House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was conservative.

Topics

Foreign Affairs and International Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development in relation to Bill C-61, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of the property of officials and former officials of foreign states and of their family members.

Veterans Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs in relation to Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act and the Pension Act.

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

Government Operations and Estimates
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two reports of the government operations committee.

I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in relation to its study on Supplementary Estimates (C).

I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in relation to its study on the financing of renewable energy projects by the government. By this report, the committee wants to draw to the attention of the House a potential breach of its privilege and/or a possible case of contempt of Parliament and recommends it takes the measures it deems appropriate.

Contaminated Water in Shannon
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with empathy that I present a second round of petitions regarding the contaminated water in Shannon. Over 1,000 people are adding their names to those of the 23,000 people who signed the document I presented in June 2009.

It is clear this morning that this issue continues to affect people. We know that a trial is currently underway in the class-action lawsuit by people from the municipality of Shannon, who drank contaminated water for 22 years. The government knew that, but did not tell the public.

Therefore, I once again urge the government to do everything it can to contact as many people as possible who lived in Shannon and Valcartier. It must also be proactive, stop making attempts to obstruct this file and it must comply with the orders of this House and give access to the documents requested. We have asked the government to present these documents and it has not yet done so.

Lastly, if the government is truly acting in good faith, it must acknowledge its responsibility, compensate those who were contaminated and decontaminate the areas affected. It is clear that the government is waiting for the trial to end. However, it could have been proactive, which is what the public is asking for.

The Environment
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition from folks in the Kelowna and Victoria area. This is yet another petition, with which our office has absolutely been flooded, from Canadians expressing serious and dire concern of the government's plans to allow an 1,100 kilometre pipeline for raw bitumen coming from Alberta to the port in Kitimat and then the supertankers that would carry that raw bitumen through the north coast in some of the most treacherous waters in the world. Some members in the House will be aware of the concerns expressed by people all along B.C.'s coast and into the interior.

The petitioners are calling on the government to finally enact in legislation the ban on supertankers on B.C.'s north coast, no longer providing the uncertainty both to industry and to communities.

The petitioners recognize the important and fragile nature of the north coast ecosystem, as even the Conservative government does from time to time.

The petitioners number in the many dozens.

Afghanistan
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petition is signed by dozens of Canadians and calls on the government to end Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan.

Ever since May 2008, when Parliament passed its resolution to withdraw the Canadian Forces in 2011, the Prime Minister stayed on track until the Liberals approached him and offered to support him to continue with an involvement in Afghanistan.

Committing 1,000 soldiers to this supposed training mission still presents a great danger to our troops and an unnecessary expense when we are looking at a $56 billion deficit. The military mission has cost us over $18 billion so far, money that could have been used to improve health care and seniors' pensions in this country.

In fact, polls show that a clear majority of Canadians want the military mission to end on schedule in 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

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with respect to the motion presented by the Liberal Party and the Liberal member for Beauséjour. Specifically, I would ask that you consider whether this motion is acceptable in light of the sub judice convention.

Today's motion passes judgment on a political entity and on four private individuals. It asks the House to serve as a judge and jury over a private civil matter that is before the courts. Specifically, it makes a finding of fraud. It asks the Prime Minister to direct the financial affairs of a political party, it asks the Government of Canada to remove individuals from employment and, similarly, it asks the Conservative Party of Canada to do the same.

I find these proposals contrary to the principles and values of a mature democracy. In Canada, we respect the rule of law, which includes due process.

For those reasons, the motion is at odds with long-standing parliamentary conventions and practices. Let me explain further.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, the House has significant powers derived from its privileges and immunities. Perhaps the most important privilege is freedom of speech in parliamentary proceedings. While this privilege is normally associated with the right of individual members, it also applies to motions adopted by the House.

As O'Brien and Bosc state at page 91:

Generally considered to be an individual privilege, the courts have confirmed that freedom of speech is also a collective privilege of the House. Motions carried by the House are expressed collectively by its Members and therefore cannot be challenged in a court of law.

However, motions, such as the one being debated today, can have a direct, real and personal effect on an individual and his or her reputation. Given the broad powers accorded to the House in this regard, the House has established practices and conventions to ensure that its powers are exercised judiciously and that due process is respected. As O'Brien and Bosc note at page 97:

The privilege of freedom of speech is an extremely powerful immunity and on occasion Speakers have had to caution Members about its misuse.

O'Brien and Bosc go on to cite Speaker Fraser's 1987 ruling where he stated:

Such a privilege confers grave responsibilities on those who are protected by it. By that I mean specifically the Hon. Members of this place. The consequences of its abuse can be terrible. Innocent people could be slandered with no redress available to them. Reputations could be destroyed on the basis of false rumour. All Hon. Members are conscious of the care they must exercise in availing themselves of their absolute privilege of freedom of speech. That is why there are long-standing practices and traditions observed in this House to counter the potential for abuse.

One practice observed by the House to protect the interests of individuals is the sub judice convention. As O'Brien and Bosc state at page 99:

It is accepted practice that, in the interests of justice and fair play, certain restrictions should be placed on the freedom of Members of Parliament to make reference in the course of debate to matters awaiting judicial decisions, and that such matters should not be the subject of motions or questions in the House.

O'Brien and Bosc go on to state:

The acceptance of a restriction is a voluntary restraint on the part of the House to protect an accused person or other party to a court action or judicial inquiry from suffering any prejudicial effect from public discussion of the issue.

As O'Brien and Bosc note at page 100:

The sub judice convention is important in the conduct of business in the House. It protects the rights of interested parties before the courts, and preserves and maintains the separation and mutual respect between the legislature and the judiciary. The convention ensures that a balance is created between the need for a separate, impartial judiciary and free speech.

The sub judice convention is well recognized by other procedural authorities as well. For example, citation 505 in the sixth edition of Beauchesne's states:

Members are expected to refrain from discussing matters that are before the courts or tribunals, which are courts of record. The purpose of this sub judice convention is to protect the parties in a case awaiting or undergoing trial and persons who stand to be affected by the outcome of a judicial inquiry. It is a voluntary restraint imposed by the House upon itself in the interest of justice and fair play.

The sub judice convention is not unique to this House. It is a recognized principle in Westminster.

As the 23rd edition of Erskine May states at page 436:

Subject to the discretion of the Chair and to the right of the House to legislate on any matter or to discuss any matters of delegated legislation, matters awaiting the adjudication of a court of law should not be brought forward in debate.

The British Parliament has gone further than Canada by articulating the sub judice convention through resolution. The latest resolution was adopted in 2001. Similarly, the sub judice convention has been codified in other jurisdictions, including Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, India and New Zealand.

In Canada, at the federal level, we have not had a need to articulate how the sub judice convention should be applied. Up until now, we have been able to rely on the common sense of members to ensure that we do not abuse our privileges. My fear, however, is that this will no longer be the case if today's motion should be adopted.

It is quite evident that the motion by the Liberal member for Beauséjour is contrary to the principle and practices of the House. It assumes there is a presumption of guilt and the House can pass judgment on individuals without any respect for due process.

As O'Brien and Bosc note at page 100:

--it is the Speaker who decides what jurisdiction the Chair has over matters sub judice.

In a ruling of March 14, 2008, Mr. Speaker, you quoted Bourinot and how he described the first principles of our parliamentary tradition as:

To protect the minority and restrain the improvidence and tyranny of the majority, to secure the transaction of public business in a decent and orderly manner--

At that time, committees were ignoring the usual practices and procedures of this House and you described the situation as verging on anarchy. The opposition was being reckless with their majority status back then and it has continued that irresponsible behaviour in its original demands for documents relating to Afghan detainees that could have jeopardized national security.

The tyranny of the opposition majority has been reckless and irresponsible in its demands for the production of documents that would breach cabinet confidence, and now the tyranny of the majority is being reckless and irresponsible with the long-standing practice and principle of parliamentary democracy, the sub judice convention, by passing judgment on individuals without any respect for due process.

I submit that the motion, as it is drafted, infringes on the sub judice convention and should be ruled out of order on that basis.

I realize that since the motion is before the House today and we may in fact have a vote tonight or, at the latest, tomorrow, it is imperative for you, sir, in all your wisdom, to rule on this matter as quickly as possible.

Opposition Motion
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

March 8th, 2011 / 10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to that submission.

It is of no merit whatsoever and there is no Canadian authority that supports the notion that once a matter is before the court, this assembly in the House of Commons does not have jurisdiction to deal with the matter. That would be a total and absolute violation of our privileges as members of Parliament and this assembly.

In Canada we have a separation of the judicial branch, the legislative branch and the parliamentary branch. There is no authority and the parliamentary secretary did not cite any Speaker's ruling that would support the proposition that once a matter is brought before the court, this assembly is not allowed to discuss it.

Just think this through. In any situation that comes up, all a person would have to do is issue a writ in a court, originate a notice, and all of a sudden this House would be silent. The Canadian people would be silent. Parliament would be silent. There is no justification for that.

I have two points on this issue. First, the motion has been on the notice paper since last Friday. That is about 72 hours. Why was this point of order not raised before? Second, I do not know how many times questions on the issue in the motion have been asked in the House of Commons, but you would know, Mr. Speaker.

If the premise that has been advanced here today had any weight to it at all, then of course all those questions would also be out of order. Any issue that went before the courts would be out of order in this assembly. We have dealt with this situation many times before. We dealt with it in the Barbara George case; I dealt with that in committee. Even when we went through the sponsorship issue and the sides were reversed, that matter was in court. It was in court every day. We knew that. However, questions were asked and committee meetings were going on. The committee of inquiry tried to get hold of the proceedings before the committee but it could not because it would have been a breach of parliamentary privileges.

There is no authority for what the parliamentary secretary has stated. He cited some sentences of sub judice. I do not know what goes on in the other provinces, but he did not at any point in time refer to any instance in the 143 years this assembly has been in existence that we would change course, that we would become silent if somehow a matter were raised in court.

Mr. Speaker, I would therefore ask you to not allow this point of order.

Opposition Motion
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, my comments follow on those of my Liberal colleague who has properly argued the case against the parliamentary secretary in terms of what is disallowed, whether it is in front of the courts or not.

The members of the Conservative Party know that well because they themselves brought forward motions of a similar nature when issues were before the court. When in opposition, the Conservative Party also argued for a wide latitude in the use of supply day opposition motions, because they are an opportunity for opposition members to raise questions of the government.

Mr. Speaker, the central point I wish to raise is one which I am sure you will be looking at. O'Brien and Bosc on page 854 requires that:

The Standing Orders give Members a very wide scope in proposing opposition motions on supply days and, unless the motion is clearly and undoubtedly irregular (i.e., where the procedural aspect is not open to reasonable argument), the Chair does not intervene.

The government, in preparing its submission today to try to subvert the debate on the so-called in and out scheme, has attempted to curtail the ability of the opposition to have a fulsome debate as to what exactly happened. The implication is there are members sitting within the Conservative caucus who are implicated directly by the public prosecutor in this very matter.

The issue that is being raised is an integral one for all of us, which is that when we have elections in this country, they are fought fairly and within the limits of the rules. Spending limits, for example, are not exceeded. We have very clear and strict laws on this. The Conservative Party used a procedure, a scheme, in which money went in and money went out of bank accounts, sometimes within 12 hours. We know the Conservatives knew it was wrong but they did it anyway. Now we wish to have a debate about the integrity of the election that was fought under those types of misdeeds.

It seems to us that in testing the government on supply days, which is why we are here today, a wide scope and latitude is required. We need to have that. I am sure when the Conservatives return to opposition they will be arguing the same thing. It is not for the Chair to intervene on the scope of that, again except where procedural aspects are not open to reasonable argument. That is what our directive is in this place. That is how we craft ourselves. The Conservatives had all weekend to think about this. They are only bringing the argument forward at the eleventh hour with the hope to yet again subvert debate in Parliament.

Mr. Speaker, we ask for your careful consideration of this, but obviously New Democrats are in favour of this debate going forward.

Opposition Motion
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to take up too much time because I want to ensure that the Liberal Party has enough time for its opposition day.

I would simply like to add that, in addition to the quotation from page 854 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, as cited by my NDP colleague, there is the following quote from page 100: “The practice has evolved so that it is the Speaker who decides what jurisdiction the Chair has over matters sub judice.”

For weeks now the opposition has been raising the issue of the in and out scheme.

Mr. Speaker, you have never found that to be a problem during question period, even though part of this issue is before the courts.

And by extension, I believe that the motion presented by the Liberal Party is entirely in order. My reasoning is supported by the quotation on page 854 as well as the fact that over the past weeks you have not intervened during question period to say that our questions about the in and out scheme were out of order.

I urge you to accept the Liberal motion so that we can move on to the debate.

Opposition Motion
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. I do not want to re-argue the case and the submission I already have made. I think it speaks for itself. I will just speak specifically to a couple of points brought forward by my hon. colleague in the official opposition.

He mentioned that there is no example of other jurisdictions that have adopted a sub judice convention. That is completely wrong. There are three jurisdictions in Canada. Provincially, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec have all adopted the sub judice convention which would prevent this type of motion from coming forward.

Similarly, as I pointed out in my intervention, there are other jurisdictions throughout the world that have adopted this provision and even stronger provisions against motions similar to this being brought forward.

Last, my hon. colleague from the Liberal Party asked why we did not bring forward this point of order earlier. He is quite correct that the motion being debated today was put on the notice paper last Friday. However, as an experienced parliamentarian, he should know that it is not until 5 p.m. the day before an opposition day that a motion is confirmed for debate. There was an opportunity for the Liberal Party to bring forward a different motion for debate today. We did not know that until late yesterday afternoon. Therefore, this morning was the first opportunity for our government to present this argument.

Opposition Motion
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank hon. members for their submissions on this point.

I will consider whether the motion should be subject to a vote at the end of the day. But for now, I believe I will put the motion for today's debate before the House.

I do not think the motion on its face, to me, is out of order. I will examine the arguments the parliamentary secretary has put forward with respect to the statements in the motion and their possible determination of issues. I will look into that during the course of the day and come back to the House later.

If I find that the motion oversteps certain boundaries relating to the sub judice convention, which has not been applied rigidly in this House at any time, then I can always say that the motion will not be votable at the end of the day. In the meantime, I believe the debate can proceed on the matter.