House of Commons Hansard #7 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was speech.

Topics

Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that immediacy is 14 days.

When the government's special investigator said that the food safety system needed serious repair, the government promised to invest $75 million. Not only was the $75 million missing in last week's budget, so were the words food safety, not a single mention. What is worse, the government cut funding to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that protects Canadians.

Could the minister explain where the $75 million he promised for food safety is and why the government plans to cut an already underfunded Canadian Food Inspection Agency?

Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the member from the NDP just proved that he did not read either the throne speech or the budget. Food safety is mentioned in both of those.

As he should know, that $75 million was announced last summer. It is already in play. We have already worked toward hiring the 166 inspectors who were also mentioned in that. Guess what? The NDP did not vote for any of that product. It keeps voting against it. While we stand to rebuild the CFIA cratered by the Liberals, the NDP stands in the road constantly. It is shameful.

Burma
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rodney Weston Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, human rights in Burma have long been a cause for concern for the international community, and that is putting it lightly. The military regime in Burma is by far one of the worst and most repressive regimes in the world. Unfortunately, even if Burmese citizens are successful in escaping the terror, many still face starvation and disease in the refugee camps of bordering nations.

Could the Minister of International Cooperation update the House on what our government is doing to help the refugees and migrants fleeing the Burmese regime?

Burma
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Durham
Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, yes, it is true that there is a tragedy happening in Burma and the Burmese continue to suffer. We have been supporting the Burmese border area program and it has achieved success by providing service to Burmese people. One million cases of malaria have been treated, 145,000 refugees are receiving service and over 500,000 people have received health care.

That is why I am pleased today to announce a renewal of the Burmese border area program by increasing the amount to under $16 million.

Haiti
Oral Questions

March 11th, 2010 / 3 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have all seen Canadians' and Quebeckers' extraordinary solidarity and generosity in the wake of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. Action was urgently needed. People had until February 12 to make donations. What was the result? People donated $154 million, and the federal government created a $128 million emergency fund. Time was of the essence, according to CIDA, because this money had to be used quickly to meet urgent needs in Haiti.

If action was so urgently needed, why has not one cent of this fund, nothing, nada, been spent to date, when the minister has been in a position to spend this money for several weeks now?

Haiti
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Durham
Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, quite contrary to nada, in fact, this government put forward $85 million immediately in the early days following the earthquake. We have also supported Canadian charities. There are over 357 charities in Canada that have received the support of generous Canadians and we know that the humanitarian relief needs are being met.

We are now confirming the contributions for the matching fund and the matching fund will go toward recovery and reconstruction in line with the plans of the government.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, now more than ever, a complete overhaul of the EI system is needed in order to improve it. In the meantime however, the government must renew transitional measures for workers in the Lower St. Lawrence and North Shore area. In these tough economic times, workers expect their government to support them, not to add to the uncertainty and anxiety of the situation.

My question is simple: will the transitional measures be renewed?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, we introduced transitional measures on September 5, 2008, for a period of 18 months. These measures allow the communities of the Lower St. Lawrence and North Shore area to work fewer weeks to qualify for EI and to receive additional weeks of benefits.

These are transitional measures and we have not yet decided if we are going to renew them. However, we have done a great deal to improve employment insurance.

Rights & Democracy
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, according to the act of Parliament governing Rights & Democracy, board members must act honestly and in its best interests. Unfortunately, the actions of the current board and its chairman have caused a crisis in the organization. The chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has accused the board of destroying the institution. Clearly the chairman and his allies are in violation of an act of Parliament.

Will the government take immediate action to address the abuses of the board, uphold the law and protect Canada's international reputation?

Rights & Democracy
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, Rights & Democracy is an arm's-length organization that is run by its board of directors and staff, and it is not part of the public service. This government takes very seriously Rights & Democracy and has appointed a new president to continue working to give a new direction to Rights & Democracy. We will be working with him in the foreign affairs committee to look at this issue.

The Budget
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dona Cadman Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, our government is continuing our focus on economic growth and job creation. In year two of Canada's economic action plan, $19 billion in stimulus will be at work in the Canadian economy. Our plan has created 135,000 jobs since last July, yet the Liberals continually vote against our economic action plan.

Would the Minister of Finance please inform the House why the tax and spend Liberals continue to vote against our plan?

The Budget
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we have Canada's economic action plan. The Liberals have Canada's economic inaction plan. We are lowering taxes for Canadians. The Liberals want to raise taxes. We are protecting health and social transfers to the provinces. The Liberals were slashing those to the bone in the 1990s. While our plan will protect and create 220,000 jobs, the Liberal plan would kill jobs in Canada. How many jobs would the Liberal plan kill? Informetrica says 162,000 Canadian jobs would be lost with a 2% Liberal rise in the GST.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is Thursday, so it is time to look ahead to what will be on the government's agenda for the House of Commons next week.

First, I would like to ask the government House leader how he plans to fix one of the many problems the Prime Minister created by proroguing Parliament from December until March. I specifically refer to Standing Order 81(4), which provides that the government's main estimates for the coming fiscal year are deemed to be referred for scrutiny to the various standing committees of the House of Commons on March 1 of every year. This year, of course, the House stood prorogued on March 1. There was a prime ministerial padlock on the place. MPs were prohibited from doing their jobs here. The committees of the House did not exist, so Standing Order 81(4) was violated.

What is the government's plan for getting its main estimates referred to all of the standing committees? If that does not happen, there will be no main estimates and, therefore, no money for the government to operate on.

Second, I would like to ask about the business for next week. After all of that heavy recalibration the government went through while it was AWOL from December to March, I presume that we will see an agenda for next week that is just chockablock full of new government work, I repeat, new government work.

I would remind the government House leader that next week is one of those weeks that had been specifically scheduled by the House to be a constituency week for members of Parliament. The government instead insisted on shifting next week to Ottawa for essential, urgent, momentous government business. What is it going to be? I am sure it will be much more than a series of opposition days and the continuation of a rather pointless debate about a throne speech that is 95% recycled.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I really do not know where to begin. I think you would agree with me, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. House leader of the official opposition seems to be making the Thursday question longer and longer. In fact, he is ending up making speeches as opposed to just asking a question about future government business. Let me just add some points as briefly as possible, in response to some of the questions he posed.

First, on the issue of prorogation, I think I did reply at some length last week when his deputy House leader asked the question, because he was unfortunately detained, I am sure, somewhere and not able to ask the question himself last Thursday. I would not suggest, as he has, that he was AWOL, of course. At any rate, on the issue of prorogation, very clearly this is a mechanism that governments have used from the very beginning of Confederation. We have said this repeatedly. On average, it has been about once a year that prorogation has been used to end a session of Parliament and begin a new one.

I would point out to my hon. colleague that under a previous Liberal administration, it was used a couple of times and 15 sitting days were lost. He would be able to do the math. He alleged during his remarks that prorogation was actually from December to March. In fact, we only lost 22 sitting days and, of those, 10 have been restored. With the acceptance of all parties in the House, we have agreed to set aside two of the constituency break weeks and instead do the business of the House here in Ottawa. Therefore, in reality, we have lost 12 sitting days during this prorogation, unlike the Liberal Party in past parliaments that on more than one occasion lost 15 sitting days, and they did not think there was anything wrong with that. They thought that was the way they would go about doing their business.

As I said last week, very clearly what they are upset about is that prorogation was used once before to prevent Canadians from facing an illicit, and immoral, I would add, coalition of the three opposition parties to seize power just weeks after Canadians had gone to the polls and re-elected the Conservative government with an increased mandate. We want to be very clear about that use of prorogation.

I will get to the order of business, but first, we will continue today with our very important address in reply to the Speech from the Throne. I note that the hon. House leader for the official opposition, even though his own leader spoke at some length this morning, does not think, obviously, that those remarks were worthwhile, because he questions whether we should in fact be debating the Speech from the Throne. However, we will continue with debate on the Speech from the Throne. There are many members, I am sure, on both sides of the chamber who want to make some points about that great speech.

Tomorrow we will debate Bill C-2, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week shall be opposition allotted days. I am looking forward with bated breath as to what the opposition parties think should seize the nation, what issues they will bring forward. I hope it is not to discuss things like prorogation, but rather some substantive issues with some policy suggestions of how they want to see Canada go forward. It will be interesting.

To the very point about allotted opposition days, the opposition House leader knows very well that he and his colleagues in the opposition parties got together and deemed it necessary to impose upon me as government House leader certain parameters where I have to allot certain opposition days in a certain timeframe. Hence, his allegations that he would not like to see opposition days are pretty ill-founded, when it was his idea that he cooked up to begin with.

To the other point on how to go about fixing the present situation where, because of the Standing Orders, we see that we should have begun the supply cycle on March 1, I would like to make the following statement, because we do, as he points out quite correctly, eventually need to fix the supply cycle with a special order.

As background I refer to pages 881 and 882 of O'Brien and Bosc where it states:

From time to time, circumstances may require a deviation from the normal supply process and cycle. For example, because of an unscheduled adjournment or a prorogation or dissolution of Parliament, the main estimates might not be tabled and referred to standing committees before the March 1 deadline, or the interim supply or the main estimates might not be concurred in by the June 23 deadline. In those cases, the Standing Order provisions relating to the business of supply (such as those respecting the timetable for the tabling of estimates, their reference to standing committees and their return to the House, the concurrence motions and the appropriation bills) no longer apply.

This is the exact situation that we find ourselves in today. We currently have no mechanism to vote on the main estimates and supply. O'Brien and Bosc offers a solution on page 882:

Such situations may be dealt with by temporarily suspending the relevant Standing Orders. There may be an arrangement worked out between the government and the opposition parties to finalize supply as expeditiously as possible. Typically, this involves adopting a special order--

We have a typical problem with a typical solution. It has always been worked out in the past. I am sure it will be again.

If the NDP, for example, is tempted to deny consent for a special order to protest against prorogation, I point out that prorogation is a legitimate constitutional right, as I have said, exercised by Conservative and Liberal governments at the federal level and, in addition, by NDP and PQ governments at the provincial level.

The average duration in fact of a session of the NDP government in Manitoba has been 9.7 months. Yes, members heard me right: 9.7 months on average. René Lévesque's record was 10 months. Both of those governments had six sessions in one legislature, meaning they prorogued five times in a single legislature.

None of the members of the coalition of the prorogation outrage could even meet their own standard, I would submit.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the House leader of the official opposition and the government House leader for their debate on the matter of House business.

I have a suggestion. The purpose of this question was to get a list of House business for the next week so members knew what was going to come up. We may have gotten that. There was debate on both sides, a lengthy speech, in my view, on both sides. If the House leaders could get together and have a practice round perhaps for this question and answer, I would be glad to preside and make suggestions for shortening the proceedings so we could get back to the meat of House business in this question, which is, after all, the purpose of it rather than cutting into debate time.