House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was documents.

Topics

Provision of information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, just quickly, I am assuming, given the fairness that you always treat these arguments with, that the government will be allowed further argument on this.

I am standing only to request that we be given the opportunity to respond, particularly on the issue that the parliamentary secretary has now raised, both in his initial statement and now, with regard to the whole question of national security.

I will only make this one point and would want to reserve our right to argue it more extensively. The argument over national security is one that, given the rights of Parliament, is not to be determined solely by the government. If it were really serious about that argument, there would have been extensive discussions and negotiations after the motion and resolution of December 10.

We have now provided for a system that we believe would be acceptable to the opposition parties, the majority of parliamentarians, in the resolution that was heard from my colleague from St. John's East.

Mr. Speaker, I simply will terminate by asking you to give us the opportunity to respond once the government has come back with its full argument.

Provision of information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief. We, too, of course, would like the opportunity to respond when the government comes back.

Following up on what the member for Windsor—Tecumseh said in support of the member for Toronto Centre and the motion from the member for Scarborough—Rouge River, I want to make the point regarding security and all other national issues, access to information, et cetera, that there is the supremacy of Parliament over any rules related to these.

It is the responsibility of Parliament, not just the government, as was just mentioned. There are precedents which we will bring up in further debate which have ruled on the primacy of Parliament in these issues, not in the primacy of something that would inhibit Parliament to that information.

It would be the responsibility of Parliament to protect national security, but it still has the primacy of access to information that it needs on this issue and any other issues of major national importance.

Provision of information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The parliamentary secretary, in his submissions, requested that the matter be deferred for a while to permit ministers who have submissions on the issue to make them to the House, and I am quite prepared to do that.

I will deal with one issue at the moment, and that was the question of timeliness of the request to raise a question of privilege in the House. I note the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River filed his request before the session of the House began, which was the first opportunity he could do that following the prorogation of the previous session, and therefore the fact that the order could not be complied with and that tablings might not be done during a prorogation.

Accordingly, in my view there is no lack of timeliness in this case. The hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River had not made his presentation in the House because I asked him to hold off so we could see what would happen with the inquiry that Mr. Justice Iacobucci is carrying out.

When the matter came to a head yesterday and everyone else indicated they would go ahead, I indicated I would hear arguments from all three members who had submitted letters on this point, but I do not believe timeliness is an issue, and accordingly, I will dispense with that one now.

I am prepared to hear other arguments on this matter from the ministers who were mentioned in the questions of privilege raised. I will then come back to the House with a ruling.

I thank all honourable members for their comments today, which will be of great assistance in dealing with this difficult matter.

The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas had the floor. There are five minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, one issue not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, in an area where serious recalibration is necessary, is with regard to the use of security certificates in Canada. We are seeing security certificates overturned and quashed by the courts.

The latest was on December 14 when Justice Richard Mosley of the Federal Court of Canada quashed the security certificate against Hassan Almrei. Mr. Almrei had been detained on an Immigration and Refugee Protection Act security certificate since 2001 as an alleged terrorism suspect.

The most recent certificate was issued in February 2008 signed by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and the then Minister of Public Safety, who is now the Minister of International Trade. That is eight years in jail, never having been charged, tried or convicted of a crime. It is still hard to believe that is possible in Canada.

Justice Mosley, in quashing the certificate against Mr. Almrei, noted that he “was not a member of an organization that there are reasonable grounds to believe has engaged in terrorism”. That is a very serious conclusion.

However, there is another aspect of Justice Mosley's decision that is also very serious. As part of the judgment, he also ruled that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and the former Minister of Public Safety were in violation of their duty of candour to the court, noting that they had failed to provide full information on the case to the court and that they did not fully review all the information available about the case when they signed the security certificate against Mr. Almrei in 2008.

This is extremely troubling given the extraordinary circumstances of security certificates which suspend the usual process of justice in Canada. The security certificate allows for the indefinite detention without charge, trial or conviction; it withholds evidence from the accused and his or her lawyer; and it prevents even the special advocates who do get to review all the evidence from communicating with the accused about specific details or allegations. It works in camera, in secret.

Given the extraordinary circumstances under which a security certificate is used, Judge Mosley points out that the government, CSIS and the ministers signing the security certificate must present all the evidence at their disposal, even that which is unfavourable to their case. He notes that in this case the certificate was:

--assembled with information that could only be construed as unfavourable to Almrei without any serious attempt to include information to the contrary, or to update their assessment.

The judge found the ministers in breach of their duty of candour to the court. It should be pointed out that he also, similarly, found CSIS to have breached its duties.

New Democrats have long held that the security certificate process should be repealed. We feared exactly what has taken place, that the process would not be used appropriately and that due diligence would not be done, that there would be an abuse of these extraordinary powers. The government must respond to this judgment and this situation. I happen to believe personally that this matter is so serious that both ministers should be removed from cabinet and the use of security certificates should be suspended given the failures of these ministers.

Recalibration was the word used by the government to describe the need for prorogation. Serious recalibration and serious accountability measures are needed especially in light of this abuse of the security certificate process.

The Speech from the Throne provided no recalibration. It was just more of the same. There is no coherent vision of how to protect or create jobs for Canadians. The government could have made choices to ensure all Canadians benefit in an economic recovery, but it chose not to.

There is no movement to stop the corporate tax giveaway that diverts billions from lifting seniors out of poverty or helping women and children. There will be $6 billion more given to profitable corporations, big banks and big oil companies, which is especially ironic when the banks are announcing record profits.

There is no tangible commitment on climate change. The government called climate change one of the most important challenges but offered no plan to address it, other than deregulating and speeding up tar sands development and ending the role of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

There is no new commitment to public transit. The government could have chosen to dedicate 1¢ per litre of the gas tax to public transit. There is no national housing program and no new affordable housing or homelessness commitment. There was silence on health care. There was nothing significant on child care. There was nothing on pay equity and there was no commitment to fair trade. Instead, the outrageous free trade deal with Colombia is the first thing that is back on the agenda.

Sadly, this is yet another disappointing agenda from the government.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to hear the hon. member speak because he clearly still has not read the economic action plan from last year. Had he read last year's action plan, he would know that there were significant resources for community centres, roads and bridges, tax cuts for families and funding for transit across this country.

I was delighted to participate in a $1.5 billion announcement in Toronto. His province received funding for transit, for the development of low income homes and for unemployment. In the Speech from the Throne, we talked about the reduction of red tape. We talked about moving forward with continuing our investments for communities across Canada. I can only assume that he still has not actually read the throne speech or the first part of the economic action plan.

I wonder how the member can continue to talk about the things that he talks about when he constantly votes against all of these investments that we are making, whether it is for low income Canadians, whether it is extending $100 for a family so they can have choice in child care, whether it is funding for our transit system, whether it is reducing tariffs on our manufacturers so they can have more money to invest in themselves and in their business or whether it is giving families more money in their pockets so they can invest in themselves and in their families.

Why does the member constantly vote against the things Canadians want and the things our budget and throne speech set out, which are jobs and growth for Canada, so we can continue to lead the world in economic growth and provide a country that is the best country to live, work and invest in?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, that was almost longer than my speech.

I will just pick on one aspect of what the hon. member raised, which is the commitment to child care that is absolutely lacking in the throne speech.

In my community, after housing, the most significant expenditure of any family is child care, and that is even before food. The government's $100 a month, which I think is even taxable, hardly makes any dent in the child care expenses of an average family.

However, in the throne speech and in the most recent budget what assistance is added to that? For the lowest income families, they will get another $3.25 a week toward their child care expenses. I am sure there was dancing in the streets when people heard about that generous contribution toward the child care expenses of Canadians. It amounts to nothing and it is absurd.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Burnaby—Douglas raised in his speech the fact that the government mentioned the issue of nuclear disarmament. I would like to ask the member for his assessment of Canada's work in this area over the past few years. Has Canada been playing a role in building a world without nuclear weapons?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canada used to play a very significant role in the whole question of ending nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation. We used to have an ambassador for disarmament who had an advocacy mandate as part of its role. Sadly, that is no longer part of the role for the ambassador for disarmament. Folks like, in the past, Douglas Roche and Peggy Mason, had that mandate and did considerable work in raising awareness and contributing to the whole movement toward nuclear disarmament.

The position still exists and it is staffed by very able and dedicated public servants, but, sadly, they do not have that advocacy role and it should be restored.

There is still significant participation by Canadians in non-governmental organizations working toward this goal, but Canada's capacity to participate in the various negotiations has declined. We do not have the public service capacity that we used to. Canada was recognized in the past as a significant player in the whole question of verification of the reduction of nuclear arms. Sadly, we have lost that capacity in some regard now. We have experts but their experience has been underutilized in that area. Canada has not come out in support of initiatives like an Arctic nuclear weapons-free zone. Canada has not endorsed the idea of a negotiation of a nuclear weapons convention.

I am glad there was a mention in the Speech from the Throne on the question of nuclear disarmament and nuclear proliferation but we need to get back on track and we need to put a lot more into that question.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be sharing my time with my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Mississauga—Brampton South, whose riding is second to none.

I would first and foremost like to congratulate our athletes for the superb job they did in Vancouver. The pride that we experienced as an entire country as we watched these superb men and women in their quest for excellence was truly humbling. We truly have reached a milestone, both through their achievements and as hosts of these winter games. That pride continues to grow as we watch our Paralympic athletes take on the world. We are all cheering them on as they strive for the top of the podium.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to offer a reply to the Speech from the Throne because I feel, as do a great number of Canadians and constituents in my riding of Davenport, that the government missed an opportunity to address issues that are important to Canadians, and by this I mean issues from housing to homelessness, public transit, child care, the environment, creating green jobs, the arts and seniors' concerns.

Most clearly, the Speech from the Throne demonstrated that the government's most recent prorogation was not about recalibrating its agenda but about missed opportunities. A Latin proverb states, “History repeats itself”, but opportunity does not.

While we were prorogued, a number of major international events took place and Canadians would have preferred that their parliamentarians had been here at work and dealing with these troubling times. On January 12, the people of Haiti were struck by a terrible earthquake where entire cities were destroyed and an already struggling society was once again set back. We all watched with undivided attention as the relief efforts unfolded. We have still not been able to understand the full extent of the devastation in Haiti before we took action.

The response of our soldiers and our workers was remarkable. Canadians stood together in unwavering resolve and opened their hearts, their homes and their wallets, all in an effort to contribute to the relief efforts. There are multiple challenges facing Haiti and I hope we can work with the Haitian government and the people to deal with these challenges.

I cannot help but think, however, that so much more might have been accomplished had parliamentarians been in Ottawa, working together regardless of party affiliation, to speed the process further or define more and better ways to help the aid make its way to Haiti.

One such measure might have been to send a major Canadian figure as an envoy to Haiti. We lost a valuable opportunity to send a champion on behalf of the country. We missed a great opportunity to find and use someone whose prestige would bring together both private and non-governmental organizations in an effort to make a real and lasting difference in the relief and rebuilding efforts in Haiti.

Both the United States and Brazil, the other two countries leading the relief effort, appointed special envoys to Haiti to deal with the crisis. The United States called on the service of two former presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, to direct those efforts. The decision was not a partisan one. It was a human one. Those two Americans, regardless of political stripe, fostered an effective and lasting partnership with the Haitian community.

Canada has a wealth of former statespeople who could have been called upon. Why did we not call upon former prime ministers, like Paul Martin, Jean Chrétien, Kim Campbell, Joe Clark or even Brian Mulroney, to fulfill this position for us?

On February 20, flood waters crashed through the Portuguese Islands of Madeira killing 42 people, injuring hundreds and causing billions of dollars worth of damage. This is another event that took place when we were prorogued.

I had the opportunity to speak with a number of members of the Portuguese Canadian community and express my deepest condolences. We lost the chance to express our deepest condolences as a nation from this venerable place and, moreover, there was no opportunity for us to discuss what we could do as international leaders to help in this time of need.

Unfortunately, tragedy also struck in Chile just before Parliament resumed. It was with truly heavy hearts that we watched a terrible force of nature destroy so many communities.

Last week I attended a vigil at Queen's Park in Toronto where members of the Chilean community were asking the government to also match, dollar for dollar, the contributions that have been made, as it did in Haiti for the relief efforts. I encourage the government to do so.

Canada is an international leader and, as an international leader, people around the world look to Canada in times of need for guidance and assistance. The Parliament of Canada is the foremost institution of our nation and when there is no one to answer, to lend support or to speak to the world, we lose our role as leaders.

In order to no longer miss these opportunities, our priority should be institutional reform. Parliament is a venerable institution. In this place, we have achieved so much, from universal health care to the Canada pension plan.

Our party has asked that the Prime Minister give 10 days written notice and specific reasons should he intend to seek prorogation. This would give Parliament the opportunity to debate the merits of prorogation. We have also suggested that Parliament should not be prorogued within a year of a Speech from the Throne unless Parliament consents. Prorogation should not be a way to avoid scrutiny, so it cannot be used to escape a confidence motion or committee work.

We took an important step forward with yesterday's motion to require the Prime Minister to seek a resolution from Parliament to prorogue for more than seven days, I would ask that the Prime Minister also respect the will of this House.

The Speech from the Throne did not truly address the realities that seniors face today. While a seniors' day is welcome recognition of the contributions that our greatest generations have made for us, without the substance to make a significant difference, it does not amount to much more than another day. What is another day to low income seniors who spend over 55% of their income on food and shelter? When we take into account extra expenses, such as health care, clothing and transportation, times are becoming increasingly difficult for seniors. This becomes even more urgent when we consider that the percentage of Canadians over 65 years of age is expected to double in the coming 30 years.

Seniors in Canada are worried and, overwhelmingly, do not believe that their interests are being considered by the government. During a round table, one of the suggestions our caucus made was for the creation of a supplementary Canada pension plan that would enable Canadians to invest more for their retirement. Constituents in my riding of Davenport have told me that they support these measures, so I do not see why the government refused to act on this plan.

The Speech from the Throne also did not take jobs into account. Where are the green jobs? Green jobs are the jobs of the future. They are the single greatest and most sustainable way for us to make an investment in our future. Especially coming out of the recent economic crisis, we should, now more than ever, start preparing for the jobs we will need in the future, the way that countries across the world are already doing.

We see that countries, like Brazil, are ahead of the curve. They have emerged from the recession and are now emphasizing environmentally friendly public policies and job creations through hydroelectric development.

In my own riding of Davenport, the government has a perfect opportunity to take action in this regard for the much needed electrification and expansion of rail routes.

Our caucus developed a number of suggestions going forward to deal with job creations. We have acknowledged that there is a major problem when the youth unemployment rate is double that of the overall unemployment rate. Canadian youth are looking to us now to help them earn money for school and to get extra experience in the fields in which they are training, just as we will look to them soon as the leaders of our country and the captains of our industries.

Canadian entrepreneurs are looking to us to help foster innovation. If we can lend any assistance to these small businesses, we will be helping them to create the jobs that we will need in the future and we will be establishing a strong Canadian brand. We have identified the need and now we need to move forward and take action on this now, instead of waiting for it to become a larger problem in the future.

We must not miss the opportunity to continue to be a leader in the human rights field. Canada has a long and proud heritage of being a beacon around the world for the pursuit of human rights. While not mentioned in the throne speech, we need to renew our commitment to protect human rights at home, as well as in our approach to international relations. We cannot just say that we will stand up for what is right. We must demonstrate to the world that we are starting here at home.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently. The member's speech was full of so many inconsistencies I do not even know where to begin. He talked about Seniors' Day at one point and said that seniors do not care about recognition, but food and medicine. But earlier in his speech, he talked about the people of Haiti and that somehow it was more important to them to have a former prime minister visit Haiti than it was to get the food and medicine our government has been providing.

He also mentioned in his speech that history does not repeat itself. One of the reasons we made so many reinvestments in the armed forces was precisely so that history would not repeat itself. We all remember the former Liberal government's response when the tsunami hit Sri Lanka. It took that government two weeks to decide what it was going to do and another couple of weeks to figure out if it could rent a plane to bring our equipment over there.

The response to Haiti by this government has been completely the opposite. We were the first country to be there. Our soldiers were on the ground working right away. Canadians responded in record numbers with over $100 million for the relief effort. I am extraordinarily proud of what Canadians and our armed forces have done. I am extraordinarily proud that we are leading the way on reconstruction in Haiti. I am proud of the fact the Governor General has visited there with the Prime Minister.

I wonder if the hon. member will not join me in congratulating the armed forces and the people of Canada for all the hard work they have done to help rebuild Haiti.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe one of the first things I mentioned was my congratulations to our armed forces and personnel for their wonderful efforts in Haiti. It is unfortunate that the hon. member did not understand what I was trying to get at, but I was trying to say in a cooperative manner that we should all work together on this very important issue. I was not actually trying to be partisan on the issue of Haiti. When we are dealing with people who are faced with calamity and catastrophe we should all work together, so I did not want to make this a political issue.

What I was trying to say is that we should accept the challenge like other countries have done of sending a special envoy to coordinate efforts. When we look at the U.S., for example, it has no problem calling upon former leaders to assist in getting more funding and coordinating efforts. I was suggesting it would be a wise idea for the government to do the same thing.

What has been in missing in Haiti has been coordination. There are several hundred NGOs working in Haiti, and if we do not get this right this will be a disaster that could last for a very long time. We do not want to miss that opportunity. We want to make sure it is not just money that we send to Haiti, but also coordination. That is what is very important and what needs to be done. I am hoping there will be one person to deal with that and not several agencies--

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, contrary to the government member's comments, I want to tell the member for Davenport I did like his speech, which hit some very valuable points. One of the points he brought up was the whole issue of providing matching funds for the victims of the earthquake in Chile, which the government has so far been very silent about. So far we have had no matching funds by the government for donations by Canadians, unlike for Haiti. There are no Canadian warships loaded with supplies or talk of waiving immigration rules. Simply put, our response has been totally embarrassing as far as the earthquake in Chile is concerned.

I would like to ask why the hon. member thinks the government is dragging its feet. It cannot be an issue of money because we know that in the case of Haiti, there is about $200 million the government is probably going to be matching, whereas in the case of Chile we are talking about much smaller numbers. We had $10,000 raised at a social a couple of weeks ago. We have another social in Winnipeg with 1,000 tickets already sold for this weekend. But all told, the numbers are going to be much smaller in terms of matching aid when dealing with the issue in Chile.

I would like to ask the member why the government is dragging its feet on aid to Chile.