House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was allegations.

Topics

Usurpation of the Title of Member of Parliament
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Joliette wish to speak to the same issue?

Usurpation of the Title of Member of Parliament
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 1, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons rose on a point of order to state that an amendment was inadmissible, the amendment proposed by my colleague from Chambly—Borduas to Bill C-304, introduced by an NDP member to—

Usurpation of the Title of Member of Parliament
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

That is a point of order. It is a different issue than the one already brought up, and I want to say something regarding the comments of the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.

If what was reported in Le Devoir is true, and if the former member for Edmonton—Strathcona recently handed out his parliamentary business cards, this is a serious issue and a breach of the privileges of this House.

As hon. members know, Mr. Jaffer was the member for Edmonton—Strathcona during the 39th Parliament but was not re-elected in the 2008 election.

The details of other similar situations have been provided, and I thank the hon. member. In this case, it is difficult for the Chair to sort out the facts, since the House has not received any evidence other than an allegation in a newspaper article.

For the time being, I will take this issue under consideration. The Chair will wait for additional information, if it is available. Perhaps then I will decide whether this is a question of privilege.

The hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord wishes to add something.

Usurpation of the Title of Member of Parliament
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to make sure I understand the status of the question of privilege I just raised. If, in the next few days, you do not receive any additional evidence, does that mean that you will rule on the merits of my question of privilege regardless?

Usurpation of the Title of Member of Parliament
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Yes, I can do that. I am afraid that there is not enough evidence at this time, and I will wait for additional details, if they are available. After that, if it is necessary to issue a ruling, I will certainly do so.

Now, the hon. member for Joliette on a point of order.

Bill C-304—An Act to ensure adequate, accessible and affordable housing
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

April 15th, 2010 / 10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I had understood that you were going to consider the question and I rose on my point of order a little too quickly. As you know, in the Bloc Québécois, we are quick off the mark.

As I was saying, on April 1 the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons rose on a point of order to have an amendment moved by the member for Chambly—Borduas to Bill C-304 ruled inadmissible. That bill was introduced by an NDP member with the goal of creating a national housing strategy. In fact, we should call it a Canada-wide housing strategy. Since the Quebec nation has been recognized by this House, there are at least two nations in the Canadian political space, if not more, counting the first nations and the Acadian nation.

The amendment proposed by my colleague would allow the government of Quebec to opt out of the Canada-wide strategy and to receive an unconditional payment equal to the total amount that would have been paid within its territory under that strategy. That is a very familiar principle: the right to withdraw unconditionally and with full compensation.

In his submission, the parliamentary secretary to the minister asserted that the national housing strategy has to be developed in collaboration with all provincial and territorial ministers, and that any amendment to exempt a province would be inconsistent with the purpose of the bill. Obviously, I do not share that view, since there are already many examples of so-called national strategies that are in fact Canada-wide strategies, in which Quebec does not participate, and this is not something new.

In the early 1960s, for example, Quebec had already established its own pension plan. In 1976 and 1977, if I recall correctly, there was an agreement between the Government of Quebec and the federal government concerning the selection of immigrants. There is also a child care program. If that Canada-wide program had been adopted, as proposed by former Prime Minister Paul Martin, then, because Quebec already had its own system, it would be exempt from the other. I also recall, and I think it was in about 1998, that the government of Quebec and the federal government, after 30 years of negotiations, also agreed to exempt training measures so that Quebec could have its own structure with a commission of partners and local employment centres that deliver those services, which had formerly been offered by the Canadian government. Again, there are several examples of so-called national strategies that are in fact Canada-wide, where Quebec has the right to withdraw unconditionally and with full compensation.

In addition, the purpose of Bill C-304 is to establish a housing strategy, and the amendment would allow Quebec to opt out of the strategy in an area that is already under its jurisdiction: housing and social housing. It is therefore particularly understandable why my colleague from Chambly—Borduas introduced that amendment.

We certainly do not want the fact that Quebec is opting out to keep the other provinces, along with the federal government, from implementing a pan-Canadian strategy.

The committee that studied the bill felt that the Bloc's amendment was very much in keeping with the spirit of the legislation. On October 26, 2006, you rendered a decision—we do read your words, Mr. Speaker—on the admissibility of an amendment accepted by a standing committee, and you spoke about the general principles that guide your evaluation of decisions made in committee:

As all hon. members know, the Chair has always been extremely reluctant to be drawn into procedural arguments over committee proceedings since to do so would reopen matters which are properly left to committees themselves to resolve. Perhaps more significantly, such a practice would also undoubtedly tie up the time of the House in reviews of committee decisions defeating the very purpose of committees.

As I mentioned, the amendment presented by my colleague from Chambly—Borduas was accepted by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. Your comments from 2006, Mr. Speaker, were wise and I see no reason, in this case, to stray from these words of wisdom.

I would therefore ask that you consider the amendment presented my colleague from Chambly—Borduas to be admissible, given that it was accepted by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Bill C-304—An Act to ensure adequate, accessible and affordable housing
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address some of the points raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons relating to an amendment made in the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities to Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, I will refer to a ruling that you made on January 29, 2008, referring to a committee amendment to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act then before the House. In that ruling, you said:

In essence, what we are dealing with is the distinction between the principle of the bill and its scope. The principle refers to the purpose or objective of a bill, while the scope refers to its legislative scheme or the mechanisms that will give effect to the principle, purpose or objective of a bill.

In Bill C-304, the parliamentary secretary himself stated in his argument on April 1 that the purpose of this bill was to “require the development of a national housing strategy” by having the minister “consult all provincial and territorial ministers on the development of such a strategy”. He then said that the rules explain that amendments cannot be outside the scope or principle of the bill as passed at second reading, a rule with which we are all familiar.

I would submit that while the parliamentary secretary did give an accurate description of the principle and the scope of this bill, the principle is to develop a strategy and the scope or the mechanism is to do that through consultations. The key to the government's argument seems to prejudge what the results of these consultations will be.

The amendment in question is a permissive, not mandatory, amendment. It would give the minister an ability to achieve the principle of the bill, a national housing strategy, by refining the scope in terms of consultation to include an option that has been in place in other social policy strategies throughout Canadian history. Therefore, I would submit that the amendment does not change the scope or purpose of the bill but rather seeks to clarify it.

I believe that the committee chair's opinion on the principle of this bill may have been well-intentioned but the committee members were also correct when they decided that the amendment to allow the minister an option to respond to consultations, up to and including an opt-out for Quebec, was within the scope of possible consultations that are required to allow the minister to meet the principle of the bill, which is to develop a national housing strategy.

This option provided in the amendment is a reasonable one and one which is as old as Canada, the option to treat different parts of our country as different and unique.

The House recently passed a motion to define Quebec as a nation within our nation. We have the Canada pension plan and the national child benefit, two well-functioning national programs that Quebec has chosen not to participate in but instead to provide similar services. Quebec has opted out of the Canada student loans program since 1964 and recently received its transfer of approximately $125 million from the federal government in support of student financial assistance programs for the most recent academic year.

To go back further, the Liberal government's 2004 action plan on health exempted Quebec from the criteria and accountability set up for all other provinces and territories while guaranteeing full health transfer payments.

A further example is Canada's Social Union Framework Agreement of 2002, which was a pan-Canadian approach to the reform of Canada's health and social policy systems to which all provinces were signatories except Quebec. The Canada-Quebec accord on immigration allows Quebec to establish its own immigration requirements, distinct from the rest of Canada.

Governments for years, as former prime minister Paul Martin noted, have recognized “Quebec's unique place within the Federation”. It is reasonable that members of Parliament understand that any national strategy must reflect Quebec's right to protect its unique nature through the delivery of certain programs.

The amendment in question today does not alter the nature of the bill but clarifies this right. The government argued that, because an amendment to exclude Quebec from Bill S-3 was inadmissible, this amendment on Bill C-304 should also be inadmissible.

However, these two bills are not comparable. Providing the option for Quebec to opt out of a consultation process as outlined in Bill C-304 does not have the same effect on the act as the exclusion of Quebec does from Bill S-3, which was an act affecting the duties of every federal institution in Canada by enhancing the enforceability of the Government of Canada's obligations and of part 7 of the Official Languages Act.

It is also relevant that the 2005 ruling was not challenged by the majority of the committee members as necessary to the bill, as was the case of the amendment to Bill C-304. The aim of Bill C-304 is to ensure the delivery of the right to adequate housing.

Quebec is in the unique circumstance of having ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, recognizing the right to adequate housing, and currently meets many of the objectives outlined in Bill C-304.

Therefore, as this House stated when it defined Quebec as a nation within a nation, the principle of this bill being a national housing strategy should naturally reflect Parliament's definition of our nation, which is that it can include an asymmetrical form of federalism without changing the principle of being a united Canada.

Quebec has an existing agreement in place with the federal government giving Quebec jurisdiction over the development and delivery of its housing programs, clarifying that Quebec may participate in the process of establishing a national housing strategy, as was the case before the adoption of the amendment. It will only serve to enhance Quebec's potential willingness to participate in the process set out in Bill C-304.

Therefore in closing, I submit that the amendment made in committee is permissive and not mandatory. It only clarifies in nature an acknowledgement of our understanding of a nation within the scope and consistent with the principle of Bill C-304.

I further submit that this is a rare case when the chair's decision on the scope is misplaced and the members of the committee were correct in allowing this amendment to stand.

Mr. Speaker, I hope you will take this into consideration and support the committee members who agree that this amendment does have its rightful place in Bill C-304.

Bill C-304—An Act to ensure adequate, accessible and affordable housing
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I would like to thank the hon. member for Joliette and the hon. member for Vancouver East for their comments on this point.

I will certainly consider their remarks when I review the matter and come back to the House with a ruling on this in due course.

The House resumed from April 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-9, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures be read the second time and sent to a committee.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When the bill was being studied in the House on April 13, the hon. member for Verchères—Les Patriotes still had six minutes left for his remarks.

The hon. member for Verchères—Les Patriotes.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, if I have the unanimous consent of my colleagues, I want to take a bit more time. I will not repeat what I said last Tuesday evening at 5:25. I will continue my speech, but if I have additional time at the end, I will be able to say more about various aspects of BillC-9.

I listened very attentively to the point of order raised by the House Leader of the Bloc Québécois, who pointed out once again all that should be done to ensure that Quebec’s constitutional prerogatives are respected here in the House.

Yesterday, the hon. member for Saint-Lambert and the hon. member for Hochelaga jointly introduced a bill that would eliminate the federal spending power to ensure that the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces are respected. With Bill C-9, the federal government is again infringing on the exclusive jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces.

As our health critic, I am not surprised. At the Standing Committee on Health, hon. members in federalist parties ask certain questions to enhance the federal government’s role in health care, even though this is an exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces.

Some people will say, of course, that when it comes to health care, this is a good thing because it is supposed to help people, cure them and improve their lives. But that is not the point. We should not be asking whether particular measures are wanted or desirable, but whether it is up to the federal government to concern itself with them. My colleagues will have to agree with me that this is clearly not the federal government’s role.

In part 22 of Bill C-9 on payments out of the consolidated revenue fund, we see that millions of dollars will be paid to a foundation, a not-for-profit organization, to heal injuries. The question is not whether this should be done, but whether it is the federal government’s job to do it. When it comes to health care, we want the federal government to forward all the available money to Quebec and the provinces, which are most able to make wise choices in view of the needs of the people they represent.

We worry when we see the federal government once again disregarding the exclusive jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces and insidiously encroaching on the jurisdiction of health.

And when we listen to the leader of the Liberal Party, their ideas are no better. They want to implement Canada-wide strategies to block the initiatives that might be introduced by the Government of Quebec.

Part 2 of Bill C-9 implements an enhanced stamping regime for tobacco products. As the health critic, I am pleased to see that measures are being introduced to block measures to increase tobacco product consumption. We were in complete agreement with the government when it introduced Bill C-32 to eliminate flavoured tobacco products and cigarillos. We invite the government to continue down that path and adopt the regulations related to Bill C-32.

As far as stamping tobacco products is concerned, the government has listened to the Bloc Québécois' proposal to implement this marking system, but again, it is not nearly enough.

The government needs to take firm action to block the illegal activities of tobacco smugglers because the measures announced are largely inadequate. In the Bloc Québécois, my colleague responsible for public safety, my colleague responsible for justice, and I are calling on this government to take serious action to stop the growth in smuggling and even eliminate it altogether because if we do not want our youth to have access to cheap tobacco products then we have to address this problem head on.

I will now list a series of measures the Bloc Québécois wants to see the government put forward. It is aware of these measures since we have already talked about them in this House, but I would like to go over them again at this stage since, in part 2 of Bill C-9, the government is introducing a measure that is interesting, but falls far short of what is needed.

My time is up, so this will have to wait, but if the Minister of Public Safety or the Minister of Health would like to hear what I have to say about this, I invite them to contact me directly and I would be pleased to share my thoughts on this with the House another time.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the member is an expert on health and on the health committee, at which I filled in. I want to ask him a question related to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

There has been a national outcry that it has been closed. There were 134 institutions across the country that provided these excellent services, which were well evaluated by the government, but they were all shut down. The minister's excuse is that the Department of Health could provide those services. The Department of Health was providing those services before, but it was not enough. Obviously these other 134 programs or institutions were needed.

Would the member like to comment further on that?

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague very much. Clearly, if he had listened to the Bloc Québécois member, our aboriginal affairs critic, we believe that limiting aboriginal people's access to health care is out of the question. It is appalling, especially knowing—as we heard in the Standing Committee on Health—that some isolated reserves do not even have clean drinking water. How can anyone possibly ensure adequate, effective public health measures in places that do not even have clean drinking water?

The Conservatives need to stop burying their heads in the sand regarding the urgent needs facing Canada's aboriginal people. The federal government is responsible for taking care of these populations. They cannot ignore reality. Concrete action is needed and the hon. member for Yukon is quite right to rise in the House and demand that the government take concrete action. I thank him for that.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I very much enjoyed the member's speech. I must point out that the bill currently before the House of Commons does not really address the priorities of real people across Canada. As the member well knows, the Conservatives seem to want to give billions of dollars and tens of billions of dollars to the banks and big business, instead of investing money in communities across the country. Furthermore, we see that they want to do things like reducing Canada Post's capacities and adopting other measures that do nothing to help Canadian communities.

I wonder if the member found the slightest indication of any priorities in the bill that could improve the daily lives of real people in Canada, or if he believes that the Conservatives are way out in left field.

Jobs and Economic Growth Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. He spoke about what real people would want. There is nothing in this bill for the middle class. How many times has our colleague from Hochelaga risen in this House to tell the government to focus on where the money is?

The banks are putting billions of dollars into tax havens. That is appalling. The money is there. My colleague from Hochelaga did an incredible tour of Quebec and heard from a number of citizens and organizations who really have their priorities straight when it comes to this government's budget. Once again, this federal budget completely ignored the strong measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois.

My NDP colleague mentioned Canada Post. The government wants to put an end to some exclusive privileges of Canada Post and quietly slipped some measures into Bill C-9, without debate, having let Bill C-44 drop. It slipped these measures into Bill C-9. That is completely unacceptable.