House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was air.

Topics

Government Spending
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, while the Conservative government has said that it is cutting funding to the FrancoFolies, Rythmes du Monde and Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France for budgetary reasons, we have learned that $12 million from the envelope for Industry Canada's marquee tourism events program has been diverted for other purposes. The government's excuse no longer holds water. The government's choices are purely arbitrary and partisan.

What is the government waiting for to restore funding to these organizations?

Government Spending
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, the member voted against the funding last year and, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry said, she is using incorrect numbers. FrancoFolies received $175,000 last year and the Bloc voted against it. This festival will receive $175,000 this year and the Bloc voted against it. It will receive $175,000 next year and the Bloc voted against it. The Bloc always votes against artists.

Transportation
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, while the Conservatives dish out close to $1 billion for the G8 and G20 summits, the people who actually live in Toronto and other Canadian cities are being ignored.

We live in the only OECD country where public transit is not funded, especially its operating costs, by the federal government. As a result, we are losing $3 billion of productivity because of this.

One-time projects will not cut it.

Will the minister finally give municipalities stable, long-term funding by transferring an extra cent of the existing gas tax dedicated to public transit?

Transportation
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, it is this government that has done exactly that, and when we did, the NDP voted against it.

Not only did the previous minister of transport make the gas tax transfer to municipalities permanent, this year the Minister of Finance doubled it. What did the NDP do when we doubled funding to municipalities, when we made it permanent? It voted against it.

This government has made an unprecedented commitment to public transit in the city of Toronto and we need the member for Trinity—Spadina's help. The member should stop voting against Toronto public transit and start supporting this government.

Digital Economy
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, in this rapidly evolving digital era, it is vital that individuals and businesses be able to make use of the Internet in a safe and effective manner. Canadians are nuisanced by unwanted spam, which clogs our inboxes and slows our systems. Businesses can spend millions of dollars dealing with this very issue.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry please inform the House what is being done to help Canadians ensure their safety in online transactions?

Digital Economy
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, just yesterday, the Minister of Industry announced the tabling of two bills to strengthen Canadians' safety and privacy online.

Both the safeguarding Canadians' personal information act and the fighting internet and wireless spam act will work to fortify the ability of Canadians to work effectively online. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce welcomed the bills, saying they would help reduce “unwanted and unsolicited emails that clog up email systems, cost productivity, violate privacy, and often promote fraud”.

This government continues to work to ensure that Canada is a world leader in the digital economy.

Royal Recommendation—Bill C-501—Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on May 11, 2010, by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader concerning the need for a royal recommendation for Bill C-501, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and other Acts (pension protection), standing in the name of the hon. member for Thunder Bay-Rainy River.

I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for having raised this matter, as well as the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River for his comments.

In his point of order, the parliamentary secretary pointed out that Bill C-501 makes provision for the appointment of adjudicators by the Minister of Labour in connection with claims against directors for the recovery of debts filed under the Canada Business Corporations Act. These provisions are found in clause 6 of the bill.

He drew the attention of the House to section 23 of the Interpretation Act, which indicates that the power to appoint public officials includes the power to pay them. In his view, the appointment of adjudicators under the Canada Business Corporations Act would constitute the naming of officials for a new and distinct function not currently authorized by any existing appropriation.

The Chair has examined Bill C-501 carefully and has taken note of the authorities cited by the parliamentary secretary. The Chair has also looked closely at the existing provisions of the Canada Business Corporations Act.

During his intervention, the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River maintained that the Minister of Labour has the power to name adjudicators under other legislation. However, what is specifically at issue here is the minister's ability to appoint such officials under the Canadian Business Corporations Act.

As this act in its current form does not provide for the appointment of adjudicators, it is clear to the Chair that the proposal in clause 6 of Bill C-501 proposes a new and distinct function for the Minister of Labour, which would require an expenditure of public funds.

In accordance with Standing Order 79(1), the Chair must therefore rule that the bill requires a royal recommendation, and will decline to put the question on third reading of the bill in its present form unless a royal recommendation is received.

The recorded division later today, however, is on the motion for second reading, which can proceed as scheduled.

The Chair would like to take this opportunity to remind all hon. members of the importance which the Speaker attaches to questions of this nature. The orderly conduct of our proceedings, particularly where it touches on matters relating to the appropriation of public funds or the imposing of charges on the people, is of great importance in permitting the House to deliberate in a calm and well-considered manner. Procedural issues which may arise from time to time are often complex and it assists both the Chair and the House as a whole when they are raised as early as possible in the proceedings.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Statements by Members
Privilege
Oral Questions

May 26th, 2010 / 3:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to the question of privilege raised on Friday, May 14 by the member for Mississauga South. What he raised was not a matter of privilege, but really a matter of debate. It was a disagreement about facts and a difference of opinion regarding the application of certain Standing Orders of the House.

On page 13 of Joseph Maingot's second edition of Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, he states:

While it will be seen that the Member enjoys all the immunity necessary to perform his parliamentary work, this privilege or right, such as freedom of speech, is nevertheless subject to the practices and procedures of this House. Thus allegations of breach of privilege by a Member in the House of Commons that amount to complaints about procedures and practices in the House are by their very nature matters of order.

Because of its nature, a true question of privilege should arise in the House only infrequently.

Mr. Speaker, the member for Mississauga South cannot be taken seriously, since he is on his feet every other day claiming that his privileges have been breached. If we examine his line of argument, it is clear that he takes issue that this is a matter of order, not privilege. He argues for the application of Standing Orders 119 and 31. He cites your letters about the use of Standing Order 31, which was giving direction on a matter of order, not a matter of privilege. The member takes issue with statements I made in the House. I said that:

Mr. Speaker, by long-standing constitutional convention, any MP may attend and participate in any committee meeting. Standing Order 119 says:

Any Member of the House who is not a member of a standing, special or legislative committee, may, unless the House or the committee concerned otherwise orders, take part in the public proceedings of the committee, but may not vote or move any motion, nor be part of any quorum.

That is a fact. The second point I made in that statement was:

Today, defying the Standing Order, the Liberal chair of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics forbade the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development from participating in its proceedings. This ruling was contrary to law and turned the committee into a kangaroo court.

That is also true. I went on to say:

Further, by denying the minister her legal right to participate, the chair was undermining the principle of ministerial responsibility and accountability, a key principle of our Constitution. It is outrageous that the chair of the ethics committee, the member for Mississauga South, would reject the principle of ministerial accountability, all in an attempt to score cheap political points. He should be ashamed and he should resign.

That, too, is true and I do believe the member should be ashamed of himself and I still think he should resign as chairman of the ethics committee. In his submissions, the member for Mississauga South talked of justice and fairness and he talked about being able to defend himself. On that we can both agree, and I think he should apply that standard not only to himself but also to others and, in particular, to those non-elected persons who appear before his committee.

I want to talk a bit about the relevance of Standing Order 31. First of all, I want to quote from O'Brien and Bosc about ministerial responsibility, as they talk about ministerial responsibility on page 32 of chapter 1. Also I would just note that the government House leader talked of this yesterday in Hansard on pages 2867-69.

I want to quote from page 32 of O'Brien and Bosc:

In a general sense, responsible government means that a government must be responsive to its citizens, that it must operate responsibly...and that its Ministers must be accountable or responsible to Parliament.

In terms of ministerial responsibility, Ministers have both individual and collective responsibilities to Parliament. The individual or personal responsibility of the Minister derives from a time when in practice and not just in theory the Crown governed; Ministers merely advised the Sovereign and were responsible to the Sovereign for their advice. The principle of individual ministerial responsibility holds that the Ministers are accountable not only for their own actions as department heads, but also for the actions of their subordinates—

—and I stress, “their subordinates”—

—individual ministerial responsibility provides the basis for accountability throughout the system. Virtually all departmental activity is carried out in the name of a Minister who, in turn, is responsible to Parliament for those acts. Ministers exercise power and are constitutionally responsible for the provision and conduct of government; Parliament holds them personally responsible for it.

That is exactly what the minister was trying to do when she appeared at the ethics committee. As the member for Mississauga South was quoting Standing Order 119, as I did in my statement, I think it is important to talk about freedom of speech. Standing Order 119 says that members of Parliament when they appear before committee have the right to speak at committees.

On page 93 in chapter 3 of O'Brien and Bosc, it states:

Freedom of speech permits Members to speak freely in the Chamber during a sitting or in committees during meetings while enjoying complete immunity from prosecution or civil liability for any comment they might make. This freedom is essential for the effective working of the House. Under it, Members are able to make statements or allegations about outside bodies or persons, which they may hesitate to make without the protection of privilege.

The minister definitely has the right of freedom, as I do, in the House to speak about the procedures and things that have happened at committee or in the House and raise those about the undertakings of other members. In contrast, we can compare that to the member for Mississauga South and look at what he did as chair of the ethics committee when he censored the minister from speaking.

On page 150, O'Brien and Bosc states that “the Chair of a committee does not have the power to censure disorder or decide questions of privilege”. When I was going through his testimony from May 14, he actually laid out that he was arguing with the minister when the minister was trying to speak at committee. In his testimony he says:

The terms of reference and the order of the day before the committee was with regard to a special study, a study of the allegations of deliberate interference....

He says that he had orders to not have the minister appear. I did not see any of those orders that the minister was not entitled to speak at committee. He goes on to say:

The minister argued yet again with the chair of the committee saying, “Mr. Chair, I would actually refer you...”, and then she carried on. I said “order” to get order back in the committee but she carried on yet again even after I called for order, and said, “to the experts on the subject of ministerial accountability, O'Brien and Bosc, and Marleau and Montpetit, Guide for Ministers and that...”.

Again, I will go back to chapter 3, page 150 where it states:

...the Chair of a committee does not have the power to censure disorder or decide questions of privilege. Should a Member wish to raise a question of privilege in committee, or should some event occur in committee which appears to be a breach of privilege or contempt, the Chair of the committee will recognize the Member and hear the question of privilege, or in the case of some incident, suggest that the committee deal with the matter.

The chair never asked the committee to do that. It goes on to state:

The Chair, however, has no authority to rule that a breach of privilege or contempt has occurred.

That, to me, was disturbing.

I want to touch on a couple of other things concerning what the committee's powers actually are. Mr. Speaker, as you and the member for Mississauga South know, the standing committees are creatures of the House of Commons. They were created by the House and so we are bound by the rules laid out by the House, including the standing orders.

On page 973 in chapter 20 of O'Brien and Bosc, it states:

The House delegates certain powers to the committees it creates in order that they can carry out their duties and fulfill their mandates. Committees have no powers other than those delegated to them in this way, and cannot assume other powers on their own initiative.

I will interject here to say that is why Standing Order 119 must be respected by committees. It is a standing order handed down by the House and a committee failing to recognize the right of any member, even if it is a minister, appearing before a committee is a breach of the rules laid out by the House.

It goes on to state:

The exercise of their powers is subject to three fundamental rules. First, they can be exercised only on the territory and within the areas....

I will not go into that. The standing orders set out the powers held by standing committees. We have the standing orders and the chair decided to ignore them.

Finally, I will remind the member for Mississauga South what the chair's responsibilities are as laid out in chapter 20 on page 1,030 under procedural responsibilities of chairs. It states:

Chairs preside over committee meetings and oversee committee work. They recognize the Members, witnesses and other people who wish to speak at these meetings; as in the House, all remarks are addressed to the Chair.

He did not recognize people who wished to speak.

It goes on to state:

They ensure that any rules established by the committee, including those on the appropriation of speaking time, are respected. They are responsible for maintaining order and decorum in committee proceedings, and rule on any procedural matter that arises, subject to an appeal to the committee.

In this case, he was shutting it down without having that appeal by committee. He was shutting down debate and comments from the minister who appeared to speak on behalf of her staff and, as I laid out earlier, her rights and responsibilities as a minister to answer for her staff.

It goes on to state:

Committee Chairs have considerable administrative responsibilities, starting with those involving the committee's program of activities. In compliance with instructions from the committee or an order from the House....

I do not believe the member for Mississauga South, as chair of the ethics committee, had the order from the committee to censor the comments made by the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development when she appeared along with Mr. Sparrow. I also do not believe the member for Mississauga South had an order from the committee not to allow her to testify. He was ignoring the standing orders as laid out.

As you can see, Mr. Speaker, the argument he made in his question of privilege was all about order and was not a question of privilege.

Finally, I have to say that members on this side of the House are finding it increasingly difficult to work with the member for Mississauga South as chair of the ethics committee. Mr. Speaker, you may need to take a look at the way that committee has been functioning. It has resulted in the position laid out by the House leader just yesterday in saying that political staffers should not be appearing before committee because of the kangaroo court ethics that have been undertaken at certain committees, especially the ethics committee, and that we do not need that type of anarchy occurring in our parliamentary institutions.

Statements by Members
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's enthusiasm for the rules and respect his right to present his views to the House but I have a couple of points. When I rose on a question of privilege, it was a privilege in the House not a privilege in committee, as he outlined for quite a long time.

The issue he discussed, which he quoted often, had to do with Standing Order 119, the subtitle of which is “Only members may vote or move motion” in a committee. It states:

Any Member of the House who is not a Member of a standing, special or legislative committee, may, unless the House or the committee concerned otherwise orders, take part in the public proceedings of the committee, but may not vote or move any motion, nor be part of any quorum.

I agree with that. That is a member of a committee sitting at the table with the committee members, participating in the committee proceedings.

What the member may have failed to recognize is that the minister came to the committee meeting not to be a member of the committee but rather to be a witness. There are two different roles here. One is a witness called by the committee and one is a member of the committee who will question the witness.

I would refer the member, which may be helpful to him, to O'Brien and Bosc, the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition 2009. On page 976, where it refers to committees, in the second paragraph it states:

This applies, as well, to parliamentarians belonging to other Canadian legislatures, because each of these assemblies, like the House of Commons, has the parliamentary privilege of controlling the attendance of its members...

There is no specific ruling governing voluntary appearances of members of the House of Commons before parliamentary committees. They may appear before a committee if they wish and, it states, have been invited. It says that members can appear voluntarily. They cannot be summonsed and cannot be compelled to appear but they can appear if they wish and have been invited.

The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development was not invited by the committee. Accordingly, the chair had no recourse but to not allow her to be a witness at the committee, and that was the decision that was taken. If the member wants to argue whether or not there was an invitation, that is fine, but there was not.

He referred to somehow censuring the minister and the chair deciding a matter of privilege. Mr. Speaker, as you well know, committee chairs have no authority whatsoever to censure any member for any action, nor do they have the right to determine on matters of personal privilege. Those matters come to the chamber and, if there is a problem at committee, a report must be given to the House so that it can be seen and it is the Speaker who will determine whether there is a case for censuring someone.

I appreciate the member's enthusiasm but if he had included those points, he would have found that most of the argument that he gave today was moot and not relevant to the point that I raised in terms of my personal privilege.

The final comments the member made in sort of a veiled threat about my being the chair and how I operate, I do not believe it is appropriate for an individual member to make comments on how he thinks another member is doing his or her job. It is not the member's position to judge, to make those allegations or to paint that picture of another member's work. It is unfortunate that he has done that and he may want to apologize for it but I will leave that up to him.

Statements by Members
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I just want to speak briefly on the comments from the member across about the workings of a chair of another committee.

I have never heard those comments in this House before, and I find them totally inappropriate. They are wrong. The chair of that committee obviously has the confidence of the committee, or he would not be there. For a member to use a point of order or a question of privilege to get up in this House and attack the chair of a committee of this House is wrong, Mr. Speaker, and I urge you to rule on that. If that were the case, it would just be a free-for-all here.

While I am up on my feet, I recall that the government House leader published a booklet three or four years ago that instructed committee chairs as to how to shut down the committees by ignoring witnesses, avoiding witnesses, and doing anything—this went on for 65 pages—to obstruct the workings of the committees and hence, Parliament.

I think it would be instructive and helpful to this debate to have that document tabled in the House. I seek unanimous consent for that.

Statements by Members
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is the hon. member seeking unanimous consent to table this document himself or to have it tabled? Of course, the government can table any document it wants whenever it wants. If the government has possession of the document, it can table whatever it likes in the House without unanimous consent or anyone's consent. I do not think we need to fret or worry about that.

I will hear first from the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas on this point.

Statements by Members
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I just want to comment briefly and reserve the possibility of making further comments later.

I want to stand as a member of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. I want to stand in support of the chair of that committee and let him know that he has my full confidence on this issue.

I want to speak briefly about the specific issue raised and whether there was some interference in the privileges of the Minister of Human Resources at the standing committee meeting when she appeared.

When the witness, a member of her staff, was called to appear at the committee, the minister appeared and tried to be the witness for that meeting. At an earlier meeting of the committee, as part of the same study, the minister had already been called and had appeared as a witness. The committee had already had a meeting where the minister offered her testimony and answered the questions of the committee.

When she appeared, when her staff person had been called on the same matter for the same study, there was some dialogue with the chair, needless to say. This was unannounced and was a surprise to most of us on the committee.

I have to say that I agree with the ruling of the chair at that time that the witness who was called was Mr. Sparrow, the staff person, and not the minister, in this case, and that the committee would hear from the witness who was called and put its questions to that witness.

The chair did something that I think was helpful in the circumstances, as well, when he allowed the minister to remain and allowed the witness to consult with the minister on his answers to the questions posed by the committee. I think that did two things. It allowed a very visible expression of ministerial responsibility for her political staff. It also retained the right of the committee to hear the witness it had called and who it thought was important to the study.

I think there was a very important compromise reached by the chair. I think it addressed both the question of ministerial responsibility and the rights and abilities of a committee to hear from the witnesses the committee deems necessary.

I want to compliment the chair for his swiftness on his feet in that circumstance, because chairing a committee in this place is often a very difficult thing.

That is just something I would like to add to this discussion this afternoon to indicate that my confidence in the chair of the committee, although I do not always agree with him, remains unabated.

Statements by Members
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, as you can tell from the debate, really we are talking about a point of order, not a question of privilege. As chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, I have my own ideas about the rules. I always use O'Brien and Bosc, and before that Marleau and Montpetit, as the basis for all my decisions as the chair. I am talking about House of Commons Procedure and Practice.

It is important that we stay rules-based and that we have that debate. That is what is happening here. We are having the debate.

However, on the issue, I do not believe that I used any unparliamentary language in my discussion, nor do I believe that I have impugned the reputation of the member for Mississauga South, but I do want to make sure that my rights and freedoms and my freedom of speech are protected.

I just want to quote Speaker Fraser, in his ruling in 1987, which is quoted in chapter 3, page 97 of O'Brien and Bosc. It says:

There are only two kinds of institutions in this land to which this awesome and far-reaching privilege of [freedom of speech] extends—Parliament and the legislatures on the one hand and courts on the other. These institutions enjoy the protection of absolute privilege because of the overriding need to ensure that the truth can be told, that any questions can be asked, and that debate can be free and uninhibited.

That is exactly what we are doing here.

To go on:

Absolute privilege ensures that those performing their legitimate functions in these vital institutions of Government shall not be exposed to the possibility of legal action. This is necessary in the national interest and has been considered necessary under our democratic system for hundreds of years. It allows our judicial system and our parliamentary system to operate free of any hindrance.

Therefore, it is important that my ability to speak in here and to raise questions about the practices and procedures of certain committees and certain committee chairs is respected and that we have a fulsome debate on those issues.

Statements by Members
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank all hon. members who have made submissions on this point, and I will get back to the House in due course with a decision in respect of the matter that has been raised.

Securities Regulation
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, today the government indicates its intention to release the proposed Canadian securities act. This marks a step towards a long-standing commitment to establish a Canadian securities regulator. I would like to table, for information, in both official languages, the proposed Canadian securities act, here in the House, for the benefit of all members.

I further note that the proposed act is also being distributed electronically to all members, concurrent with its public release.

The proposed act will be the foundation for the creation of a national Canadian securities regulator. The proposed act reflects the input of 10 participating provinces and territories, and the government invites the remaining provinces to join the initiative.

The government has also referred the proposed act to the Supreme Court of Canada for its opinion on the following question: Is the annexed proposed Canadian securities act within the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada? Should there be a favourable ruling received by the Supreme Court, the Government of Canada intends to introduce, for the adoption of Parliament, a securities act , which would then, of course, go through the normal parliamentary legislative process.