House of Commons Hansard #56 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 10 petitions.

Natural Resources
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources.

In accordance with the order of reference of Thursday, November 3, your committee has considered votes 1(b), 5(b), 10(b), 15(b), 20(b), 25(b) and 30(b) and agreed on Monday, November 28, to report it without amendment.

Holidays Harmonization Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-364, An Act respecting the harmonization of holidays.

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to introduce a bill respecting the harmonization of holidays. This proposed enactment would entitle employees under federal jurisdiction to all the general holidays observed in the province in which they work.

A few years ago, the Ontario government created a new holiday known as Family Day. Employees in federally regulated workplaces in Ontario, however, are not currently entitled to that provincial holiday. As a result, we find ourselves in the curious situation where a worker in the federally regulated courier sector, for example, is forced to try to deliver packages to retail businesses that are closed because of the provincial holiday. Moreover, these workers are not able to share the holiday with their family and friends despite the fact that they, too, work in Ontario. My bill would end this unintended disconnect between federal and provincial laws by entitling employees in federally regulated workplaces to all of the general holidays that are recognized in the province in which they work.

I will conclude by thanking Shaun Flannery from my riding of Hamilton Mountain for first bringing this issue to my attention. I met him while I was knocking on doors in his neighbourhood and I am delighted to be able to table this bill for him and for all the workers under federal jurisdiction who would benefit from this enactment.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Competition Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-365, An Act to amend the Competition Act (inquiry into industry sector).

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is back with this bill. During the previous Parliament, my former colleague and the member for Shefford, Robert Vincent, introduced this bill. This is not the first time. This bill would give the Competition Bureau more teeth. Right now, there needs to be a complaint before the Competition Bureau will investigate price fixing by oil companies. There have been some striking examples of this, particularly in my region, in Victoriaville, but also in the surrounding area, in Thetford Mines, Sherbrooke, the Eastern Townships and all over. People have been found guilty of fixing the price of gas.

We want the Competition Bureau and police forces to have the power to conduct investigations without the need for a complaint. Back home, there was a complaint and there were some very good results: charges were laid in June 2008 and July 2010 against 38 people and 14 companies for fixing prices at the pump. This happened in Victoriaville, Thetford Mines, Magog and Sherbrooke. Eleven individuals and six companies pled guilty in this case, and they received fines totalling nearly $3 million. Of the 11 people who pled guilty, six were given prison sentences that added up to a total of 54 months in prison. A complaint was necessary for this to happen.

The purpose of this bill is to allow the Competition Bureau to use its expertise to initiate investigations without the need for a complaint. I think that this would greatly improve the situation with gas price fixing.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Protection of Children
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the attention of the House a petition I received that calls upon Parliament to enact stronger legislation to deal with child sexual abuse. Statistics show that 39% of those who possess child sexual abuse materials have images of children between the ages of 3 and 5 and 83% have images of children between 6 and 16 being sexually assaulted.

Section 163 of the Criminal Code currently allows sentences as little 90 days for making criminal child sexual material and only 14 days for the possession of criminal child sexual materials.

Well over 5,000 signatories of this petition are requesting stronger mandatory minimum sentences that would protect children, provide justice and deter pedophilia.

I should add in closing that the Canada Family Action, which is sponsoring the petition, applauds our government for addressing the issue in a meaningful way with our crime legislation, Bill C-10, which is currently before the House.

Crime
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition on Bill C-10 that has been signed by Canadians across the country.

Bill C-10 is the omnibus crime bill. The petitioners say that it crudely bundles together too many pieces of unrelated legislation, some of which makes sense and some of which does not. There is also a big problem with its implementation because Ontario and Quebec may refuse to pay for the costs of some of the measures in this bill that would be downloaded to them.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to separate Bill C-10 into its pieces and allow members to vote on each part separately.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition today from Canadians, primarily from the Montreal and Ottawa areas, also concerned with Bill C-10, making the same point, that we have nine separate bills put together into this omnibus crime bill, the so-called safe streets and communities act, that many petitioners believe will not deliver safe streets in communities.

The petitioners ask that this House consider separating Bill C-10 into its component parts so that each part can be dealt with separately.

I present this petition in hopes that this House will still come to its senses and not pass the omnibus crime bill as drafted.

Canadian Wheat Board
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, with pleasure I present this petition on behalf of prairie farmers. Their desire was to address it to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. The petitioners are requesting that he honour the democratically expressed wishes of western Canadian farmers.

We are all aware of what took place yesterday when Bill C-18 passed, which disagreed with what the prairie farmers were actually requesting. However, the petitioners still felt that it was important to table this petition so the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food would be aware of the fact that most farmers did not support Bill C-18.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.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 ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

I understand that the member for New Brunswick Southwest will be responding to the question of privilege.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal Constituents
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

November 29th, 2011 / 10:10 a.m.

Conservative

John Williamson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to respond to the supposed question of privilege from the hon. member for Mount Royal which was raised on November 16 and 23, along with the submissions made by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh. I appreciate the time you have allowed to return with a response.

For the reasons I will put before you, Mr. Speaker, I believe you will find that there is no basis to conclude a prima facie breach of privilege has taken place.

The question at hand is related to the identification of voters by the Conservative Party of Canada in the riding of Mount Royal.

As members are aware, every political party in the House identifies its voters in one way or another. This is an important part of the political process. Talking to Canadians, discussing issues with them and asking them if they support our party is nothing new.

Ultimately, the resources used to make these calls did not belong to Parliament or to the government; they belonged to the Conservative Party.

To be clear, in no way was any parliamentary resource or time used to conduct a routine political activity. We are aware of numerous circumstances where the Liberal Party of Canada was, prior to the last election, making voter identification calls in various ridings across the country targeting seats held by Conservative members of Parliament.

I will also add that, at that point, the election timing was entirely speculative, there not being an election called or scheduled until after all the opposition parties joined together and voted on March 25 for an unnecessary early election. Did those calls impinge on the work of the sitting members? Did those calls prevent the MPs from doing their jobs? No, absolutely not. This is exactly what a political party is supposed to be doing: targeting ridings they believe can eventually be won.

The hon. member for Mount Royal indicated that his ability to do his job as a representative of the riding because of these calls was undermined. This is simply not the case. As the hon. member noted, he has many bills and motions on the Order Paper and Notice Paper. Moreover, I am told that he has been very active in recent meetings of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Clearly, his work in this place has not been impeded in this regard.

Moreover, members have numerous tools provided by taxpayers to communicate with constituencies as a result of being elected to Parliament. These include householders and ten percenters, among other tools. Finally, a member of the House can simply make a statement to the press, which is what the hon. member did in this case to ensure his constituents are aware of his intentions. As well, he penned an op-ed in yesterday's Montreal Gazette to inform voters of the work he is doing on their behalf. I was impressed by the volume of his work and I am sure they were too.

It may be helpful to draw the Chair's attention to other cases of rumoured byelections.

In 2003, during the New Democratic Party's leadership race, Jack Layton did not have a seat in the House of Commons. On Friday, January 10, 2003, the Toronto Star wrote that Mr. Layton had not ruled out the possibility of holding a byelection in Ottawa Centre. The problem is that no byelection was held in Ottawa Centre. Yet, the Toronto Star wrote that Mr. Layton had not ruled out the possibility of a byelection to fill this empty seat.

The Liberal member representing Ottawa Centre at the time, who is today a Liberal senator, Mac Harb, never raised a question of privilege. He never said that his rights as a member of Parliament had been violated, and for good reason: his rights were not violated. Mr. Layton was merely responding to rumours that the Liberal member might soon be stepping down.

Mr. Speaker, I will draw your attention to a line that appeared in a recent news article from iPolitics with respect to the claims advanced by the hon. member for Mount Royal. It appeared on its online news site on Wednesday, November 16. It stated:

While [the member for Mount Royal], who has an international reputation for his human rights work, has often been rumoured to be on the brink of quitting as an MP, in an interview with iPolitics, [the member for Mount Royal] said he has no plans to quit and has not been offered any positions or appointments.

I want to repeat that. The hon. member “has often been rumored to be on the brink of quitting as an MP”.

I will repeat that again. The hon. member has “often been rumoured to be on the brink of quitting as an MP”.

I will restate the essentials. The Conservative Party calls people for the purpose of voter identification. It is an important part of the job of any political party to ask Canadians if they support the party in the event of an election or byelection. The hon. member has often been rumoured to be on the brink of quitting. It is hardly an intolerable leap to insert this in a call script to identify potential voters.

This is not a prima facie breach of his privileges or the collective privileges of the House. It is, in fact, routine political discourse. For members to find this objectionable is to be shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in this establishment. Some members might be stunned by routine political activity conducted by all political parties, or at least the successful ones, but that indignation is no more surprising than Captain Renault's feigned anger in Rick's Cafe.

I should correct myself. This activity did not happen in this establishment and was not done by anybody affiliated with Parliament or under the Speaker's supervision.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to be cognizant of free and robust dialogue and democratic activities enjoyed in Canada in respect of the election of members, whether it be as a candidate, a partisan or a voter, when you come to your decision.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to be cognizant of free and robust dialogue and democratic activities enjoyed in Canada in respect of the election of members, whether it be as a candidate, a partisan or a voter, when you come to your decision.

To find a prima facie question of privilege in these circumstances would, I suggest, place an unreasonable and unacceptable chill over political discourse in this country, and therefore should only be done in the most extraordinary of circumstances. Those circumstances are not present here.

To find a prima facie question of privilege in these circumstances would, I suggest, place an unreasonable and unacceptable chill over political discourse in this country, and therefore should only be done in the most extraordinary of circumstances. Those circumstances are not present here.

Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, I believe you will agree that it is clearly not a matter that the House should consider further given that there was no breach here whatsoever, and that you should rule that there is no basis for a prima facie breach of privilege.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal Constituents
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, if you would look at my statement on this question privilege, I said that I had no problem with people engaging in voter identification. I said I understood the practice of outreach. I said I understood that political parties, including ours, engage in issues of voter identification.

The issue is not that because of the calls themselves my work was impeded, calls regarding voter identification and the like. It was that in the course of those calls, my work became impeded by the false and misleading information contained in those calls. That is something very different.

The constituents were not asked, “Do you support or would you support the Conservative Party in a general election?” I could understand that, even though we just had a general election six months ago, but in the realm of political discourse, I could understand voter outreach being done all the time. That is fine. However, that is not how it was put.

My constituents were asked, “Will you support the Conservative Party in the pending or imminent byelection?” There is a fundamental difference. This is not normal political discourse, as the hon. member said. Clearly, this is false and misleading information because there is no pending or imminent byelection. When my constituents replied, “What byelection? We don't know of any byelection”, they were told that the member for Mount Royal had resigned or is about to resign.

That clearly comes within the breach of privilege of sowing confusion in the minds of the voters. It clearly comes within the breach of privilege with respect to prejudicing my standing with the electorate and not only causing confusion, but impeding my work because of the flood of phone calls and emails, et cetera, that my office received. People are asking about this pending byelection and when this imminent byelection was to take place. They are saying, “We didn't know that the member for Mount Royal was stepping down,” or, “We didn't know that he has already stepped down”. That is fundamentally different.

The fact is there may have been rumours, but after 12 years I am still here. In that article he quoted, I said that those rumours have been going on for 12 years. The fact that it emanates very often from the members opposite is something else. They are rumours. Rumours are rumours. I will just say that people can repeat rumours, but it is fundamentally different from a rumour to call constituents in a systematic way and specifically target those constituents, with the effect of sowing confusion in the minds of the electorate, impeding the member in the performance of his functions, and causing prejudice to his standing within the riding. These calls have not abated.

It is important that such a practice cease and desist. I do not think any member of this House should be subjected to those kinds of calls. It is not a matter of the party, although I will say that the former candidate in the riding of Mount Royal when asked if he was involved with this, said, “No, I had nothing to do with it. It was the party. It was the Conservative Party”. The Conservative candidate identified the Conservative Party as being involved. I believed him when he said he was not involved. I equally believed him when he said that the Conservative Party was involved. He identified the party.

Leaving that aside, the whole point here is that this was not in the course of normal outreach. This was a form of prejudicial misrepresentation of false and misleading information. As I said, it falls squarely within the criteria, and we quoted principles and precedents, as to what constitutes a breach of privilege. This is not chilling political discourse for you to rule, Mr. Speaker, that it was a breach of privilege; this will chill false and misleading information that tends to corrupt the political process.

That kind of constraint should be placed so that no member in the House should be subjected to false and misleading information. Again, it was not held out as a rumour. It was stated as a fact, a false fact, but it was held that the member had resigned or was about to resign.

There is not a byelection to be held at some point, as I said, let alone a general election. They were talking about a byelection. They said that a byelection is pending; a byelection is imminent. There was a series of ongoing false, misleading, prejudicial misrepresentations.

I think the Speaker should rule that it is a breach of privilege, not simply in my case, but to protect all members of the House from such false and misleading statements and innuendoes that should not be made inside or outside the House which could prejudicially affect members of Parliament.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal Constituents
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken once before on this question of privilege. However, after hearing the Conservative member and now the member from the Liberal Party, whose question of privilege this is, I want to draw to your attention the complaint which came from the member for Windsor West with regard to a ten percenter, because I think it is exactly on point and fully supports the argument we just heard.

In that case, it was a member from the Conservative Party who had sent a ten percenter, which of course is no longer allowed, into the riding of Windsor West accusing the member for Windsor West of supporting a particular position. I think it was on a crime bill. The person who sent it was Monte Solberg. At the time I think he was a minister, but if not, he was certainly a member of the Conservative Party. In the ten percenter he accused in very strong language the member for Windsor West of supporting a particular position. In fact, it was a position I had taken as the member for Windsor—Tecumseh. The member for Windsor West had not taken a position on it. I think he was on the other side of the issue at the time. The material that went into the riding in the form of the ten percenter was false and misleading in terms of the position that the member for Windsor West had taken, although he may not have taken any position at all.

It is exactly the same situation here. The allegations we have heard have been confirmed. I do not think there is much of a dispute over the facts. The phone calls were clearly false and misleading as to whether the member was going to retire or in some respect was leaving his position. As was the case with the member for Windsor West, that does have a negative impact on the member's ability to perform his duties. The same thing happened. There were all sorts of emails, letters and phone calls to his office asking why he had taken this position, when in fact he had not. That is a direct interference. It is false, misleading and has a negative impact on the ability of the member of Parliament to do his or her job.

The ruling by Speaker Milliken is exactly on point with the situation we have here. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I would urge you to make a decision that would find a prima facie case. Let us investigate it at the procedure and House affairs committee. Let us deal with it in an appropriate fashion, as we did in the other case.

There were repercussions with regard to Mr. Solberg in terms of having to apologize, et cetera. The same thing needs to be done in this case.