House of Commons Hansard #42 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.

Topics

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 119
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

With regard to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Canada's Global Commerce Strategy: (a) what programs will be introduced by the department in 2011-2012 to support the implementation of the strategy; (b) how much money will be allocated to support the implementation of the strategy; (c) what role will be played by regional economic development agencies to support the implementation of the strategy; and (d) what are the details of any analysis conducted for the government concerning key challenges and potential risks that may impact successful implementation of the strategy?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 126
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

With regard to Family Class applications to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC): (a) broken down by visa office, how many applications have exceeded the processing times listed by CIC’s visa offices in each fiscal year, from 2006-2007 to 2010-2011; (b) what is the total volume of correspondence received by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration about shortening the processing times for family sponsorship applications in each fiscal year, from 2006-2007 to 2010-2011; (c) broken down by visa office, how many officers work on family sponsorship applications; (d) in each fiscal year, from 2006-2007 to 2010-2011, broken down by visa office, (i) how many family sponsorship applications were received, (ii) how many family sponsorship application were denied, (iii) how many family sponsorship applications were approved; (e) what are the five most common reasons for denials in (d)(iii); (f) of the number of applications denied, how many applicants subsequently appealed the decision to the Immigration Appeal Division; and (g) how many applications refused by CIC were given a positive decision by the Immigration Appeals Division?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 134
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

With regard to the exterior light fixtures controlled or owned by the departments and agencies of the government: (a) what is the total wattage of these fixtures; and (b) what is the government's position on the use of light-emitting diode (LED) technology for the exterior light fixtures controlled or owned by the departments and agencies of the government, as a means of achieving energy and maintenance savings, as well a reduction in CO2 emissions?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 139
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

What is the total amount of government funding since fiscal year 2008-2009, up to and including the current fiscal year, allocated within the constituency of Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, identifying each department or agency, initiative and amount?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Oral Questions—Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

November 2nd, 2011 / 3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on October 26, 2011, by the member for Wascana regarding who ought to be recognized to answer questions posed during question period to the chair of a standing committee.

I would like to thank the member for having raised this matter, as well as the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, and the members for Bourassa and Charlottetown for their interventions.

In raising this matter, the member for Wascana stated that the question posed by the member for Charlottetown related to the work of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, which is under the purview of the committee chair rather than under the responsibility of the government or the minister. Noting that committees were masters of their own affairs, he sought clarification about whether it was permissible for ministers to respond to questions on behalf of chairs of committee and suggested that this approach would be a profound change in our long held traditions with respect to the proper functioning of committees.

The leader of the Government in the House quoted from a ruling on a similar matter given on February 8, 2008, at pages 2836 and 2837 of Debates, in order to demonstrate that, in recognizing the only individual rising to answer, the Speaker had acted in accordance with the practice established and articulated by Speaker Milliken.

The House leader of the official opposition reminded the House that members of the official opposition chaired several standing committees and suggested that it would be inappropriate for ministers to answer questions on behalf of committee chairs who were from the official opposition.

As members know, three kinds of questions may be posed by members during question period. First, questions concerning the administrative responsibility of the government, or an individual minister, may be directed to the ministry collectively. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 509 notes:

Questions, although customarily addressed to specific Ministers, are directed to the Ministry as a whole. It is the prerogative of the government to designate which Minister responds to which question, and the Speaker has no authority to compel a particular Minister to respond.

Second are questions that concern matters of financial or administrative policy affecting the House itself. These are not directed to the Speaker but rather to members of the Board of Internal Economy designated by the Board to respond to them.

Finally, an extremely narrow category of questions may be directed to chairs or vice-chairs of committees. These must be phrased in a very specific way and can seek limited information only. In O'Brien and Bosc at page 506, it states:

Questions seeking information about the schedule and agenda of committees may be directed to Chairs of committees. Questions to the Ministry or to a committee Chair concerning the proceedings or work of a committee, including its order of reference, may not be raised. Thus, for example, a question would be disallowed if it dealt with a vote in committee, with the attendance or testimony of Members at a committee meeting, or with the content of a committee report. When a question has been asked about a committee’s proceedings, Speakers have encouraged Members to rephrase their questions.

House practices with regard to oral questions are established in this fashion so that the appropriate persons can be held accountable to the House, be it a minister for the executive, a committee chair for a committee or the designated member of the Board of Internal Economy for House administration matters. These categories of questions reflect the principle of distinct legislative and executive spheres of responsibility and accountability, which is at the very heart of our system of parliamentary government. That this very distinction between the executive and legislative may somehow be jeopardized by a minister answering a question directed to a committee chair is the crux of the matter before us. This is no doubt why the member for Wascana asked:

Is it now permissible in the House for ministers to effectively muzzle the chairs of committees and impose on committees the views of the government?

Drawing from O’Brien and Bosc on pages 508 to 510, I would now like to remind the House of the role of the Speaker with respect to replies to oral questions. It states that: there are no explicit rules which govern the form or content of replies to oral questions; the Speaker has no authority to compel a response; the Speaker is not responsible for the quality or content of replies to questions; and finally, the Speaker ensures that replies are brief, within the time agreed to by the House, deal with the subject matter raised, and phrased so as not to provoke disorder in the House, that is that they adhere to the dictates of order, decorum and parliamentary language.

Coupled with this, of course, is the Speaker's role in recognizing members who rise to reply to oral questions, particularly as there is an expectation on the part of members asking the questions that they receive, at a minimum, a response. As Speaker Milliken explained in the ruling referred to by the government House leader, in recognizing someone to answer a question, the Speaker “is to take a look at those who are standing to answer and choose who is going to answer...” and “...when no one else rises, it is reasonable to expect an answer to a question...”. Simply put, it is not for the Speaker to judge who possesses which information and, thus, who might be able to provide the information being sought. As Speaker Milliken put it in reference to the events of February 2008:

...no one else rose. The Member who posed the question clearly wanted an answer and got one, or at least got a response.

While there may be concerns about the minister rising to reply to a question properly posed to the chair of a standing committee, in this particular instance, the chair did not rise to respond, nor did the other vice-chair of the committee. It is therefore perhaps not completely unexpected that the minister would rise to offer a response related to witnesses from his department, and that the Chair would recognize him in the absence of any other member rising. Nothing in this incident should be interpreted to mean that members should not continue to direct their questions to those who are properly accountable for answering them. It is also entirely reasonable to expect that those to whom questions are directed, in this case the chair or vice-chair of a standing committee, would automatically be recognized by the Chair to respond, provided they are, or course, rising.

The House will understand that the dynamic nature of question period is such that the Chair is frequently faced with split-second decisions on who to recognize. This is as true now as it was for Speaker Milliken. As always, the Chair is aware that each circumstance must be evaluated on its own merits. Were the House to recommend a different way of proceeding, the Chair would of course adapt to that. As my predecessor suggested, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is well placed to consider this matter and, if it sees fit, to propose recommendations to help guide the Chair in cases such as this.

I thank all members for their attention.

I wish to inform the House that because of the statements made earlier today, government orders will be extended by 22 minutes.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am more than pleased to speak to Bill C-20; however, I believe there had been an agreement among the parties that the first speaker would be from Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

Once again, I am more than prepared to give my comments now, but I believe my colleague opposite was rising to her feet to give the initial presentation.