House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environmental.

Topics

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

May 6th, 2010 / 3:05 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon
B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order arising from events in question period.

During question period, the Minister of Transport claimed that he had a document that was available on the worldwide web that details the lobbying qualifications, if we want to call it that, of the member for Scarborough—Rouge River.

That document talks about the member's position as a former parliamentary secretary and his position as a current chairman of a committee of the House of Commons, and how one might be able to access the excellent connections that he has to further one's business interests, whether it is a domestic or foreign business.

I wonder if we could get unanimous consent for the Minister of Transport to table that document so we could all have a look at it.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I do not understand the question from the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development . Is he asking for unanimous consent for the minister to table the document? Ministers do not need unanimous consent to table documents. Ministers can rise and table documents to their heart's content and there is nothing that the chair can do about it or any other hon. member.

I would suggest that perhaps the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development take the Minister of Transport for lunch, butter him up and perhaps he will table the documents tomorrow or later.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, in the years that I have been here representing my constituency, this is the first time I have raised a point of order on an inappropriate comment that I think I heard. Over the years, I have seen inappropriate gestures and have heard inappropriate comments and have not risen to this point, but this is so serious that I must.

When a question was raised by the member for Toronto Centre and the member for Calgary East stood to answer, I listened to what he was saying and I think I heard him say, “Sit down. Sit down. You don't know what you're saying. Sit down. Go back on a plane”.

If indeed he said that, it would be a very inappropriate racist comment and I would ask him to clarify whether he said that and, if he did, he needs to apologize to this House.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I sit right beside the member for Toronto Centre and I certainly heard no such remark. I heard a number of other remarks vigorously expressed because of the lack of quality in the answer, but I certainly heard nothing of the nature that the hon. gentleman has just alleged.

I will most definitely bring this to the attention of the member for Toronto Centre and I am sure he will be in a position to respond for himself. However, I want to make it clear that I sat within one foot of the gentleman and I did not hear any such remark.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Calgary—Nose Hill
Alberta

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Minister of State (Seniors)

Mr. Speaker, this seems to be a lively day in the House.

I have been in this House for over 16 years and my point of order relates to something that was said by the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie. I gave the hon. member notice that I intended to raise this.

I recognize that in this House, members have a very broad and strongly protected right to the freedom to enter into debate and to speak their minds, and I respect that and am glad of that, but what I heard today from the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, the leader of the Bloc, was what I consider to be an intolerant attack on Canadians who hold beliefs that are contrary to his own. In my view, the remarks that he made were bigoted and divisive. This kind of rhetoric, in my view, is completely unacceptable in our pluralistic society.

I would point out that our country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms proudly proclaims that certain human rights are guaranteed in this country. I will read section 2 of the charter where it states:

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression...

I find it deeply disturbing that the Charter of Rights and the rights that are guaranteed to Canadians would come under attack in this very House through the very intolerant and specifically targeted words of the leader of the Bloc in question period.

Therefore, I would respectfully ask the Bloc leader to reconsider his language in attacking in this House the charter rights of other Canadians.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I do not believe that the leader of the Bloc Québécois has ever attacked democratic values in the House.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Jason Kenney

They are religious biases.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

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

Could the minister be quiet so that we can respond? We listened to what the member for Calgary—Nose Hill had to say.

The leader of the Bloc Québécois has never questioned the rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The charter has never been called into question. I respectfully submit that the point raised by my colleague is a point of debate. She will have an opportunity to reread the question the leader of the Bloc Québécois asked and the supplementary question about cuts the Conservative government made to the budgets of 12 allegedly pro-choice groups.

However, the government is giving $800,000 in additional funding to religious groups and sects that preach a specific ideology and values. The leader of the Bloc Québécois has never challenged freedom of religion, freedom of thought or freedom of speech.

My colleague used very strong language to describe what was said, which was debate. To my way of thinking, there is no point of order.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I should start by saying that it is not the Speaker's role to enforce the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms here in the House.

Much as it might be tempting to become a law enforcement official, that is not the role of the Speaker.

I am here to determine whether the language used in the House is parliamentary or not, no more, no less. Controlling the debate by invoking other laws of Canada in the House is more than I can do.

I am here, really, to ensure that the language used in the House, as members enjoy freedom of speech in this place, is parliamentary. I did not hear the minister of state suggest that the leader of the Bloc Québécois had said something unparliamentary. She suggested it was contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This is something that can be debated, but not something on which the Speaker can rule at this time. I hope that all hon. members will accept my decision on this.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When the matter was under discussion before oral questions, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister had the floor. There are six minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, earlier today I was talking about the fairness for military families act, or Bill C-13 as it is also called. I am going to refresh the House's memory on the background that I shared with it earlier today.

Just over a year ago, I was knocking on doors in the southwest Ottawa community of Osgoode, a village about 40 minutes from where I stand today. I ended up on the doorstep of a soldier. He related to me his story of service in the Golan Heights. He was called to go on a mission four or five days after the birth of his son, Jacob. He stayed on duty in that mission for an entire year, meaning that he missed basically the first year of his child's life while he was sacrificing for all of us. His wife would later say that one of the things that got them through that long period of separation was that he would be able to return and collect his employment insurance parental leave and use that leave as an opportunity to make up for lost time with his family, and in particular, with his small child. And why would he not apply for that parental leave; after all, Major Duquette pays employment insurance premiums, as do all soldiers. As such, they should expect to receive employment insurance benefits.

In this case, the time period during which those benefits were available to him had expired while he was serving all of us overseas. When he returned and applied, he was saddened to learn that he would not have the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits for which he had been paying as a Canadian who pays employment insurance premiums. He felt that this was an injustice. What bothered him additionally and what exacerbated the situation was when he opened the statutes he learned that there is an exemption in place for criminals to defer their benefits until after they complete their prison terms. The system provides a special advantage for criminals, but not for the law-abiding, patriotic, sacrificing Canadian soldiers who do such important work on our behalf and at such great emotional and personal cost to their families.

We have in the House a number of veterans who have served in the armed forces for whom this issue is especially important as well. One of them is my seatmate, the member for Edmonton Centre. The member for Edmonton Centre is also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence. Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with him. As a former air force pilot, I know that he will have a very special perspective to share with us. I think we should take a moment to recognize him.

When I was standing on Major Duquette's doorstep, I said to him that I would bring his concern to the Prime Minister and that after we were able to study the matter, we would act quickly to fix this injustice with the introduction in the House of Commons of the fairness for military families act. That is precisely what we have done. I congratulate the Minister of Human Resources for drafting this legislation.

This legislation allows soldiers to defer their benefits until after their mission is complete so that soldiers who find themselves in a similar situation to that which befell our friend, Major Duquette, will be able to have their benefits waiting for them when they get back from duty abroad. That means that children will get extra time with their mother or father who is a member of the forces. I want members to consider the human benefit that should be associated with this legislation.

When people make the sacrifice to be away from their families and away from their children in that crucial first year, they make a big sacrifice and so do the families. When they return, should we not allow them to have access to the benefits that they pay for? Should they not have the chance to rekindle that bond, to solidify that relationship and to become more acquainted with the newborn or child from whom they have been separated during their service to our country?

I ask that question to all members of this chamber. I think members of all parties would agree that mothers and fathers, like Major Duquette, who perform this valuable service for our country often at great risk to themselves should be able to have the opportunity to spend subsequent time with their children, especially considering that they paid for that benefit. Let this be one of those occasions when members of all parties come together in support of families, of our troops and of fairness.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member may or may not know that the member for Acadie—Bathurst will be proposing an amendment to the bill at committee which we hope members opposite will support. It is to include members of the police forces who are under contract with the government and are being deployed on these missions with the soldiers, for example in Afghanistan or Haiti.

We would like to know whether he and his party will be supporting this amendment to add them. I do not think there is a great number of people involved. The entire bill evidently only deals with 60 people a year and costs about $600,000. I do not anticipate that the number of police would increase the numbers a lot. Would the member entertain this motion in a favourable way?

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from the NDP makes a very good and thoughtful point. I know that the member for Acadie—Bathurst, who is on the committee that will be studying this bill, is very passionate about it as well. I look forward to working with members of the New Democratic Party to ensure that this bill, after it goes through all the stages in the House and the Senate, is the best possible bill to ensure fairness for Canadians.

I hope that we can work together to ensure not only that this bill comes out in its best form, but that it also passes as quickly as possible so that armed forces personnel who are currently serving Canada abroad will have access to these benefits as soon as possible.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, today we have an important opportunity in this Parliament to discuss a bill that seeks to provide benefits to those who make great sacrifices for our country.

As my colleague stated, we are proud of the amendment proposed by our NDP colleague to include members of the RCMP.

How quickly will the government lend its support to this bill and what priority will it assign to it?