House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.

Topics

Research and Development
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to making sure that businesses have the tools they need to innovate, to grow, to prosper and create jobs. Last year we launched the applied research and commercialization initiative through FedDev to foster partnerships between post-secondary institutions and businesses in southern Ontario.

Could the Minister of State for Science and Technology and the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario give the House an update on this important program?

Research and Development
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Cambridge
Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, businesses in southern Ontario know full well that our government listens to their needs and then acts. More than 300 small- and medium-size businesses have already partnered with colleges and universities. Therefore, I have announced an extension of the ARC program so that we can continue to fill the gap between industry and the marketplace.

Our government continues to work hard to make sure that businesses have the tools they need to create more jobs, to grow and to keep our economy moving forward.

Ethics
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, in their accountability election platform, the Conservatives promised to require ministers and senior government officials to record their contacts with lobbyists. The Lobbying Commissioner's report is clear that the government broke this promise because it failed to blow the whistle on two well-connected Conservative operatives who used their privileged access to lobby five ministers for nearly $200 million in contracts.

Will the Attorney General finally get tough on Conservative crime and lay criminal charges against Jaffer and Glemaud?

Ethics
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, as I already indicated, this government put in place some tough laws to ensure lobbying in Canada takes place above board and according to the rules. That is why we referred all meetings that Mr. Jaffer and Mr. Glemaud had not reported to the Lobbying Commissioner for her review. The Lobbying Commissioner was clear in her report that Mr. Glemaud and Mr. Jaffer did not secure any government funding.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, in 2009 Stephen Watkins from Newmarket, Ontario awoke to his worst nightmare. His two sons, under his full custody, were abducted by their mother and flown to Poland, where they have been held ever since. The fate of these children rests with a Polish judge in a hearing set for this week. We have seen no action from the government for over two years.

Why will the government not support the victims here? What is the government planning to do to bring these children back home for Christmas?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Calgary—Nose Hill
Alberta

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs)

Mr. Speaker, our government takes cases involving children especially seriously. I thank my colleague for her interest in this case.

Since learning of the situation, our consular officials have been actively supporting Mr. Watkins both in Canada and in Poland. In addition, consular officials have been working with local authorities, the province and the police on this situation. I can assure my colleague that we will continue to be very active to resolve this case.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago I attended a citizenship ceremony and I was shocked to learn that people could have their faces covered when swearing the oath of Canadian citizenship and joining our Canadian family. I believe Canadian citizenship is invaluable and I am very happy that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism acted so quickly to restore integrity to the citizenship process.

Could the minister inform the House of what he is hearing from Canadians in reaction to this important government announcement?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to thank the hon. member for Mississauga East—Cooksville for bringing this matter to my attention. The oath of citizenship and the citizenship ceremony is a solemn and essentially public time when the individual expresses his or her loyalty to Canada in front of fellow citizens.

That is why I clarified yesterday that citizenship applicants will now be required to recite the oath in an open and transparent manner and to do so without being obscured by a face covering. This decision underscores the essentially public nature of the oath. It also underscores our belief in social cohesion and such democratic values as the equality of men and women and our equality before the law.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

December 13th, 2011 / 3 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, airplanes have already started flying at the airport in Neuville. The mayor has been asking to meet with the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for months now, but the minister refuses and refers him to the province, even though this is a matter of federal legislation and the Supreme Court has confirmed that it takes precedence over protecting agricultural land in Quebec. All that is missing in Neuville is the asphalt on the runway, and then there is no going back.

The people of Neuville have reason to be concerned. This is how the minister reassures them? By refusing to meet with elected officials?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean
Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the developer has of course already signed an agreement with the city of Neuville. The mayor signed an agreement with the developer. That is something. There are thousands of mayors in Canada. We work very hard and I make every effort, but we cannot meet with every mayor who wants to speak with us. A certification was issued. At Transport Canada, we feel it is important to respect our role when it comes to safety. In conclusion, I must say that there is no certification or authorization needed from Transport Canada during the construction phase of an airport. None.

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives say they are abolishing the firearms registry and destroying the data because this measure is ineffective and costly. Nothing is further from the truth.

Quebec's public safety minister, accompanied by victims and police, reminded us today that it “is useful and essential for crime prevention...to keep the data”.

Quebec is even prepared to go to court to defend Quebeckers' right to obtain the data they have already paid for.

Will the minister finally transfer the data to Quebec, or will he have to defend the indefensible in court, before a judge, at taxpayers' expense?

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Beauce
Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, we will simply follow through with our election promise. I would like to remind my colleague that the registry that will be destroyed is the long gun registry. With regard to registrations and permit records, which allow police across Canada, including Quebec police, to determine if an individual has the right to have a firearm and thus to prepare themselves accordingly if they are called upon, that registry will remain intact. It is important to understand that the registry has four sections and we are only abolishing the long gun section. The rest will be kept to protect the public.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Jonathan Denis, Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security for Alberta.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal Constituents—Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on November 16, 2011, by the hon. member for Mount Royal regarding the negative impact an organized telephone campaign survey conducted in his constituency has had on his work and reputation.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Mount Royal for having raised this important matter, having responded to the comments of other members and having provided the Chair with additional material in support of his allegations. The Chair would also like to thank the Government House Leader, the House Leader of the Official Opposition and the members for Richmond—Arthabaska, Saanich—Gulf Islands and Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte for their comments as well as the member for New Brunswick Southwest for his interventions.

In presenting his case, the hon. member for Mount Royal states that several constituents had contacted him about survey calls they had received from a telephone number identified as Campaign Research Inc., asking if they would support the Conservative Party in the “impending, if not imminent, by-election”.

He has also informed the House that similar calls were placed to citizens in the Westmount—Ville-Marie constituency. The hon. member for Mount Royal stated that this telephone campaign led his constituents and other voters to think that he had deserted his post, and overshadowed his parliamentary work. Noting that the House has the right to the services of its members free from intimidation, obstruction and interference, he claimed that the confusion created among his electors was damaging his reputation and his credibility.

In the case before us, no one disputes the fact that there is no pending by-election. Yet the hon. member for Mount Royal explains that he has been put in an ambiguous situation through this telephone campaign. He says:

Simply put, how am I, or any member, to effectively represent a constituency if the constituents are led to believe that the member is no longer their elected representative? How can one correct the confusion and prejudicial damage that has been done in the minds of those who may think I am no longer their representative in Parliament or no longer discharging my duties?

To support his argument, the member cited a ruling of Speaker Bosley, as found on page 4439 of the Debates of May 6, 1985, 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.

The Chair finds striking the repeated emphasis that the member has placed on the importance of this issue not only for himself but for all members. This point has also been stressed by other members who intervened. Because of the Chair's primordial concern for the preservation of the privileges of all members, this is a matter worthy of serious consideration. As your Speaker, one of my principal responsibilities is to ensure that the rights and privileges of members are safeguarded, and this is a responsibility I take very seriously.

The member for New Brunswick Southwest argues, on the contrary, that the House should not even be seized of this question because “...it lies outside its authority”. He claims that:

—the...conduct of political parties should not be judged by the House or by its members....The best place for this to be judged is among Canadians, not in the House...

The Chair has no doubt that Canadians are indeed judging this matter, just as they are constantly judging this House by what happens here and what is said here and by the attitude that members display toward one another.

It does not matter that the resources of the House of Commons itself were not used to carry on this particular campaign. On this point, let me point out that the rights and immunities of individual members can be breached by a wide range of actions and that such actions are not limited, as has been suggested, to actions taken in the House or actions involving the use of House resources.

At the same time, in listening to the arguments on this question, I have seen that a certain confusion seems to exist with regard to the extent of the powers of the Speaker in dealing with questions of privilege. Several members have ascribed to the Chair seemingly vast powers that neither I nor my predecessors have ever possessed. The role of the Chair is actually very limited, as the hon. member for Mount Royal has himself pointed out, citing O'Brien and Bosc, at page 145:

—the issue put before the Speaker is not a finding of fact, it is simply whether on first impression the issue that is before the House warrants priority consideration over all other matters, all other orders of the day that are before the House.

In cases where a member alleges that he has experienced interference in the performance of his parliamentary duties, the Speaker’s task is particularly difficult. As O’Brien and Bosc states at page 111:

It is impossible to codify all incidents which might be interpreted as matters of obstruction, interference, molestation or intimidation and as such constitute prima facie cases of privilege.

Furthermore, in ruling on questions of privilege of this kind, the Chair is obliged to assess whether or not the member's ability to fulfill his parliamentary functions has been undermined. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 109, notes that my predecessors have stressed the importance of establishing a direct link to parliamentary duties in such cases, stating that:

—rulings have focused on whether or not the parliamentary functions of the Member were directly involved. While frequently noting that Members raising such matters have legitimate grievances, Speakers have consistently concluded that Members have not been prevent from carrying out their parliamentary duties.

In the Bosley decision cited by the member for Mount Royal, the Speaker was confronted with a situation where the former member of Parliament was identified in a print advertisement as the sitting member: the very identity of the sitting member was at issue.

In the case at hand, the Chair is entirely sympathetic to the situation faced by the member for Mount Royal. There is no doubt that he has been bombarded by telephone calls, emails and faxes from concerned and confused constituents. However, the Chair has great difficulty in concluding that the member has been unable to carry out his parliamentary duties as a result of these tactics. The member for Mount Royal has been extremely active in the House and in committee. By raising the matter in the House as he has done, the hon. member has brought attention to a questionable form of voter identification practice and described in detail the negative impact it has had. Indeed, his interventions here in the House on this very question have garnered, as he himself points out, extensive sympathetic coverage in media across the country.

In a ruling delivered on August 12, 1988, Debates, page 18,272, Speaker Fraser stated that:

Past precedents are highly restrictive...and generally require that clear evidence of obstruction or interference with a Member in the exercise of his or her duty be demonstrated in order to form the basis for a claim of a breach of privilege.

Speaker Milliken, in a ruling from February 12, 2009, also stressed this point:

—adjudicating questions of privilege of this kind, the Speaker is bound to assess whether or not the member's ability to fulfill his parliamentary functions effectively has been undermined.

As I considered the member for Mount Royal's case, a second ruling by Speaker John Fraser has resonated particularly for me. On May 5, 1987, Speaker Fraser concluded:

Given all the circumstances in this case, I am sure that the Minister's capacity to function as a Minister and Member of this House is in no way impaired. I point out to honourable Members that this is the real issue of privilege, although there are obviously other matters that surround the particular fact in this case....the Chair has to look very carefully at the exact point of privilege.

In today's case, too, the so-called surrounding matters have given me pause. I am sure that all reasonable people would agree that attempting to sow confusion in the minds of voters as to whether or not their member is about to resign is a reprehensible tactic and that the hon. member for Mount Royal has a legitimate grievance.

I would hope that his airing of this grievance and the discussions this case has provoked—here in the House and in the media—will lead to two results. On the one hand, managers of legitimate exercises in voter identification should be more careful in the information they disseminate to the people they contact. On the other hand, Canadians contacted this way should be more wary and judge more critically any information presented to them by unsolicited callers.

I can understand how the member for Mount Royal and others are seeking relief from the climate of cynicism, not to say contempt, about parliamentary institutions and practice that seem to prevail. But I fear that such relief is not within my gift: the Speaker's powers in these matters are limited, as my predecessors have repeatedly stated.

The words of Speaker Fraser in a ruling of December 11, 1991, seem particularly apt in these circumstances:

The Chair can devise no strategy, however aggressive or interventionist, and can imagine no codification, however comprehensive or strict, that will as successfully protect the Canadian parliamentary traditions that we cherish as will each member's sense of justice and fair play. Especially at this time of crisis of confidence in our parliamentary institutions, our constituents deserve and will tolerate no less.

Accordingly, after studying the precedents in these matters, I am not able on technical grounds to find that a prima facie case of privilege exists in this case.

I would like once again to thank the hon. member for Mount Royal for bringing this serious and important matter to the attention of the House and of Canadians.