House of Commons Hansard #133 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-60, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons).

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

Environment and Sustainable Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

February 17th, 2011 / 10:05 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in relation to Bill C-469, An Act to establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights.

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

Foreign Affairs and International Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. The purpose of this report is to place the proceedings of the Committee’s meeting of Thursday, December 9, 2010, concerning what appears to be a possible breach of privilege, officially before the House.

Canadian Heritage
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Emerging and Digital Media: Opportunities and Challenges.

Status of Women
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the tenth report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women entitled, Changing the Long-Form Census—Its Impact on Women's Equality in Canada.

Pensions
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the people of Canada have been living through the most difficult economic times since the Great Depression and many companies have had to restructure or go into bankruptcy, including Buchanan Forest Products a couple of weeks ago in my riding. Thousands of people are not receiving severance or termination pay or pensions.

The petitioners are calling upon the House of Commons and Parliament to affirm that pension benefits are in fact deferred wages, to elevate defined pension benefit plans to secured status in the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Canadian Creditors Protection Act, and to pass into law any legislation before it that would achieve these objectives.

Low Income Housing
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am also presenting a petition signed by the tenants living in low income housing in Sainte-Adèle, a town in my riding. The purpose of this initiative is to condemn the 30% cuts to the renovation budget for low income housing. In support of this petition, I would like to read an excerpt from a press release issued by the Fédération des locataires d'habitations à loyer modique du Québec:

the 2011 budget for the renovation of Low-Cost Housing (HLM) units [some of which are located in my riding] across the province will fall to 200 million dollars from 276 million dollars. This means that in 2011 a cut of 30% will be imposed on all Municipal Housing Offices that administer over 500 housing units and that other cuts will follow for the smaller housing offices in 2012. These cuts also mean that important construction work will again be delayed.

In concrete terms, these cuts will affect thousands of tenants who will continue to live in apartments with bad windows, frayed linoleum, and washrooms and kitchens without ventilation or proper plumbing. It will also mean that several buildings will remain inaccessible for people using personal mobility devices such as wheelchairs and scooters and that, amongst other things, the housing offices will have to abandon its program to retrofit apartments so as to enable the occupants to install individual washing machines and dryers.

These cuts are due to the refusal of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to finance these renovations. The CMHC should dedicate 140 million dollars of funding per year, however it now wants to limit its contribution to only 70 million dollars.

For this reason, I am presenting this petition and I am sure that I will have others in the weeks to come.

Afghanistan
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petition demands an end to Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan.

In May 2008, Parliament passed a resolution to withdraw the Canadian Forces by July 2011. The Prime Minister, with agreement from the Liberal Party, broke his promise to honour the parliamentary motion and, furthermore, refuses to put it to a parliamentary vote in the House.

Committing 1,000 soldiers to a training mission still presents a danger to our troops and an unnecessary expense when our country is faced with a $56 billion deficit. The military mission has cost Canadians more than $18 billion, money that could have been used to improve health care and seniors' pensions right here in Canada.

Polls show that a clear majority of Canadians do not want Canada's military presence to continue after the scheduled removal date of July 2011. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Prime Minister to honour the will of Parliament and bring the troops home now.

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.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

moved:

That, given the undisputed privileges of Parliament under Canada's constitution, including the absolute power to require the government to produce uncensored documents when requested, the government's continuing refusal to comply with reasonable requests for documents, particularly related to the cost of the government's tax cut for the largest corporations and the cost of the government's justice and public safety agenda, represents a violation of the rights of Parliament, and this House hereby orders the government to provide every document requested by the Standing Committee on Finance on November 17, 2010, by March 7, 2011.

Mr. Speaker, for many months in this House and across the country, the Liberals have been pointing out the cruel irony of the Conservative government preaching a new-found doctrine of so-called fiscal restraint. It certainly was not there between 2006, when it first took power, and late 2008, when the global recession arrived.

During that period of time, the Conservatives increased federal spending by three times the rate of inflation. They wiped out all of the contingency reserves and prudence factors that had been built into federal budgets to serve as fiscal shock absorbers against sudden adverse developments. They put the country back into deficit again before, not because of, but before there was any recession to blame.

Now, suddenly, they have religion. Now they are going to get prudent all of a sudden, so they are telling average Canadian families there is no room for them on the government's agenda. There is no room for family care, no room for early childhood development, no room for help with the costs of post-secondary education and no room for a better Canada pension plan, while they simultaneously load billions of dollars on big, expensive, high-risk Conservative spending schemes like $10 billion to $13 billion on prisons and jails, like $16 billion to $21 billion on stealth fighter jet airplanes with no mission statement and no competitive bidding to get value for money, and $6 billion every year in extra tax cuts for the richest 5% of Canadian corporations, not for small business, just the big ones.

For months we have asked the government repeatedly to provide a factual rationale for these odd and bad choices but we have received no response, Therefore, last November, in the Standing Committee on Finance, our critic, the hon. member for Kings—Hants, put down a detailed motion demanding a full financial analysis. The Parliamentary Budget Officer was asking for much the same thing. Again, there was no response.

Belatedly, while still concealing all the details, the Conservatives came up with the lame excuse that details could not be provided because of cabinet confidences. That was clearly false.

Our Liberal finance critic took the case a step further last week by raising a question of privilege in the House. Again, nothing but belligerence and obfuscation came from the government.

Two nights ago we took another step. We gave notice of the motion that we are moving as the subject matter of this opposition day debate, a House order for the production of documents. Suddenly, at long last, there were rumours that the government might have something to table, some answer to the questions we had been asking.

We have no idea what that rumour entails. We will look into the details, if there are any details, but given the months of stonewalling, given the last minute, death-bed nature of this repentance, if it is one, and given this government's always grudging attitude toward Parliament's unmistakable right to know, the motion we have selected today remains vital and necessary. This is all about a government that is afraid of the truth and determined to hide it in a vast variety of ways.

Not since 1873, when Sir John A. Macdonald was trying to evade responsibility for his railway scandals, has a Canadian Parliament been as abused as this one today by government schemes to obscure transparency, stifle accountability and hide the truth. Never before has a Canadian government been as pathologically partisan, ideological and obsessed with secrecy and control.

It is Conservative standard practice to so limit and manipulate information that it becomes impossible for Parliament to do its job of holding government to account. It becomes impossible for Canadians to judge their government because hard facts are simply concealed. It becomes impossible to know in truth what is going on and, without knowledge, democracy is impaired.

Oh, yes, the Conservatives can pass all of the fine-sounding accountability acts they want, but these become a mockery when the Prime Minister prorogues Parliament twice in one year, padlocks the central institution of our democracy twice in one year to evade tough questions about his government's misbehaviour. All that fine legislation becomes a mockery when the government sends its ministerial staffers to deliberately and repeatedly interfere with access to information laws. It becomes a mockery when the government condones, even encourages, ministers to falsify documents and then tell the opposite of the truth.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer, a position designed and created by the Prime Minister and an officer personally selected by the Prime Minister, warned this week that Parliament was being subverted by the government's obsession with secrecy. He cannot do his job, and MPs cannot do their jobs when the government will not provide the necessary information or, when it does provide it, the information comes out in such garbled or falsified form.

With respect to the two specific requests for information mentioned in the motion before the House today, one relating to extra corporate tax cuts for the privileged few and the other to enormous new prison costs, Mr. Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, and every other relevant authority have debunked the notion that this information can be hidden from Canadians because it somehow involves a cabinet confidence. It does not.

One journalist noted the other day that the government uses the false excuse of cabinet confidence to hide information in the same way that Richard Nixon used the excuse of executive privilege. Both are equally odious and wrong, but it is a telling point that the Conservative government seems to aspire to Nixonian standards, complete with its own list of enemies who need to be silenced.

More importantly, Mr. Speaker, the claim of cabinet confidence is simply irrelevant, as you made abundantly clear in your landmark ruling on April 27, 2010, about the obligations of government to produce documents when requested to do so by Parliament.

After an exhaustive review of all the arguments and all the authorities going back 125 years, the Speaker reached three essential conclusions: first, that holding the government to account is the House of Commons' fundamental right, undisputed privilege and, in fact, an obligation; second, that in order to discharge that obligation, the House of Commons must have unfettered access to complete and uncensored information; and third, that any limitation on the method by which that access to information is accomplished must be determined not by the government, but by the House of Commons. The House of Commons decides the process, not the government. As the Speaker said so clearly last April 27, when the House duly adopts an order following proper notice and debate, as we are doing today in this debate, the government must comply.

Why is the information about prison costs so important? It is because Canadians need to verify the work of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. He determined that one or two of the government's crime bills would increase costs to taxpayers by $10 billion to $13 billion, and that little, if any, of that new cost had been budgeted. Where will it come from and at whose expense? Parliament needs to know. Canadians also need to know the additional costs associated with 18 other bills of a similar nature for which no cost analysis has yet been provided and for which no budget provision has been made.

Canadians also need to know if every bit of attrition in the size of the public service, which is the Conservatives' one and only plan to reduce the deficit, is being more than offset by the hiring of new prison guards, so that at the bottom line there would really be no attrition at all and, therefore, no savings at all and, therefore, no deficit plan at all.

Canadians need to know how many mega billions in total will be spent on U.S.-style megajails, which have proven in America to be a failure in terms of public safety.

Why are jails the Conservative governments biggest job creation plan? Why are jails the Conservatives substitute for social housing or mental health services or aboriginal inclusion or education? These questions need answers.

Furthermore, why is the information about extra corporate tax cuts important? It is important because Canadians need to verify the analysis done by the Department of Finance showing that corporate tax cuts are the least cost-effective way to generate immediate jobs. That is the federal Department of Finance saying that corporate tax cuts are the least cost-effective way to generate immediate jobs.

Canadians also need to verify the work of the chief economic analyst at Statistics Canada, who says that the job creation value of the government's extra corporate tax cuts is “trivial”, “a drop in the bucket”.

Canadians need to know what would be gained by extra corporate tax cuts on top of the 35% reduction in corporate tax rates in Canada that has taken place over the last 10 years. Since Canada already had the lowest corporate tax rate in the G7, except for the UK, before these latest Conservative tax cuts; since Canada already had a 10 point or 25% tax rate advantage over the United States; and since Canada already had a globally competitive corporate tax rate before these latest cuts, what is to be gained by more, and for whom?

Six billion more dollars in borrowed money will need to be repaid at some future date by our children and grandchildren to finance an extra cut now for the biggest and wealthiest 5% of Canadian businesses. To a lot of Canadians that sounds out of whack. Only 1 business in 20 stands to gain, only the privileged few.

Meanwhile, every employer and employee in Canada, including every small business that employs a single soul, is going to be paying more taxes this year because the Conservatives are imposing increased job-killing payroll taxes through higher employment insurance premiums. This year, next year, the year after that and the year after that, up and up those payroll taxes will go.

The Conservatives will rake in $1.3 billion more this year in these higher payroll taxes, then $3 billion more next year, then $5 billion more the year after that and then $7 billion more. Over four years more than $16 billion will be taken from every employer and every employee on every Canadian job. Most especially, small business will pay.

In the perverse logic of the Conservative government, it cuts taxes on the corporate profits of big business while it increases taxes on the jobs created by small business. It just does not make sense when they can find billions to blow on jets and jails and extra corporate tax cuts.

It also does not make any sense why the Conservatives give the back of their hand to average middle income Canadian families struggling to make ends meet.

Is there help for family caregivers looking after sick or aging loved ones at home? No, the government says that would be reckless. Is there help for young parents looking for a child care space so they can earn a decent income for their family? No, the Conservatives say, because they just do not believe in that.

Is there room for a voluntary supplementary Canada pension plan to help secure a respectable retirement for two-thirds of Canadians who do not have adequate pensions? No, say the Conservatives. They will only promote private sector plans, even when that means expensive management fees, lower earnings, less participation and less security.

What about access to higher education? If a student gets the grades, should the student not get to go to university or college, or get the trades training he or she may need? From the Conservatives the answer is no, that students just do not matter as much as jets and jails and extra corporate tax cuts.

Canadians need the financial details that we have requested in our motion today in order to analyze these very strange Conservative priorities. However, this motion attacking unreasonable and destructive government secrecy is important for another reason too. The specific issues that we have mentioned are symptomatic of a much bigger problem, a government that so distrusts Canadians and is so obsessed with controlling everything all the time that, in the process, it erodes democracy.

I have mentioned the arbitrary padlocking of Parliament by prorogation; the tampering with access to information laws; and ministers falsifying documents, trying to cover up and then failing to be truthful.

I hear the Conservatives chuckling on the other side about their transgressions. Well, Canadians are not laughing.

However, there is so much more. The Conservatives instruct their ministerial staff to thumb their noses at parliamentary committees. Contrary to law, they refuse to appear and answer questions.

A Conservative senator warns women's groups to shut up if they ever want to gain anything from this malevolent government.

The nation's single best source of reliable data, Statistics Canada, previously admired around the world for its accuracy and integrity, is now crippled and dumbed down so that the government can base its decisions on bias and ideology rather than hard evidence.

Public servants are threatened and intimidated to keep their mouths shut, the most graphic cases being Richard Colvin, and also the scientists who work for Environment Canada.

Parliamentary watchdogs are systematically attacked, belittled and coerced into toeing the government's line or they get hounded out of office: Linda Keen at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission; Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer; the Chief Electoral Officer; the Ethics Commissioner; the Information Commissioner; the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development; Paul Kennedy, chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, Peter Tinsley, the chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission; Munir Sheikh, the Chief Statistician; Colonel Stogran, Veterans Ombudsman; and the list goes on.

In addition to that, outside of government, dozens of groups and organizations are treated the same way, being put on the enemies list or hit list, including the Canadian Council on Learning; the Canadian Teachers' Federation; the Rights & Democracy organization; women's groups; and advocates for the poor and the disadvantaged. There are many more, including KAIROS, of course, which this government hated and wanted to silence so much that it went so far as to falsify a document and then tied itself up in knots.

That is typical of a Conservative culture of defeat. On our side, we will fight it every step of the way.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Cambridge
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's speech. It became quite clear to me that the matter is not really the motion today. The member for Wascana is extremely good at this and I compliment him on his ability to change the channel on the real issue. The real issue is that the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP coalition want to hide their high tax agenda from Canadians. That is exactly what they are trying to do today, to take up time in the House to hide the true issue, which is that they want to raise taxes.

We believe high taxes are a threat to jobs; we believe in lowering taxes. We have done this and the truth is right here in our economic recovery. This Conservative government has taken every opportunity to lower taxes and, in fact, has seen 460,000 jobs created in Canada.

I want to be very clear before I get to my question. This really is not about partisanship but about a differences in our philosophies.

When the member was finance minister for a brief time, he said the following in a press release while totally rejecting the New Democratic Party leader's call to roll back corporate taxes:

—the government's tax reduction plan has produced significant economic and social benefits for all Canadians.

He went on to say:

Canadians deserve the facts—

—and that the leader of the NDP's—

—numbers are simply wrong, and [that the NDP was]...trying to obscure the true benefits of tax cuts—namely jobs and economic growth.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order. The hon. member for Wascana.

Opposition Motion--Documents Requested by the Standing Committee on Finance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted that the hon. gentleman has referred to that period of time when I had the honour of serving this country as minister of finance.

At that time the Government of Canada, because of 10 years of hard work by the Liberal government, had eliminated the deficit. Prior to that the deficit had existed in this country. The red ink had been flowing for 27 consecutive years. We made the decisions that were necessary to get rid of the deficit. We balanced the books. We ushered in an era of 10 consecutive surplus budgets.

We reduced the corporate tax rates. When we started out they were at 28%. They were globally uncompetitive. We took those rates down on the track that we had established to about 19%. The government added one more percent to take it down to 18%.

All of that was done when the country was running robust surpluses. When we left office in 2006, we left our successors with a $13 billion annual surplus and fiscal flexibility going forward five years of $100 billion. Transfers to the provinces had been raised to an all-time record high, including $41 billion for health care, a new transfer for municipalities and a better deal on equalization, the best deal the provinces had ever had.

The difference now is the Conservatives have put us into $56 billion of debt and their corporate tax cuts are unaffordable.