House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was haitian.

Topics

(Return tabled)

Question No. 528
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

December 13th, 2010 / 3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Albina Guarnieri Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

With regard to charities that issued tax receipts under tax shelter gifting arrangements and all such receipts that were disallowed by the Canada Revenue Agency: (a) what was the name of each charity that issued disallowed tax receipts; and (b) what was the dollar value of disallowed tax receipts issued by each charity in (a)?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 529
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

With regard to security spending for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics: (a) within the overall security budget, what was the total portion of the budget funded by the government in dollars and as a percentage; (b) what amount of the overall security budget was allocated to the RCMP; (c) what amount of the overall security budget was allotted to government departments and agencies other than the RCMP, specifying (i) the name of the department or agency, (ii) the amount of funding it received, (iii) the reason for or purpose of the funding; (d) what is a breakdown by category or kind of expenditure of the RCMP’s security budget, including an explanation of the reason for or purpose of the expenditures in each category; (e) at the end of the Olympics, what amount of the RCMP security budget (i) remained unused, (ii) remained unused in each of the categories identified in (d); (f) what about the budgeting process explains any discrepancy identified in (e) between the amount budgeted and the amount spent; and (g) how will any remaining funds be used or reallocated?

(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 the 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.

Situation in Haiti
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The Chair has received a request for an emergency debate from the member for Bourassa. I will hear his submissions now.

Situation in Haiti
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, under Standing Order 52, I request that an emergency debate be held today during routine proceedings on the extremely tense situation in Haiti at present.

The election results announced on December 7 literally sent shock waves through the Haitian population. Many observers and experts in the international community and in Haiti remain skeptical about voting procedures and the integrity of the election process. It seems clear that the people do not believe the results.

We have also seen an unprecedented wave of violence in Haiti. More than 1.5 million Haitians are currently homeless, the country faces cholera and sanitation problems, and relations between MINUSTAH and the people are strained.

It is our responsibility as parliamentarians to examine the causes of this major crisis and look at what can be done to solve it. Canada has a leading role to play, and it must speak with one voice. Given that Canada stands in solidarity and partnership with Haiti, we must work to that end as responsible parliamentarians and hold this emergency debate.

Speaker's Ruling
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for Bourassa for his comments. I also received his letter on the same point. In my opinion, it is possible to hold such a debate, and we will hold it this evening.

The Chair has received notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Scarborough--Guildwood, and I would be pleased to hear the hon. member now.

Statements by Minister and Parliamentary Secretary regarding KAIROS
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I am rising under the provisions of Standing Order 48 on a question of privilege alleging contempt of the House by the Minister of International Cooperation and her parliamentary secretary further to a written notice that I gave to the Clerk on Friday.

The core reason for parliamentary privilege is to enable a member of Parliament to discharge his or her function of representing constituents. Within that core is the essential function of an opposition MP to hold a government to account. I will submit that my ability to hold the government to account has been impaired by the Minister of International Cooperation and her parliamentary secretary, who advertently misled Parliament by telling Parliament something that was not true. I will be asking you, Mr. Speaker, to make a prima facie finding that a breach of privilege has occurred.

Specifically, the minister and her parliamentary secretary “deliberately attempted to mislead the House by way of a statement”, and that is taken from O'Brien and Bosc, or in this case a series of statements, and that she and he knew or ought to have known that their statements to the House were either false or an attempt to mislead.

For some time now, I and others have been asking questions about KAIROS' defunding. KAIROS is a church-based non-governmental organization that represents seven of Canada's largest religious denominations working on a range of social justice issues. Its funding was up for review and it had submitted the appropriate application. It was told that it was being reviewed favourably.

Then the rumours to the contrary started to be heard. KAIROS was unfairly slandered as being anti-Semitic by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. The minister has since withdrawn his remarks. It was then slandered as being anti-mining when all it was trying to do was improve the lives of indigenous people living in poverty.

In question after question, the minister and her parliamentary secretary said that KAIROS did not meet CIDA's funding priorities. On October 28, 2010, the minister stated:

After due diligence, it was determined that KAIROS' proposal did not meet government standards.

On April 23 the parliamentary secretary said:

The criteria for the funding for KAIROS is the same as the criteria for funding for anyone else applying for such funding. KAIROS did not meet the criteria. It did not get the funding. There is no surprise there.

On March 15 the parliamentary secretary said:

CIDA thoroughly analyzed KAIROS' program proposal and determined, with regret, that it did not meet the agency's current priorities. This is important.

However, despite these statements which indicate that KAIROS was defunded because it did not fit within the priorities of the government, there are two pieces of evidence to show that this is false. The first is the access to information request, the response for which I would like to table with you today for your consideration, Mr. Speaker. The second is a transcript from the foreign affairs and international development committee from December 9, 2010, which I will also submit.

When looking through the recommendation produced by CIDA for the minister, obtained through the access to information request, contrary to the parliamentary secretary's and the minister's statements in the House, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that CIDA makes an unequivocal recommendation in support of $7.1 million funding for KAIROS, on the signature approval page of this document, which reads as follows:

Recommendation: that you sign below to indicate your approval of a contribution of $7,098,758 over four years for the above program.

However, someone has inserted the word “not”. This one handwritten change completely inverts the recommendation. Let me read it again so that the new meaning is clear, “Recommendation: that you sign below to indicate you not approve a contribution of $7,098,758 over four years for the above program”.

There is no name or initials next to the handwritten “not”. After this line are three signatures: that of Margaret Biggs, the president of CIDA; Naresh Singh, vice-president of CIDA; and the Minister of International Cooperation. A reasonable person looking at the end page would reasonably conclude that all three did not approve of the grant. I submit that this is precisely what the government, the minister and the parliamentary secretary want the reader to believe. They want to develop a narrative that KAIROS did not meet the standards and priorities of the agency, when in fact it did, and that the agency had killed the proposal. Their responses are tailored to establishing that narrative, and that narrative, I submit, is misleading.

In testimony before the foreign affairs and international development committee, Ms. Biggs testified that when both she and Mr. Singh signed the document, the “not” was not there. She further confirmed to the committee that the department had recommended KAIROS for funding, contrary to what the minister and her parliamentary secretary stated to the House. Had the access to information request not been submitted, that misleading narrative would have been sustained.

I practised law for 22 years, and I can assure the House that any lawyer would not allow such a significant change, let alone a fundamental change to be made to a $7 million document without all three signatories initialling the change. But it gets worse. I will read from the transcript of Thursday, December 9, at the meeting of the foreign affairs committee:

Member: “Madam Minister, you just said that you signed off. You were the one”

Minister: “I sign off on all of the documents”.

Member: “You were the one who wrote the 'not'”.

Minister: “I did not say I was the one who wrote the 'not'”.

Member: “Who did, then?”

Minister: “I do not know.”

Member: “You don't know?”

Minister: “I do not know.”

Member: “That's a remarkable statement.”

At this point my jaw was hitting the floor:

Minister: “I know that the decision ultimately reflects the decision that I would support.”

It goes on again.

Minister: “I cannot say who wrote the 'not'.”

Member: “Was this 'not' put in by some interloper? Is there some override to the minister's decision?”

It goes on:

Member: “So there's a reasonable possibility that you signed off on this, and that someone put a 'not' in later.”

Further on:

Member: “It may well, but you just said that you didn't put the 'not' in. I'm assuming your president of CIDA didn't put the 'not' in. There's only one other signatory who didn't put the 'not' in. So somehow or another, a 'not' got put in after possibly all three of you recommended the KAIROS' funding”.

Further on:

Member: “Madam Minister, clearly somebody didn't get the memo on priorities because clearly Madam Biggs or the other person to the signatory sent the memo up to you from September through to November. They sent that memo to you, you sat on it for two months, that's fine. That's not an issue. The issue is that they didn't seem to understand what your priorities were, so they didn't get the memo as to what the priorities were. If this reflects government priorities, why is it that the president of CIDA doesn't know what the priorities of the government are?”

I will not carry on with the rest of the interaction between the minister and me, but I just point out that later, and just as concerning, under questioning, the minister could not even say whether or not she had signed this document, if it is an auto-signature or otherwise. In my mind, this should concern us all. If she did approve, why could she not sign the document itself?

We are all aware of the doctrine of ministerial accountability which can be summed up by saying that the buck stops on the minister's desk. Apparently it does not with this minister. Neither she, nor you, Mr. Speaker, nor I, nor this House knows who makes final CIDA decisions.

In order to establish a prima facie finding that a breach of privilege and contempt has occurred, three elements must be present: one, it must be proven that the statements were misleading; two, it must be established that the member at the time knew the statement was incorrect; and three, in the making of the statement, the minister intended to mislead the House.

On page 111 of the 22nd edition of Erskine May it states:

The Commons may treat the making of a deliberately misleading statement as a contempt.

Page 234 of the second edition of Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada explains that in order for a Speaker to find a prima facie case in a matter involving a deliberate misleading statement, there must be “an admission by someone in authority, such as a minister of the Crown or an officer of a department”.

On Friday, December 9, I gave the minister the opportunity to retract these statements and possibly clear the record. However, she refused to do so, conduct which is inconsistent with the standards of the House and what the public expects from its members.

She further compounded her difficulties by saying, “The minister ultimately decides what course to take”. That statement is patently false. The transcript of the foreign affairs committee says that she not only did not insert the “not”, she does not know who did. Somebody is making decisions over there, but it is not the minister.

Mr. Speaker, at this time I would like to remind you of the three requirements needed to establish contempt.

One, it must be proven that her statements were misleading.

We have three statements which are recorded in Hansard, one on October 28, one on April 23 and one on March 15, which directly contradict both the documents obtained through the access to information request and the testimony of Margaret Biggs before the foreign affairs committee. Both show that the minister was informed by the president of CIDA, that CIDA had recommended KAIROS for funding and that it did meet the standards and priorities of CIDA, the government, and yet the minister and her parliamentary secretary misled the House into believing that her officials had decided that KAIROS did not meet the standards and that the funding had been turned down by CIDA.

Two, it must be established that the member at the time knew the statement was incorrect.

The Minister of International Cooperation was fully briefed on CIDA's position on funding of KAIROS, which has been proven both in the testimony before the foreign affairs committee and in the documentation obtained through the access to information request. Furthermore, in Ms. Biggs' testimony before the foreign affairs committee she stated that she had recommended to the minister that KAIROS receive the funding and that there was “no confusion on that matter”. She even went so far as to say that “My discussions with the minister were quite clear. She did, as she indicated, deliberate on it. She knew what my advice was so she was not misled in any way”.

Third, in making the statement the minister intended to mislead the House.

On three separate occasions over a period of eight months the minister and her parliamentary secretary stood in this place and repeated mistruths about the reason why KAIROS funding was denied. This was an intentional narrative and sustainable if the access to information report had not been made. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you would agree this represents a prima facie intent to mislead the House.

May I remind the House that this is a $7 million grant, an enormous sum of money for the people and organizations involved, and the good that it could do.

At this point, we have a document that contradicts the minister and the parliamentary secretary and the two senior CIDA officials who contradict the parliamentary secretary and the minister. The minister, even as late as last Friday, asserted the minister ultimately decided what course to take. Apparently that is not true with the minister.

One is left with a clear impression that the decision to not recommend was made after the minister's signature had been appended to the document. The minister does not know who put in the interlineations and therefore cannot tell the House who made the decision, when the decision was made and why the decision, approved by the agency and possibly by the minister herself, was reversed.

It is a prima facie case of contempt to mislead members by blaming others for one's decisions. It is misleading to say that one made a decision when no decision was made. It impairs a member's core function of holding a government to account. It erodes the doctrine of ministerial accountability.

In the event that you do make a finding of prima facie contempt, Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to move the requisite motion.

Statements by Minister and Parliamentary Secretary regarding KAIROS
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, at the time of these events, I was the parliamentary secretary. At this point, I am simply the member for Kootenay—Columbia.

I do have some information that might be of value.

First, I take note of the three points the member brought to our attention, that the statements were misleading, that the statements were known to be misleading and that the statements were intended to mislead.

If I may, Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw to your attention that at no time in the member's presentation did he make any assertion that the minister made any misleading statements. In fact, I do not doubt for a second that the member, his colleagues and his research people will have combed over every solitary word that the minister may have uttered in the House or outside of the House. I note he did not say that the minister made any statement that misled the House.

With respect to myself, on March 15, I did make the statement that CIDA thoroughly analyzed KAIROS' program proposal and determined that it did not meet the agency's current priorities. For that, I have to apologize to the House. It was an inadvertent mistake on my part. I do apologize. As a person who has been around the House for 17 years, I take that failing on my part very seriously.

Second, the member says that the responses, obviously referring to my responses, because I have clearly determined that the minister's responses were never questioned by the member in his statement just now, were tailored to forward the narrative. This falls into the category of sometimes there is a lot less than meets the eye. In this instance, I was given to the impression that CIDA, as with any agency or any ministry, should take direction from the minister. Had it taken direction from the minister on behalf of the Government of Canada, the recommendation coming to the minister would not have been to recommend. In fact, it would have been against recommending. The fault, then, lies that the agency itself was in fact giving the minister advice that did not reflect the priorities.

I was mistaken. I took a look at the priorities of the government, which by the way I fully support because it gives the government the opportunity to more correctly direct where our funding should go. My presumption on March 15 was that CIDA, as an agency, would have made that recommendation.

If we take a look at it, first, the minister has not been cited with any evidence by the member that she made misleading statements and second, I was wrong, I did make a mistake and I apologize to the House. The second point, though, that I knew they were misleading, I have already clearly stated I could not have known. It was simply a mistake on my part. Third, that I intended to mislead, one follows the other, does it not?

With all due respect to the hon. colleague, the fact is this has been a change in policy that has been unacceptable to him, to KAIROS and to other people in that industry, and so be it. That is part of the political process and part of the discourse that we get into.

In fact, there is no place for a question of privilege other than perhaps, should you, Mr. Speaker, choose to censure me as having been a little bit overzealous in my representation of what I presumed CIDA was going to be doing.

In fact, there is absolutely no case for a question of privilege.

Statements by Minister and Parliamentary Secretary regarding KAIROS
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood on his question of privilege.

When using the three criteria cited by my colleague for holding a member of the House in contempt, we would find, I believe, sufficient evidence to indicate that the Minister of International Cooperation, who is responsible for CIDA and its funding decisions, is in fact in contempt of Parliament and that her statements were misleading, that she knew at the time they were misleading and that her statements were intended to mislead the House.

For clarification, I propose to you, Mr. Speaker, that the minister did make a statement, if not more than one, misleading to the House.

It is my proposition that if a member of the House offers a statement that is misleading and knows it to be misleading, the only conclusion at which the Speaker can arrive is that the statement was intended to be misleading.

It is clear, when checking the minister's statements against information obtained at the foreign affairs and international development committee meetings, that the statements made by the minister were misleading and intended to be so.

By way of evidence, I will now cite the debate the minister and I engaged in on October 28 in question period in which I asked:

Mr. Speaker, we have now learned from CIDA documents obtained through access to information and reviewed by the minister one year ago, that KAIROS' objectives are in fact “strategically aligned with our country program objectives”.

The question continued:

On September 20 of this year, the minister for CIDA, in absolute contradiction of her own department's findings said, “KAIROS was recently refused funding as it did not meet the government's priorities”.

Now that we know the minister's pretext for the KAIROS cuts is false, will the minister now finally restore funding to this organization?

In her response to my question, the minister said, “After due diligence, it was determined that KAIROS' proposal did not meet government standards”. Remember, now, on September 20, she said, “KAIROS was recently refused funding as it did not meet the government's priorities”. She has made this statement now at least twice.

We now know both of these statements to be false. Why? Because Margaret Biggs, CIDA's president, and Naresh Singh, the vice-president for CIDA, said so on December 9 at the foreign affairs and international development committee meeting. They testified that they positively endorsed the funding application for KAIROS. In fact, CIDA staff found that the bid met their criteria, received a positive audit report and had an excellent evaluation. Accordingly CIDA staff sent the response for approval to the minister.

The application approval was endorsed by CIDA's president and vice-president, as follows, “that you sign below to indicate you approve a contribution of $7,098,758 over four years for the above program”.

CIDA wanted to fund KAIROS. After departmental deliberation, the president decided that funding KAIROS was the right thing to do. Therefore, it is clear to me that the department standards were met and that it fit departmental priorities.

This is particularly disappointing when we review an order paper question submitted by the member for London North Centre, which asked:

With regard to KAIROS, which has lost its funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) as of November 30, 2009 due to KAIROS no longer fitting CIDA priorities: (a) what are the CIDA priorities that did not fit well with the priorities of KAIROS; (b) what sort of criteria does CIDA examine to determine whether or not a non-governmental organization will receive funding...

In response, the minister offered the following:

Mr. Speaker, with regard to a) The CIDA decision not to continue funding KAIROS was based on the overall assessment of the proposal, not on any single criterion.

The operative words are “the CIDA decision not to continue funding KAIROS”. CIDA's decision was to continue funding KAIROS, not to discontinue its funding.

The minister is clearly continuing with her subterfuge. The minister's statement is in complete contradiction to CIDA's position that it met the funding criteria. For the minister to state otherwise is misleading.

The response to question (b) is as follows: “Non-government organizations’ proposals to CIDA are assessed on a variety of criteria, which are described on CIDA’s website”.

Further, any distinction the minister may try to create or imply between CIDA's criteria and the government's criteria, if she attempts to make such a distinction, are irrelevant. To find otherwise would bring into disrepute all government websites because people will no longer be able to rely upon government websites as reflecting the priorities of the government. The fact that the minister may have used the words “government standards” or “government priorities” in the House, as opposed to CIDA priorities, is therefore irrelevant because CIDA priorities represent the government's priorities and its criteria are the government's criteria.

Did the minister at the time know that her statement was incorrect?

On December 9, 2010, at the foreign affairs and international development committee meeting, Ms. Biggs made clear that the minister was aware of her department's position. She said, “My discussions with the minister were quite clear. She did, as she indicated, deliberate on it. She knew what my advice was. I don't know where that “not” came from, but she wasn't misled in any way”.

This statement by Ms. Biggs must be considered in addition to the fact that KAIROS received a positive audit report and an excellent evaluation and that it was recommended for funding by CIDA's president and vice-president, all of which facts had to have been known to the minister.

Did she intend to mislead the House? Unless a statement is made negligently, with no regard for the facts whatsoever or with no regard to the nature of the question asked whatsoever, or misleading information was given to her by her department before offering an answer, which is clearly not the case here, then one can only conclude that the answer given was intended to mislead the House. The definition of mislead, according to the Oxford Dictionary is to “cause someone to have a wrong idea or impression”.

Anything stated, designed to, or with the intention of misleading the House, knowing it to be false, imports the conclusion that the person making this statement intended it to mislead or had no regard for whether it would mislead or not, which is equally contemptuous.

The remarks by my colleague, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, as well as the information that I have presented to you, Mr. Speaker, make clear that the minister did in fact mislead the House. The statements made by Ms. Biggs in committee make clear that the minister was aware that she was incorrect in making the statements she made, and I therefore submit that the minister intended to mislead the House and its members. The minister said that KAIROS' funding was cut because CIDA did not want to fund it or that it did not meet government priorities and standards.

We know this to be false. We also have demonstrated that the nuance between whether it met government priorities or standards or CIDA priorities is irrelevant as CIDA priorities must be government priorities. How can they be anything less? And if they are, then the government and not Parliament is truly dysfunctional.

We now know the minister's statements to be false. We also know that the minister was aware that it was false while she was offering her justifications to the numerous questions asked of her in question period. As such I strongly believe that this provides sufficient evidence to hold the minister in contempt of the House.

If the minister did not want to fund KAIROS then she should have explained why she did not want to provide funding instead of pinning the decision on the department she runs. I for one would still like an honest answer and I think everyone in the House and in Canada has the right to know why KAIROS was not funded.

Statements by Minister and Parliamentary Secretary regarding KAIROS
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. I simply want to inform you that the Bloc Québécois supports the initiative of the member for Scarborough—Guildwood. We want to shed light on the funding that was granted or not granted as well as the various statements regarding KAIROS.

With your leave, we will come back to this issue tomorrow with our own observations.