House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.

Topics

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the fisheries and oceans minister admits Canada's fishery is broken. He blames the mess on so-called red tape and inefficiency. His answer is to slash the department's budget, fire the scientists we need to help fish stocks recover, and eliminate regulation. It is like burning down one's house because the paint is peeling.

Instead of making the situation worse, when will the minister wake up and fix these problems?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Fredericton
New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that the fishery is in need of change. With an aging workforce, aging fishers, we need to position the fishing industry to attract new and younger fishers to that industry.

Just last week, for example, I was in Newfoundland to announce the government's investment in an $18 million program to restructure the lobster industry. Fishermen were not nearly as downbeat as the member opposite suggested. In fact, they were very positive and said such things as, “It's a good day for the lobster industry in general and for the province”.

Justice
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, Minister Fournier came away from this morning's meeting with his federal counterpart empty-handed. The federal minister told him that he did not have confidence in the statistics provided by Quebec, the expertise of Quebec's lawyers or the opinion of the Barreau du Québec.

Furthermore, a survey revealed this morning that only 22% of Quebeckers believe that Bill C-10 will help reduce crime and 65% believe that the federal government should pay the additional costs associated with this bill.

Is this the federal government's idea of open federalism? Is this its new way of co-operating with Quebec, that is, telling it to take a hike?

Justice
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we have listened very carefully to our provincial counterparts. I pointed out there is an amendment to Bill C-10 that was proposed by the Province of Quebec. We were very pleased to receive that.

The hon. member is looking for statistics. There is one statistic I was very pleased to see. Leger Marketing recently published a survey which showed that 77% of Quebeckers support tougher sentences for criminals. That is a great statistic, and I agree with that completely.

Presence in the Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I would like to draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of recipients of the 19th National Aboriginal Achievement Awards: Candace Sutherland, Elder Dave Courchene Jr., Dr. Leona Makokis, Richard Hardy, Dr. Janet Smylie, Violet Ford, Grand Chief Edward John, Minnie Grey, Senator Gerry St. Germain, and in the Ladies' Gallery, recipient Richard Peter, and finally, the hon. Minister of Health, who is in her seat in the chamber.

Presence in the Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in the Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Please join me for a reception to honour the recipients in room 216 north after question period.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his response earlier to my colleague from Halifax, the Minister of the Environment called her a traitor. Since when do we call someone a traitor for going to meet with elected representatives in another country? Why is the environment minister keeping tabs on the people the NDP meets with? We maintain valuable relationships with progressive people in the United States. Instead of keeping tabs on us, he would do well to keep an eye on the hole in the ozone layer.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I will certainly review the comments in question.

The hon. member for Avalon is rising on a point of order.

Comments Regarding The Speaker
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, this relates to some comments I made on November 3, I was not here last week and I would like to clarify, retract and apologize. I said, “The last time I checked, the Speaker is a member of the Conservative Party and the Conservative caucus”. I apologize. He is not a member of the Conservative caucus. There was no intent to call into question your impartiality, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to clarify for the record a little bit earlier in the conversation on that particular matter where the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London said, “The Speaker of the House of Commons now makes those two appointments in the interest of greater impartiality and independence”. He went on to say, “...a three member boundaries commission chaired by a judge and comprising two other members appointed by the Speaker”. In the next paragraph he said, “The goal is a readjustment process that is generally free of partisan considerations”.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to review those particular comments in light of my apology regarding bringing into question your impartiality. I believe that these comments require some consideration.

I apologize for my comments.

Comments Regarding The Speaker
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for his retraction and for his apology.

I understand the hon. member for Mount Royal is rising further to his question of privilege.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal Constituents
Privilege
Oral Questions

November 22nd, 2011 / 3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to make an additional submission relative to the question of privilege I raised in this place last week regarding phone calls to constituents in my riding asking them if they would support the Conservatives in the impending, if not imminent, byelection in my riding.

Clearly, as long as I am standing in this place there is no byelection in my riding. Equally, if not more important, I am as engaged now as I ever have been on the issues of the day, both domestic and international, on this the 12th anniversary of my first election in November 1999.

It is not only that the false and misleading information overshadows and overtakes my involvement, whether it be on the domestic justice issues of the day or whether it be on my urgent legal representation of an Egyptian political prisoner, but rather that my constituents hear only the false rumours that I have stepped down rather than reports of what I am in fact engaged in.

While my office has provided the table clerks with a list of constituents who were contacted as well as some of the correspondence my office has received, I rise because there is some new information that I believe must be made known to the Speaker and all members of the House before the Speaker's ruling is made.

I stressed in my first intervention that my concern about this reprehensible practice was not a personal one, but rather one that affects all members of this place.

Indeed, a story that aired on CBC Montreal about this found that some of the people contacted do not even live in my riding of Mount Royal. One Montrealer said in the CBC story, “Somebody told me that they were representing the Prime Minister and they were asking me for my support in the upcoming byelection. I asked him what byelection he was talking about”.

I believe this case study illustrates my point in the sense that the constituent who reported to me that she resides in the riding of Westmount—Ville-Marie said that she was politically aware enough to know that I was not stepping down. However, I can imagine that someone who follows politics less and lives in the riding ofWestmount—Ville-Marie might have been made to believe that in fact the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie had resigned or was planning to resign, so it goes beyond me in this regard.

While I am aware that it is not up to me to make a privileged submission on behalf of that hon. member, I again draw the attention of the House to the pronouncement from Speaker Bosley, reprinted on page 113 of O'Brien and Bosc, which states:

It should go without saying that a Member of Parliament needs to perform his functions effectively and that anything tending to cause confusion as to a Member's identity creates the possibility of an impediment to the fulfilment of that Member's functions. Any action which impedes or tends to impede a Member in the discharge of his duties is a breach of privilege.

Indeed, while I contend the practice has breached my privilege, I believe it has also, at least in this instance, breached the privilege of the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie, as it would also breach the privilege of any member whose riding is so targeted or whose constituents receive such calls.

I say this, lest there be any confusion, that we all understand that political parties engage in fundraising, outreach and the like when Parliament is sitting. Such actions are perfectly permissible provided the rules are respected, the law is followed, and no privilege is breached. This practice, however, breaches my privilege by implying that I am not in this place and fulfilling my duties, as I could not be if I had indeed stepped down. As I said, it causes confusion in the minds of my constituents as to whether I am currently their MP and what in fact I am doing in this place.

Moreover, in the case of calls outside my riding, it may cause confusion to the electorate in other electoral districts as well.

This is far different from the usual party activity when there is no election. It is one thing to do a general fundraiser, as many members do, or even send literature, although as Speakers have ruled in the past, and in the case of my riding, this too may breach a privilege in certain situations.

The problem is that these misleading calls misrepresent an alleged imminent byelection. While the notion of an impending byelection may drum up support for it, it implies a sense of urgency. Stating that there is a byelection, in effect, implies a great deal about the member presently serving or, indeed, if he or she is even serving at all. Indeed, it implies that he or she is not serving and will not serve much longer.

Thus, while I wholeheartedly welcome disagreement and debate about my politics and positions, and this is a fundamental activity that must be protected in a free and democratic society, I must reject any assertion or implication that I am not here in this place acting as I should and advocating on my constituents' behalf.

Indeed, I have been in committee with hon. members on the other side in all parts of the House from 8:45 a.m. today, exiting only for question period and this statement, and will be there until midnight tonight and tomorrow as well to propose my amendments to the crime bill, Bill C-10.

This is the important point, and I do not wish to sound self-serving in any way, but all this gets overshadowed and forgotten if my constituents do not think I am even here and it overtakes them finding out what in fact I am doing when I am here. In fact, the press tends to only ask me questions about these phone calls without seeking to understand positions I may be taking on other compelling issues of the day in concert with members of the House.

Further, we now have some new information about the source of these calls. Whereas in my initial submission I identified the firm, Campaign Research, ties to the Conservative Party have since become clear. Indeed, the person who was the Conservative candidate in the last election in my riding and who was rumoured to be candidate in the imminent byelection, though I stress again, should any constituents be watching, there is no byelection, imminent, pending or the like, he said, “I have nothing to do with it, it is a party thing”.

That is a quote in a document presented to the table officers, which I will provide to any members who may wish to see it.

Further, news reports cite Conservative Party spokesman, Fred DeLorey, saying that the party “does not comment on operation matters”, when asked, which, to my mind, implies some level of involvement.

While I still believe the matter constitutes a prima facie breach of privilege and, as such, should be referred to the appropriate committee for inquiry and investigation, I believe it is now imperative that the committee be given the matter to investigate given that there are obviously individuals who could be called as witnesses on this matter.

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, as your predecessor once noted in 2007, though I suspect that the comment may have been made partially in jest, and I so characterize it:

...I hate to deprive the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs with an opportunity to examine witnesses on a question that I know would thrill the members of the committee.

Whether it is thrilling or not, I do not know, but I know it is sufficiently serious to warrant referral.

Should the committee find that the practice is indeed a breach of privilege, fines could be imposed for making such calls, individuals who ordered them might arguably be found in contempt of the House or, short of this, and I believe it would be in line with the established way privilege matters work, those responsible might acknowledge that the practice occurred on their watch, apologize for having engaged in it and the damage it has done, and all parties would undertake not to engage in such behaviour.

This would establish a welcome precedent that in the view of the House it is not proper for anyone to tell one's constituents that a member has resigned or is resigning when he or she remains a quite active and involved member of this place.

I have one last point. Unless the government plans to break its own election law and dissolve Parliament, the next election is clearly not impending or imminent as is being implied to my constituents, and, indeed, at such time it would then be a general election and not a byelection.

On the point of byelections, O'Brien and Bosc note on page 189 that byelections only occur when there is a “vacancy in the representation”, and further, precisely on page 241, that:

A person ceases to be a Member of the House of Commons when:

that person dies;

that person resigns his or her seat;

that person has accepted an office of profit or emolument under the Crown;

that person has been elected to sit in a provincial or territorial legislative assembly or on a municipal council;

the Member's election has been overturned in accordance with the Canada Elections Act; or

the House has, by order, declared that the Member's seat is vacant and has ordered the Speaker to address a warrant to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of a writ of election for a new Member.

At the risk of reiterating the list, I have mentioned the list only so that it would be clear that none of these items accord with the present circumstances or my circumstances in any way.

Mr. Speaker, I assure you that there is no pending, let alone impending, byelection and all calls to the contrary are false, misleading and prejudicial to the workings of this House, to my constituents and to myself.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal Constituents
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for his further contribution on this point.

The hon. member for Richmond--Arthabaska.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal Constituents
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find this matter to be very troubling. This is not the first time I have heard the hon. member talk about what is happening. Now he is adding new elements. For the Bloc Québécois, this is not only troubling, but it is indeed a question of privilege. As the hon. member says himself, if there is a rumour in his riding of a byelection, the hon. member becomes a lame duck. To the people in his riding, the current hon. member will probably step down and might be less interested in doing his job.

It is a question of privilege when an hon. member is prevented from doing his job properly, and that is precisely what is happening to the hon. member. The media fuel the problem. We know full well that there is no byelection in his riding, that this hon. member is working for his constituents and that he has not left. Nonetheless, I am sure that the people who received these telephone calls wondered about that. There was therefore a direct impediment to the hon. member's work. We have to shed light on what is happening.

This is not the first time this hon. member has had to deal with a problem. The Conservatives at the time sent flyers, what we call ten percenters, to his riding to attack him on a very delicate matter. I do not know whether we are dealing with a relentless attack, but we have to get to the bottom of this.

I agree with the hon. member: the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has to deal with this immediately to find out what happened, to put an end to this, and to ensure that we know if this ever happens to other hon. members and that they tell you about it, Mr. Speaker.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal Constituents
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the question of privilege raised by our hon. friend, the member for Mount Royal, is deeply disturbing and it is more than rumour. He has had several ways of confirming that such calls are being made into his riding. With what he has put forward to the House today, he was able to provide further details that suggest, although we do not have 100% proof, that Conservative Party operatives are spreading false rumours within his riding.

I rise on this question of privilege because I think it is a more generalized question of privilege for many members in the House. If this becomes a tactic, if this becomes something that is used to destabilize the ridings of anyone elected to this place, then it does in general speak to a question of privilege and offends the rules of the House.

On page 113 of O'Brien and Bosc, we find the story of what occurred in 1985 and Speaker Bosley dealt with it. There was a newspaper advertisement that suggested someone else was the member of Parliament other than the sitting member and Speaker Bosley ruled on this and said:

It should go without saying that a Member of Parliament needs to perform his functions effectively and that anything tending to cause confusion as to a Member's identity creates the possibility of an impediment to the fulfilment of that Member's functions. Any action which impedes or tends to impede a Member in the discharge of his duties is a breach of privilege.

I suggest that this is mischief-making at a local level in relation to a member's intentions and to the member's good standing. I must say that, as a former minister of justice, the member for Mount Royal is, in my mind, one of the finest parliamentarians in this place. That such mischief should go on in his riding means that none of us are secure. We need a clear ruling from you, Mr. Speaker, to put an end to this practice. It may be that party machinations go on without direction from the top, but this is mischief-making that is not coordinated, that it is a random act of breach of privilege.

Mr. Speaker, your ruling on this kind of unhelpful, deliberate misleading of the electorate, which is clearly anti-democratic at its very base, will put it to rest and make it stop.