House of Commons Hansard #50 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

(Return tabled)

Question No. 169
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

With regard to grants and contributions under $25,000 granted by the department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade since January 1, 2006, what are: (a) the names of the recipients; (b) the amounts of the grants or contributions per recipient; (c) the dates of the grants or contributions were issued; (d) the dates of length of funding; and (e) the descriptions of the purpose of each grant or contribution?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:15 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

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

November 21st, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am now ready to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh on November 14 regarding proceedings in the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, with respect to its study of access to information at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the CBC.

I would like to thank the member for Windsor—Tecumseh for having raised this matter and for having provided me with helpful background material. I would like as well to thank the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the Minister of State and Chief Government Whip, and the members for Winnipeg North and Saanich-Gulf Islands for their interventions.

The matter raised by the member for Windsor—Tecumseh revolves around a motion adopted by the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics ordering the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to provide the committee with certain documents which are currently the subject of court proceedings involving the CBC and the Information Commissioner.

While acknowledging the long-standing principle that committees are masters of their own proceedings, the hon. member argued that the freedom committees enjoy is neither total nor absolute. More importantly, he argued that since the documents in question are already the subject of ongoing litigation before the Federal Court of Appeal, the committee was effectively trying to substitute its decision for that of the courts and, in doing so, had offended the sub judice convention and the constitutional principle of the separation of powers between the legislature and the judiciary. In other words, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh is claiming that the committee has gone beyond the scope of its mandate.

In seeking the Chair's intervention in this matter, the hon. member presented this situation as just the kind of exceptional instance where my predecessors sanctioned the intervention of the Speaker, and so he seeks specific remedies from the Chair: he asks either that I direct the committee to cease the study it has initiated or that I at least direct the committee to suspend its study until litigation has run its course.

For his part, the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons agreed that committees are masters of their own proceedings and acknowledged that there might be circumstances where the involvement of the Speaker in a committee matter might be justified. However, he stated that he had heard no compelling argument to warrant the Speaker's intervention in this particular case, notably in the absence of a report on the matter from the committee.

With regard to the substantive arguments advanced, let me state at the outset that I acknowledge the seriousness and sincerity with which members have approached this matter. It is evident to the Chair that the member for Windsor—Tecumseh and other members are deeply concerned with the turn of events thus far in the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. At the same time, the Chair recognizes the persuasiveness of the arguments put forward by the government House leader in relation to the weight of precedent when it comes to intervening in the affairs of a committee without the benefit of a report relative to the activities that are being questioned.

In a ruling on May 10, 2007, regarding the alleged intimidation of witnesses in a committee, Speaker Milliken agreed that successive Speakers have been reluctant to intervene in committee proceedings. At that time, he stated at page 9288 of Debates:

...it would be highly inappropriate for the Speaker to break with our past practice and pre-empt any decision the committee may choose to make. The committee is seized of the issue and if a report is presented I will of course deal with any procedural questions which may be raised as a result. Until such a report is presented however, I must leave the matter in the hands of the committee.

In a similar ruling delivered on March 14, 2008, at page 4182 of Debates, in reference to the mandate of the same standing committee as the one at issue today, Speaker Milliken said:

For the present, I cannot find sufficient grounds to usurp the role of committee members in regulating the affairs of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. However, if and when the committee presents a report, should members continue to have concerns about the work of the committee, they will have an opportunity to raise them in the House and I will revisit the question at that time.

The Chair does not wish to minimize the importance of the issues raised but rather to respect and preserve the primacy of committees in their proceedings, and to ensure that the role of the Speaker in such matters does not stray beyond what has been established over time.

On this point, the Chair wishes to remind the House that in the oft-cited Speaker Fraser ruling with regard to “extreme situations” in which the Chair might choose to intervene, Speaker Fraser was confronted with the likelihood that it might be months before the committee then in question could convene to resolve the matter. Obviously, the case before us today presents completely and significantly different circumstances.

In terms of the situation at hand, I am aware that the chair of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics has stated in a memorandum to members of the committee that she believes that the committee “...should wait until the Speaker has ruled on this matter before proceeding with meetings on the study of access to information at the CBC”.

For his part, the government House leader has implied that an intervention by the Speaker at this juncture “...is premature because the Chair could have more relevant timing down the road to entertain these issues if and when this matter evolves through a report from the ethics committee”.

It should also be noted that the committee has received certain documents from the CBC, some of which are, as I understand it, still in a sealed envelope awaiting further decisions by the committee.

This indicates to me that there remains room in further deliberations by the committee for a thorough airing of the serious issues that have been raised and, potentially, for a satisfactory resolution of the current situation. In the interests of giving the committee time to address the issues with which it is confronted, I am reluctant to insert myself into the substance of this matter at this early stage until events in committee play themselves out.

Accordingly, given the circumstances I have just described, the Chair believes that it should not at this time presume to prejudge the direction and outcome of the committee's deliberations. Therefore, the matter must rest with the committee for the time being.

I thank all members for their attention.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget as updated on June 6, 2011 and other measures, be read the third time and passed.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek has 15 minutes left to complete his remarks.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will remind you that I am sharing my time with the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

I will continue with what Mr. Hodgson of the Conference Board of Canada said with regard to our situation. He said:

As part of globalization, sadly, inequality is growing in most countries around the world. In Canada the rate of growth of inequality as we measured it was actually greater than in the United States, which is a bit of a surprising result.

He closed his statement before the pre-budget hearings by saying:

We were asking whether we're doing enough as a country to ensure that all Canadians are benefiting from economic growth. Whether we're talking about the lack of job security or about people retiring with insufficient incomes, ongoing poverty is kind of a festering sore within an economy, and I think it does drag down your ongoing growth potential.

I reiterated that part because that is a very significant point. The poverty that has been created in the country over the last five to ten years is a horrendous burden.

I will now return to my theme of Bill C-13 being a missed opportunity. I will speak for a moment about the government's recently announced pooled retirement pension plan, PRPP. This plan shows how the government does not seem to understand, very clearly at least, the real problems facing working Canadians today.

The government in its opening remarks for the PRPP said that 60% of working Canadians have zero savings and no pension. That is one point on which we do agree. The PRPP does not begin to address this problem though. It is simply similar to an RRSP and is open to market fluctuations. In addition, the PRPP potential fee structure favours the institutions and would draw down on workers' savings in what we believe is blatantly an unfair manner.

On behalf of the New Democrats I have put forward a plan for a seven year phase-in of increases to the CPP which would double benefits in about 35 years.

We should keep in mind that the Canada pension plan lost 1% during the market downturn of the last few weeks, while the remainder of the market lost 11% during the same period. That clearly shows that the CPP is the best vehicle to secure seniors' retirement.

I will speak for a moment about the increases that we are proposing to the Canada pension plan. I want to make it very clear that they would be phased in and they would be minimal. We hear all kinds of numbers from the government side. For a worker earning $47,200 or more a year, the initial cost of gradually doubling the CPP works out to 9¢ an hour, or $3.57 a week. Hopefully, the government side is listening. For a worker earning $30,000 per year, the initial cost would be 6¢ an hour, or $2.27 a week.

It would be minimal and would allow Canadians to put money into their retirement. It would not be a huge cost to them. The reality is that otherwise they would have nothing.

I see that I am down to my last minute of debate, so I will condense my comments.

In the administrative fees for the CPP and mutual funds, there is a difference of 0.5% and 2.5% respectively. One is five times more than the other.

We need to consider carefully the need for a Canada pension plan increase to benefit those workers who today have nothing.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, pensions for Canadians is a concern of our government. That is why we introduced the pooled pension plan.

Could the member make some suggestions as to how that plan could work well for small and medium enterprises? To make the change to the Canada pension plan that he refers there has to be an agreement with the provinces. How would it work for provinces that did not agree to work through the Canada pension plan? Has he sought their opinion?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the first part of the question regarding the PRPP, we are not saying it is a complete failure. We are very concerned about the fee structure and how that might draw down the savings of Canadians.

With regard to the Canada pension plan, going into Kananaskis six provincial finance ministers wrote a letter to the federal finance minister endorsing an increase to the Canada pension plan. It is my understanding that Alberta was opposed to it and that Quebec was raising concerns. Clearly, a majority of Canadians supported it. We were on the right path. Instead of moving forward, the government decided to stop at that point and move to the PRPP. Essentially, that was a poor choice. It should still put together a committee with the provinces to go forward on the Canada pension plan. Hopefully it will do that in the near future.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member spoke about poverty earlier. When it comes to corporate bankruptcy, the workers' pension plan is at the bottom of the list of creditors.

How does my colleague feel this could hurt the financial security of seniors?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, on that very topic I have introduced Bill C-331 which would move the assets of a pension plan ahead of unsecured debt in bankruptcy, insolvency and CCAA. We had the situation of Nortel and a number of pulp and paper mills across the country that closed. In some instances, the assets of the pension plan were used like a separate pool to pay down debt when in fact they belonged to workers. In addressing that, we have to change the priority in bankruptcy. In fairness, I have spoken to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance about this very issue, and what I understand from the government side is that it is going to take a fair look at this.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am going to ask about the environment.

Recent research has shown that it is a very good thing the Montreal protocol was agreed to and implemented. Without elimination of CFCs, most of the ozone layer would be destroyed by 2065. The UV increases would be extreme with the average July noon UV index reaching about 30. A value of 11 is considered to be very high. DNA-damaging UV would be increased by 550% leading to a large increase in skin cancer.

Does the hon. member think that the government should reverse its cuts to ozone monitoring?