House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was americans.

Topics

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 591
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

With respect to the provision within the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act which sets out a duty of consultation for the competent Ministers: (a) which international agencies and civil society organizations were consulted by Ministers in 2008 and 2009; (b) what were the themes and subject areas of those consultations; (c) what were the views expressed by civil society organizations and international agencies on those themes and subjects; (d) how were those views taken into account when forming opinions under the Act; (e) did the consultation process invite consideration of the human rights impact of aid provided in target countries and, if not, why not; (f) was participation by international agencies and civil society organizations open-ended or limited to a select group of participants; and (g) was the consultation process public?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I apologize, I was outside but there were lots of people in front of me and I missed motions. I would ask for the unanimous consent of the House to return to motions.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent to revert to motions at this time?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Libya
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The Chair has received an application for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt and I will hear his submissions on this point now.

Libya
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, with the situation in Libya and the state of chaos and flux, some areas have been freed from the Gadhafi regime while the city of Tripoli has become a killing field. Canadians still in Libya are facing a certainty of danger. Those who want to leave are uncertain how to safely make their way to the airport or the harbour for evacuation. They need the government's help to get home safely.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I am asking you to permit an emergency debate on the situation in Libya and how it is affecting Canadians still there and those who have families in Libya.

Speaker's Ruling
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for his interest in this matter. I note that the House has had two debates on the situation in the Middle East. One was an emergency debate granted by the Chair and the second was a take note debate agreed upon by all parties in the House.

At the moment, I am not inclined to order another debate on this matter at this time. However, if the situation does not resolve itself reasonably soon and the member makes another request later in the week, the Chair may be disposed to looking at the matter.

At the moment, I am not inclined to regard this as an emergency situation that requires a debate in the House. Accordingly I will decline the request at this time.

The Chair has received notice that some members may wish to make additional submissions on various questions of privilege that have been raised in the House.

I will hear first the hon. member of Kings—Hants, who has given notice that he wishes to address further a point that raised a week before we had the break last week.

Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

February 28th, 2011 / 3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on the question of privilege that I first raised in the House three weeks ago. At that time, I advised you that the government's refusal to provide all of the information requested by the finance committee in its motion of November 17 constituted a breach of this House's privileges. I also advised you that the government's refusal to provide a reasonable excuse as to why it could not provide that information also constituted a contempt of Parliament.

Mr. Speaker, I now wish to draw your attention to some significant developments that have taken place, in some ways, since I first raised this issue with you on February 7. I will also draw to your attention the lack of significant developments in other instances.

The first development I would like to discuss is the supply motion from the member for Wascana that was debated by the House on Thursday, February 17. As you will recall, Mr. Speaker, the motion stated:

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.

Despite the hours spent by the House debating that motion from the member for Wascana and the repeated questions from members of the opposition, the government has still failed to either provide the requested information in whole or to provide an explanation as to why this information cannot be provided.

The government House leader did on February 17 rise on a point of order to table some information that supposedly was meant to respond to the order for documents made by the finance committee in its November 17 motion.

Shortly after noon today, the parliamentary secretary to the House leader did rise in the House to provide the government's response to some of the issues I raised on February 7 in this question of privilege.

However, the government's response remains woefully inadequate. The parliamentary secretary suggested that no order to produce documents existed in the finance committee's 10th report and therefore there was no prima facie case of breach of privilege. I would like to quote from the committee's 10th report to the House, which in turn quotes from the November 17 motion. They both state:

That the committee also orders that the Government of Canada provide the committee with electronic copies of the following documents...

The motion, as quoted in the finance committee's 10th report, then goes on to order the government to provide the committee with the following documents in relation to 18 of the government's justice bills. This order for documents includes:

the incremental cost estimates broken down by Capital, Operations and Maintenance and other categories

the baseline departmental funding requirement excluding the impacts of the bills and Acts broken down by Capital, Operations and Maintenance and other categories;

the total departmental Annual Reference Level, including all quasi-statutory and non-quasi statutory items, including Capital, Operations, Maintenance and Other Categories, including the incremental cost estimates;

detailed cost accounting analysis and projections, including assumptions, for each of the bills and Acts conducted in accordance with the Treasury Board Guide to Costing;

The committee's 10th report concludes by stating:

—the Committee wishes to draw the attention of the House on what appears to be a breach of its privileges by the Government of Canada’s refusal to provide documents ordered by the Committee, and recommends that House take whatever measures it deems appropriate.

The government's response to the matters raised, both in terms of the information tabled in the House on February 17 as well as the parliamentary secretary's response in the House earlier today, is an insult to Parliament and an affront to Canadian taxpayers and citizens.

On February 17, the government only tabled rudimentary cost projections for just some of the bills and it failed to provide the House with any explanation as to how it arrived at these figures.

The government continues to deny us the information we need as parliamentarians to do our due diligence and to determine whether or not the assumptions behind the government's cost projections for these bills are reasonable.

The Treasury Board “Guide to Costing” explicitly states on page 7:

Departments should document all assumptions, processes and calculations used to produce the cost information.

These are some of the documents the finance committee has ordered, but instead of providing these assumptions, processes and calculations for the costing of these bills, the government has simply stated that the ordered documents are covered by cabinet confidence.

On February 7, I explained why these background documents related to the justice legislation are not covered by cabinet confidence. I argued that even if they were covered by cabinet confidence, this does not restrict Parliament's authority to order the production of these documents.

Furthermore, I argued that it was in fact in the public interest for the government to provide these documents to Parliament, but today, once again, the government has failed to address any of these arguments. It has failed to provide an explanation as to why it believes these documents are covered by cabinet confidence or why they should be kept hidden from Parliament.

By simply repeating its line that the documents are covered by cabinet confidence, the government is failing in its duty to provide this House with a cogent reason or reasonable excuse for its actions or inactions with respect to this question of privilege.

The other significant development that has taken place is the report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer that was provided to the finance committee last Friday. This report is in response to the finance committee's motion of November 17, 2010 and the information provided to this House and that committee by the government, up until and including the information tabled in the House by the government on February 17. In its report, the office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer acknowledged that the Government of Canada “has not provided FINA”, the finance committee, “with most of the information it requested.”

The office of the PBO also discussed the relevance of the finance committee's order for documents. The parliamentary budget office wrote:

1. Is the information requested by FINA [finance committee] relevant and necessary to parliamentary decision-making?

A. Yes. It is required for parliamentarians to fulfill fiduciary obligations under the Constitution.

2. Is it collected regularly by the GC [Government of Canada]?

A. Yes. The information is collected, analyzed and challenged as part of the GC's [Government of Canada's] expenditure management system.

3. Does Parliament have a right to the information?

A. Yes. The Parliament of Canada is under a constitutional obligation to review any information gathered during the EMS [expenditure management system] process that it views as necessary for the discharge of its fiduciary duty to the Canadian people to properly control public monies.

The government has had three full weeks, which is more than adequate to address the issues I raised on February 7 in my question of privilege.

The government has failed to do so. It has failed both to provide all the documents or provide any reasonable explanation as to why these documents cannot be provided.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I respectfully ask that you provide the House with a ruling on my question of privilege at your earliest opportunity.

Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:20 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 would certainly point out that the hon. member for Kings—Hants made his original question of privilege argument several days ago. It is unusual, to say the very least, that he sees this as an opportunity to continue a series of mini debates on this very subject.

I would point out one irrefutable fact and that is nothing that the member for Kings—Hants said today is contained in the 10th report. That report is before you, Mr. Speaker. It is based on your findings on that report which I am sure you will make your ruling.

I agree with one point of my colleague from Kings—Hants, and that is we do encourage and urge you, Mr. Speaker, to make your ruling on this matter as quickly as possible.

Let me again state that there is absolutely nothing the member said here today in his accusations toward the government that is contained in the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Finance. That report is before you, Mr. Speaker. You have both the initial submission and my response today. We trust that at the earliest opportunity you will give the House your considered response and decision.

Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank both hon. members for their submissions on this point and I will bear them in mind as I come to a decision on the question that was originally raised.

The hon. member for Guelph is rising on a question of privilege also.