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 cost.

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Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the member for Hull—Aylmer has clearly indicated where his residence is not.

Statements by minister of international Co-operation regarding Kairos
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege under the provisions of Standing Order 48 alleging contempt of the House by the Minister of International Cooperation further to the notice that was submitted to the clerk this morning.

I will be asking you, Mr. Speaker, to make a prima facie case finding that a breach of privilege has occurred, specifically that the minister “deliberately attempted to mislead the House by way of a statement”, or, in this case, a series of statements, and “that she knew or ought to have known that the statements to the House were either false or an attempt to mislead”.

I brought this matter before you, Mr. Speaker, in December 2010 following statements by the minister during a foreign affairs and international development committee hearing. It is unfortunate that a question of privilege has to be raised a second time.

Despite being given many opportunities to do so, the Minister of International Cooperation has refused to show any deference toward Parliament and its members and apologize for the misleading statements she made regarding the funding of KAIROS.

The question before you today, Mr. Speaker, is whether any of the additional material would lead you to the conclusion of a prima facie case of misleading the House.

In your ruling of February 10, 2011, you said:

The full body of material gives rise to very troubling questions. Any reasonable person confronted with what appears to have transpired would necessarily be extremely concerned, if not shocked, and might well begin to doubt the integrity of certain decision-making processes. In particular, the senior CIDA officials concerned must be deeply disturbed by the doctored document they have been made to appear to have signed.

However, despite the obvious frustration expressed by many of the members who have intervened in this case and the profoundly disturbing questions that evidently remain unanswered in the view of these same members, the Chair is bound by very narrow parameters in situations such as this one. It may sound overly technical but the reality is that when adjudicating cases of this kind, the Chair is obliged to reference material fully and properly before the House.

The question, therefore, is: Are you less troubled or more troubled by the additional material that is now fully and properly before the House?

The foreign affairs and international development committee report tabled this morning contains much of the quoted exchange between me and the minister, other members' interventions and a supplementary report provided by government members which provides yet another version of events. I would suggest that it solidifies your disquiet, if anything.

The line of argument in the supplementary report would be characterized as an “I do not know” argument. It appears that the minister does not know who signs her documents or whether or not they have been changed. It appears to be plausible the minister at one point actually recommended the grant and then the recommendation was changed after the fact at her direction or someone else's. It is clear that she does not know.

Another piece of new information came in the exchanges in question period. You, Mr. Speaker, have been present for all of them so I will mercifully not repeat them. In these exchanges, the government advances two lines of argument. First, the minister apologized so, therefore, that is the end of it Second, bureaucrats make recommendations and the ministers make decisions.

Mr. Speaker, if I lie to you or mislead you in a personal relationship an apology may well suffice, assuming no further harm. However, if you were a judge sitting in a court and I lied to you, there would be consequences regardless of an apology. It is called perjury. I may even go to jail because we have the highest expectations that truth be told in court; so also in Parliament and before a parliamentary committee.

In Parliament, however, as is stated on page 111 of the 22nd edition of Erskine May:

The Commons may treat the making of a deliberately misleading statement as a contempt.

I allege that this is what has occurred.

There are four distinct occasions on which the minister or the parliamentary secretary speaking on behalf of the minister have knowingly misled the House which I will now relate.

First, on December 9, 2010, before the foreign affairs and international development committee, Margaret Biggs, the president of CIDA, was very clear in her testimony that, contrary to what the minister had led the House to understand, CIDA had unequivocally recommended KAIROS for the grant. The minister was fully aware of CIDA's position and yet chose to misrepresent the advice of her senior civil servants to cover up a plainly political decision.

We see this in a response dated March 8, 2010 to an order paper question put to the minister by the member for London North Centre. The minister stated the following in writing on a document to which her signature is affixed:

The CIDA decision not to continue funding KAIROS was based on the overall assessment of the proposal, not on any single criterion.

A reasonable person looking at that would clearly interpret that as a decision made by the CIDA department.

Based on both the access to information request document on which the famous “not” was written and the testimony of President Biggs, we know that this is false as the CIDA officials unambiguously recommended that KAIROS continue to receive funding.

Second, when appearing before the standing committee on December 9, the minister, when asked who inserted the “not” on the document, stated, “I do not know”. The minister subsequently contradicted this statement at committee by her statement in the House on February 14 when she stated, “The 'not' was inserted at my direction”.

Third, in the same statement given to the House on February 14, the minister compounded the untruth contained in the order paper response mentioned above by stating, “At no time have I stated that the decision was that of the department”. The above order paper response clearly alleges that CIDA, her department, made the decision. This is simply not true.

Fourth and last, the former parliamentary secretary to the minister of international cooperation stated in the House of Commons on March 15, 2010, that:

CIDA thoroughly analyzed KAIROS' program proposal and determined, with regret, that it did not meet the agency's current priorities. This is important.

As with the order paper response above and based upon the evidence, we know this to be untrue.

I am pleased to note that the former parliamentary secretary, the member for Kootenay—Columbia, to his credit and his honour, did offer an apology to the House. However, the minister has not yet chosen to do the same thing nor, disappointingly, has the Prime Minister.

It is the right of every minister to make ministerial decisions. However, it is not the right of a minister to make a decision and then doctor a document so that it appears that someone else made the decision.

Mr. Speaker, as you stated:

Any reasonable person confronted with what appears to have transpired would necessarily be extremely concerned, if not shocked, and might well begin to doubt the integrity of certain decision-making processes.

In addition to these clear examples of where the minister has misled the House, there are additional concerns that raise further questions about the minister's integrity.

First, KAIROS had its funding cut in November 2009, and we have been asking for clarification on this decision ever since. Why did the minister not clear up the confusion at the first available opportunity?

Second, it may be a little late but why did she not use her statement on Monday to do the honourable thing and offer an unequivocal apology?

Third, if someone is really going to reverse a recommendation, why would the individual not make the recommendation absolutely clear? Any first year law student would be more careful.

Fourth, why leave the lingering impression that CIDA officials rejected the grant?

It is deeply troubling for a minister of the Crown to behave with such disregard and disrespect for her position, her colleagues, the civil service, the NGO community and the millions of Canadians who support the work of KAIROS.

It is further troubling to see the Prime Minister even today defend and extol the minister's behaviour.

As we all know, privilege exists for good reason. In this instance, as in all others, it compels truthfulness even when embarrassing, even when it does not suit the government's agenda. Privilege exists so MPs can make decisions based on fact, not on fiction. Privilege exists as a core value of democracy because MPs and their constituents, the people of Canada, have every right to expect that public discourse in this chamber is without artifice.

Mr. Speaker, you are the guardian of that core value, the value of truthfulness between and among members, ministers and the Prime Minister. Any ruling other than a prima facie case of breach of privilege in this case will inevitably lead to another even more egregious abuse.

I and my colleagues are calling upon you, Mr. Speaker, to put a stop to tampered documents, to blaming others, to casual regard for facts before a committee of the House. We call on you to uphold the highest standards of discourse by ministers in their communications with the House.

Mr. Speaker, with the additional material before you, the case for contempt is even more compelling than it was before. I am prepared to move the motion of contempt upon your direction.

Statements by minister of international Co-operation regarding Kairos
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Ottawa Centre has also sent a notice. I will hear him now.

Statements by minister of international Co-operation regarding Kairos
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your indulgence. As was mentioned by my colleague from the Liberal Party, this question of privilege relates to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development's sixth report, which was tabled this morning.

From subsequent submissions you have received from other hon. members, Mr. Speaker, including from me on December 13, it is clear that the Minister of International Cooperation statements to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development with regard to who was responsible for the government decision to reject a funding proposal for the Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives known as KAIROS were deliberately misleading. I believe my rights and the rights of all hon. members have been breached by the minister's misleading comments.

As has been noted in the December 9 testimony by the minister in front of the committee, when asked who was responsible for inserting the word “not” that led to the denial of funding to KAIROS, she told me and members of the committee that she did not know. As you know, Mr. Speaker, recently in the House it was established by the minister that she did know and she had directed someone to insert the said word.

I want to reference your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on February 10. You said that while giving voice to the disturbing questions with regard to the integrity of the decision-making process conducted by the minister, the absence of a committee report on the matter put a key limitation on your ability to find that there was a prima facie question of privilege arising from the minister's comments to the committee. Such a report was tabled in the House today. This report refers to the transcript of the minister's testimony to the committee on December 9, 2010, as well as a copy of the doctored document.

The original question of privilege submitted to you on December 13, 2010, Mr. Speaker, charged that the minister had deliberately misled the House and the committee on the origin of the government's rejection of the funding for KAIROS. For months, hon. members were led to believe the rejection had been advised by officials at CIDA.

In my submissions to you, Mr. Speaker, I wish to bring to your attention new and troubling facts arising from the minister's statement to the House on February 14. Her statement indicated that her testimony to the committee on December 9, 2010, was knowingly incorrect and deliberately misleading.

I believe that contempt against me, against the citizens of our country, whom I and other hon. members represent, and all parliamentarians, has been one where you will, if you see the evidence before you, find a prima facie case of contempt of the House.

I have three other references which I believe to be relevant citations for the Speaker's deliberation on this matter.

With regard to the issue of contempt of Parliament, I reference Joseph Maingot. In particular, I reference pages 227 to 229, of the second edition, which indicate the parameters of the issue of conduct constituting breach of privilege or contempt. You will find, Mr. Speaker, that this is relevant in this case.

A prima facie, case of privilege for those who are not aware of the Latin meaning, is a case where the Speaker finds evidence enough for us to carry on with a case of contempt of Parliament. Therefore, is there enough evidence in front of the Speaker for us to proceed further with a motion.

I would also like to reference O'Brien and Bosc, page 115, where there is reference to a case that was ruled on and reference to:

Misleading a Minister or a Member has also b2een considered a form of obstruction and thus a prima facie breach of privilege.

The example cited is from December 6, 1978, in a finding that a prima facie contempt of the House existed. Speaker Jerome ruled that a government official, by deliberately misleading the minister, had impeded the member in the performance of his duties and consequently obstructed the House itself.

I have one final reference. It is the same case on which Speaker Jerome ruled. On page 1856, of the December 6, 1978, issue of Hansard, there is his the full ruling on privilege. The complaint is the subject matter of a question of privilege and it is one that you will find relevant to this case.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, if we are able to establish, and if you are able to rule, that there is prima facie case of contempt with regard to our privileges, I would ask that you consider a motion, as my colleague has, with wording along the lines that the matters raised in the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, including all circumstances leading to and related to the addition of the word “not” on the official document contained in appendix A of the report, be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Statements by minister of international Co-operation regarding Kairos
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:25 p.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 thank my hon. colleagues, the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood and the hon. member for Ottawa Centre, for their interventions.

As you well know, Mr. Speaker, this is the first opportunity the government has had to listen to interventions on a matter of privilege. I would ask you, as is the custom of the House, to grant approval to the government to delay our response until we bring back to the House a more comprehensive response to answer many of the issues raised here today. I also commit to you that our response will be developed and brought back to the House as quickly as possible.

Since I am on my feet, Mr. Speaker, and we are talking about a matter of privilege, I want to bring to your attention what I believe to be a troubling and continuing pattern from the opposition coalition when it comes to privilege.

Particularly in this case, the member for Ottawa Centre, who is a member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, said yesterday, as a result of an in camera meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, that in all probability a report, which was conducted and agreed upon by the committee for foreign affairs, would be tabled in the House today. In effect and in actuality that is what happened.

As you well know, Mr. Speaker, in camera discussions are meant to be kept confidential. Unfortunately, we have seen time and time again over the past number of months in camera discussions and their confidences broken by opposition members speaking to the media about confidential conversations held in camera.

I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that when you make your ultimate ruling on the question of privilege raised today, you would perhaps consider to include in your ruling the fact that in camera conversations held at committee should remain in confidence. As I said, it was troubling. It is a continuing pattern. We have seen it all too often in the past number of months. I think that alone is a matter of concern for all parliamentarians.

Statements by minister of international Co-operation regarding Kairos
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, in a ruling made on February 10 on a question of privilege raised in December concerning misleading statements made by the Minister of International Cooperation about the decision not to grant funding to KAIROS, you said:

—despite...the profoundly disturbing questions that evidently remain unanswered in the view of these same members, the Chair is bound by very narrow parameters in situations such as this one. It may sound overly technical but the reality is that when adjudicating cases of this kind, the Chair is obliged to reference material fully and properly before the House. With regard to statements made by the minister, this material is limited to a few answers to oral questions and one answer to a written question, not to any comments in committee.

In the circumstances, with this key limitation in mind and in the absence of a committee report on this matter, the Chair cannot find evidence in documents properly before the House to suggest that the minister's statements to the House were deliberately misleading, that she believed them to be misleading or that she had intended for them to be misleading. Accordingly, I cannot rule that the minister deliberately misled the House and, therefore, I cannot find that there is a prima facie question of privilege.

Since you made this ruling on February 10, new facts have come to light. First, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development has provided to you certain statements that were made in committee, as well as the KAIROS funding document obtained through the Access to Information Act. You have been officially apprised of this information by the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

Furthermore, the Minister of International Cooperation also read a statement in this House on February 14 regarding funding for KAIROS. Thus, in light of the new facts in this matter, of which you have been officially informed, I believe that there are grounds for you to reconsider your decision. Here is the timeline of the statements in this matter.

On April 23, 2010, the minister told the House:

The criteria for the funding for KAIROS is the same as the criteria for funding for anyone else applying for such funding. KAIROS did not meet the criteria. It did not get the funding. There was no surprise there.

Still on April 23, in reply to written Question No. 106, the minister replied:

The CIDA decision not to continue funding KAIROS was based on the overall assessment of the proposal, not on any single criterion.

On October 28, 2010, she said:

We have an international aid effectiveness strategy and we are acting on it. We are getting results for people in the developing countries and all projects by CIDA are assessed against our effectiveness standards. After due diligence, it was determined that KAIROS' proposal did not meet government standards.

At the December 9, 2010 meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, she stated, “...the decision on my part was not to fund KAIROS...”

During this same committee meeting, when asked who had added the word “not” to the documents, she stated, “I do not know”. In the same breath she added, “I cannot say who wrote the 'not'. However, I will tell you the ultimate decision reflects the decision of the minister and the government.”

On December 9, 2010, in committee, the president of CIDA, Margaret Biggs, confirmed that CIDA had recommended that the minister approve funding for KAIROS:

...the agency did recommend the project to the minister. She has indicated that. But it was her decision, after due consideration, to not accept the department's advice.

She also added that when she signed the document, the word “not” was not on it. Finally, on February 14, in the House, the Minister made this statement:

There was no decision taken by the department to provide funding. It was only a recommendation. It was my decision to disagree with the recommendation based on discussions with advisers. I was fully aware that my decision was not aligned with the recommendation of the department.

Later on, she added:

At no time have I stated that the decision for funding was that of the department. I have repeatedly and clearly stated in response to questions in the House and at committee that the funding decision was mine. The “not” was inserted at my direction.

In your decision on February 10, 2010, you referred to the following passage from Parliamentary Practice in New Zealand:

In order to establish a prima facie finding that a breach of privilege and contempt has occurred, three elements must be present: one, it must be proven that the statements were misleading; two, it must be established that the member at the time knew the statement was incorrect; and three, in the making of the statement, the minister intended to mislead the House.

On April 23, 2010, in response to a question on the order paper, the Minister of International Cooperation said that the decision not to fund KAIROS was a decision made by CIDA. On December 9, 2010, at committee, she said the opposite, that it was her decision. On December 9, 2010, at committee, she said she did not know who added the word “not” to the document on funding for KAIROS. On February 14, 2011, however, she said in the House that the word “not” was added at her direction.

As a result, the first criterion has been met. The Minister of International Cooperation made misleading statements. Did she know they were misleading when she made those statements? Of course she did. If she made the decision not to fund KAIROS, she knew that it was not the decision of her officials. If she asked someone to add the word “not” in the document, she was fully aware of that when she gave her testimony at committee on December 9, 2010, because she signed the document on November 27, 2009. As a result, the second criterion has been met. When the minister made those statements, she knew they were incorrect.

Why did the minister make these contradictory statements? It is because the decision to cut funding to KAIROS was purely ideological and she did not want to pay the political price. That takes care of the third criterion. Yes, the minister fully intended to mislead the House.

I am well aware, Mr. Speaker, that you might be tempted to rule that this is a matter of debate. However, I believe that it is a much more fundamental question. The role of Parliament is to hold the government accountable and, unfortunately, this government is not co-operating. Over the past few months, we have seen it deny the power of the House to request documents and deny the power of committees to subpoena witnesses, and now it is denying the members' right to obtain accurate information. This is a case of contempt of Parliament. Deliberately misleading the House constitutes contempt of Parliament. In fact, in the 23rd edition of Erskine May, on page 132, it states:

The Commons may treat the making of a deliberately misleading statement as a contempt. In 1963 the House resolved that in making a personal statement which contained words which he later admitted not to be true, a former Member had been guilty of a grave contempt.

On February 1, 2002, in your ruling on a question of privilege in which it was alleged that the Minister of National Defence had misled the House, you stated the following:

The authorities are consistent about the need for clarity in our proceedings and about the need to ensure the integrity of the information provided by the government to the House.

On March 22, 2002, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs tabled a report concerning this same question of privilege. It said:

Incorrect statements in the House of Commons cannot be condoned. It is essential that Members have accurate and timely information, and that the integrity of the information provided by the Government to the House is ensured.

To conclude, I believe that you must find that this is a prima facie question of privilege. This is much more than a matter of debate. Parliamentarians have a fundamental right, a constitutional right, to hold the government accountable and, Mr. Speaker, you are the guarantor of that right.

Statements by minister of international Co-operation regarding Kairos
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, in light of the comments by the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader where he said the government side would attempt to get back on this as soon as it could, I hope you will agree that this is a matter of privilege. Members are required to raise it in a timely basis and the government should also be required to get back on a timely basis. The matter is a priority for the House in terms of its agenda. I know you, Mr. Speaker, will look at it that way and hopefully the government will get back just as quickly.

Statements by minister of international Co-operation regarding Kairos
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank hon. members for their interventions on this point. I will take the matter under advisement and of course await the response from the government as indicated by the parliamentary secretary.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Resuming debate. When the matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville had the floor. There are 15 minutes remaining in the time allotted for her remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville.

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

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver Centre, so perhaps I have less than 15 minutes remaining.

The subject of today's opposition day motion also contains specific references to documents requested by the Standing Committee on Finance on November 17, 2010 and March 7, 2011. These are extremely important requests. The first deals with the government's decision to implement corporate tax cuts at the worst possible time, during an economic recession. The finance committee asked for the projections of corporate tax profits before tax, up to 2015. The second deals with the costs related to the government's over-the-top crime agenda that will send many more thousands of our young people down the drain of a broken prison system.

In both cases, the government refused to provide the information and cited the excuse of cabinet confidence.

Notwithstanding the fact that Parliament has the authority to order the production of any and all documents, including those that are termed “cabinet confidence”, it is curious that the government would choose this excuse. After all, what exactly is cabinet confidence? It is difficult to find an explanation that can capture the complexities of the concept, but the Department of Justice, in its discussion paper, “Strengthening the Access to Information Act”, states that cabinet confidences in the broadest sense are the political secrets of ministers individually and collectively, the disclosure of which would make it very difficult for the government to speak in unison before Parliament and the public.

With this in mind, are the projections of corporate profits before taxes a political secret? Would revealing them make it difficult for the government to speak in unison before Parliament and the public?

Consider that in 2005, the Liberal government released exactly what was being requested in its 2005 economic and fiscal update. Did our democracy crumble to its knees after these projections were published on page 83? Of course not, and why? Because these figures are not cabinet confidences, likewise the costs related to the government's 11 crime bills. Would revealing these figures breach a political secret? Would revealing them make it difficult for the government to speak in unison before Parliament and the public?

Last year the Parliamentary Budget Officer tabled a report regarding one single justice bill, Bill C-25, the Truth in Sentencing Act. He stated that this one bill would increase the cost to government of correctional services by up to $8.6 billion per year by 2015-16. This is the exact kind of information we are looking to get from the government. It should not be a secret. It should not be privy to only the executive branch of government. After all, it is the legislative branch which is being asked to provide approval for these measures. How can we do so if we do not know what it will cost? Some might say it is like being asked to sign a cheque while the amount is concealed. We would never do so. Why would members of the House be expected to do so? Yet, this is exactly what our Parliament has been reduced to.

I believe in the House. I believe in democracy. I believe in the fundamental right of Parliament, as written by our founders, shaped by our predecessors and now challenged by the Conservative government. I will not stand down in the face of the Conservatives' challenges to the institutions and the power of Parliament that I hold near and dear. I will not stop defending our privileges and our rights.

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

3:40 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo
B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to my hon. colleague talk about corporate taxes and projections. As I listened to her, I recalled being at finance committee a few days ago when the Parliamentary Budget Officer was there as were a number of economists. They clearly stated that in 2007 when we legislated the corporate tax reductions, and of course the Liberals are now looking at increasing taxes, the projections were built into the forecast.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer's forecast included the corporate tax rates as legislated by Parliament. Economists from across the country were at committee.

What we really need to focus on is why the Liberal Party is changing its mind at this critical juncture, when the member for Kings—Hants and the member for Wascana throughout this time have talked about the importance of corporate tax cuts. It is clearly calculated into the economic forecasts by all those in Canada. Why would the Liberals be looking at a job-killing increase at a very important time of recovery in our history?

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

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is yet another smokescreen. It was the Liberals who were prudent fiscal managers. It was the Liberals who reduced the corporate tax rate. What the member is talking about is clearly a smokescreen in the same way that those documents the government just tabled were a smokescreen. It is a continuation of this culture of deceit.

Granted, the government tabled a number of documents that we had requested, but only because we shamed it into it. We asked for documents in three areas. Granted, the government provided a little on corporate tax cuts, but nothing on F-35s and nothing in the area of the corporate crime bills.

We asked for information on 18 crime bills and received nothing. There is insufficient information to make logical, rational decisions on which we base our fiduciary responsibilities.

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

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, two days ago we had a committee hearing regarding Bill C-59, Abolition of Early Parole Act. The member for Brampton West asked Mary Campbell, the director general of Corrections and Criminal Justice Directorate, Public Safety Canada a question about information regarding the crime bill in terms of what it was going to cost. She said, “I have most of that information. It's part of my responsibility in terms of developing legislation to consider costs. Yes, I have most of that information or access to it“.

The problem is the government refuses to allow her to give the information. She went on to say in response to a second question from the member, “I said that I have the information or access to it. I really can't talk about what I've provided the government in any detail because I think that is cabinet confidence...”.

The final question by the member was, “So if the government asked you, in theory, to provide it, you would be able to answer that question for them”?

Mary Campbell said, “I think I'm able to answer almost all questions that I'm asked about legislative proposals”.

There we have it. The government is caught deliberately hiding when we know it has the information because the director general of Corrections and Criminal Justice Directorate said so three times at a committee two nights ago.

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

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague who always asks the most insightful questions and provides the most insightful commentary.

Let us not forget what this debate is about. It is about Parliament's right to know. It is about Parliament's right to information. It is a fundamental right and it is necessary for the proper functioning of Parliament. It is the core to our democracy.

Legitimate requests for documents of the government have been rebuffed. This is indefensible. The government is always attempting to defend the indefensible to have us believe the unbelievable, and we will not stand for that. We need the documents we requested. We need them today.

I will give another example where there is insufficient information for us to perform our duties.

Regarding Bill C-16 to end house arrests, from the information provided to the House, how much would it cost? None, zero, but we all know that Bill C-16 would put more people in jail. Yet the government is telling us Bill C-16 will not cost another red penny.