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the home renovation tax credit is pretty popular, but there are many small mom and pop businesses in Canada and these small businesses have not been included. I would like the hon. member to tell me, if this temporary renovation tax credit were expanded, should the mom and pop businesses across Canada be included so these businesses could be renovated to be more energy efficient?

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, as we have said many times, the home renovation tax credit program is extremely popular, but it is not a new idea. Governments of all stripes have brought out programs like this over the years.

We think the government is about to announce the launch of an extension of the program into next year. We would hope that before announcing the program it would have the good sense to come to us in the opposition and ask for ideas.

The idea put forward by the member for Nickel Belt is an excellent idea. It is something that the government should consider. It should consider expanding the program to include small businesses and also look at applying the program to people at the low end of the economic scale through a tax credit system.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to explain to the House why the Liberal Party voted in favour of the first budget bill but will vote against the bill that is now before the House.

If we go back to the budget last January, we will recall that the Canadian economy was at the height of fears of recession and that the G20 had agreed that all countries should do fiscal stimulus to help to protect and save jobs. Moreover, unlike what it did last November when it had an absolutely disastrous economic statement that actually cut spending, the government in January at least proposed to expend many billions of dollars on infrastructure and other measures to support the economy and save or create jobs.

Given that we were at the height of fear and concern about the economy, it was our view that while the budget was highly imperfect, it would nevertheless have been irresponsible to provoke an election by bringing the government down, thereby delaying fiscal stimulus for at least a couple of months. That is why, notwithstanding some flaws in the budget, the Liberal Party decided to support it.

If we flash forward 10 months to today, why does it appear that we have changed our minds and decided to go against the budget? It reflects a triple-failure in implementation of this budget on the part of the government.

First of all, there is a failure to get the money out the door. This is important. We can have a stimulus of $50 billion or $500 billion, but if we do not get the money out the door, we stimulate nothing and create or save zero jobs. Therefore, the first failure is that the government did not get nearly enough of this money out the door to actually save or create jobs.

Second, and this point has been emphasized by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the government failed in its responsibility to be accountable to Canadians for how taxpayer money is spent.

The third failure is the government's failure in managing the nation's finances.

Let me take each of these three failures in turn. At the time of the finance minister's budget, he said that to be effective the stimulus had to be out the door within 120 days. We are now approximately 300 days since the budget. The construction season is coming to an end. Therefore, one would have hoped that the vast majority of funding for infrastructure would long have been out the door and at work for months in terms of shovels in the ground and the creation and saving of jobs.

Far from it, the fact of the matter, thanks to research done by our infrastructure critic, is that only 12% of this fiscal stimulus is out the door and put to work in the form of actual jobs, actual shovels in the ground, and actual jobs being saved or created. Only 12% of the money is out the door some 300 days after the budget, despite the finance minister having said that the money had to be at work within 120 days.

That is entirely unacceptable. That is a big, fat juicy F for failure. The recession is now. The job losses may still increase in the future, but they have occurred in large numbers in the last 12 months. The fact that some 300 days after the budget only 12% of that money has been put to work illustrates and proves a lamentable failure of execution and implementation.

The second failure is one of accountability. This government makes a big deal about accountability, but it has been extraordinarily unaccountable in explaining to Canadians how their taxpayer dollars are being put to work. The government uses words like “implement”, but their website and their reports say nothing about money actually out the door and put to work.

That is why our infrastructure critic had to get the information directly from the mayors. The government refuses to provide this information to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. It has pulled off a stunt of dumping some 5,000 pages of information in his office as if we were in the 19th century rather than the computer age. Day after day, the government has stonewalled and refused to give the most basic information to Canadians on what it is spending Canadians' money on.

Compare this with the United States, where citizens can go onto the U.S. government website and find out, in huge detail, in exactly what states and regions and on which programs the stimulus money is being spent and how it is being put to work. It is unclear to me why Americans are deserving of so much information, accountability and transparency from their government while Canadians, it would appear in this government's view, are undeserving of the kind of information our neighbours to the south are being provided with.

The third source of failure amounts to the government's management of this nation's finances. One year ago, at the time of the November statement, the government actually said this country would run nothing but a long string of surpluses. Then it was $34 billion. Next it was $50 billion. Then it was $56 billion. I do not know what it will be next, but the reliability of the government's deficit forecasts is about the same as the reliability of its statements on the timing of H1N1 flu shot deliveries; in other words, totally unreliable.

In conclusion, yes, we supported the first budget bill because it was urgent to get the money out the door, but now, with the passage of some 10 months, we have seen this triple failure: failure to get the money out the door when it was needed, failure to be accountable to Canadians, and failure to have competent management of the nation's finances.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Markham—Unionville says that the Liberals are flip-flopping on Bill C-51. First they voted for it and then they voted against it.

The home renovation tax credit is very popular. The first-time homebuyers' tax credit is very popular also. I am not sure if the member has any farmers in his riding, but I know I have, and I know that dealing with drought conditions is also part of this bill.

I would like to know if the member is going to support the constituents in his riding who have renovated their houses and to support first-time homebuyers. Is he going to vote for this bill so they can get the money they deserve?

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think it was Winston Churchill who once said, “When the information changes, yes, I change my mind, sir”.

As I explained in my speech, it is not a flip-flop to support something in principle, and then to observe that it is badly implemented or not done, and then to withdraw one's support. That is our Liberal position. That is a perfectly principled position.

The Liberal Party has said many times that we support the home renovation tax credit and that Canadians can be assured that they will get that credit no matter which of our two parties is the government.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus)
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat disappointed today to hear my hon. friend's words, since we share a riding together and many of the same projects that he references.

He will know that across my riding of Oak Ridges—Markham, there are a number of projects that have started, including new ice rinks, and Hoover Park roads, which have been started. Many of the projects that people from his riding have advocated are actually under way, including a skating rink at Markham City Hall and an emergency measures centre. We have a new GO Train parking lot, which a number of his constituents actually use.

Thus I was disappointed to hear about all of the projects he referenced as not having started. I know he spent some time in the riding, because we were together last week at a number of Remembrance Day functions, and I know he would see many of the same projects that have started. But now that he is withdrawing his support, I wonder which projects he will no longer be supporting and if he will be making some suggestions to the mayor of Markham, who has been very supportive of what we have done together with the province.

Will he be making some suggestions as to which projects he would like to see wrapped up and no longer be completed as a result of his party now withdrawing its support for all of these wonderful job creation projects that are happening across my and his riding?