House of Commons Hansard #22 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-10.

Topics

Canadian Wheat Board
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I bring forward a petition from prairie farmers. It asks for support for farmers in western Canada by allowing them to determine themselves the future need and role of the Canadian Wheat Board and allow for a plebiscite on the future of the CWB.

As we all know, there was a plebiscite in which in excess of tens of thousands of prairie grain wheat farmers gave a very strong message that they tried to get to the Government of Canada to retain the Canadian Wheat Board. The petitioners are challenging the government to respect the will of the tens of thousands of prairie grain farmers and allow the Canadian Wheat Board to stay in place as is. They are requesting, in essence, that the government to respect those wishes.

I share in those concerns and would ask the government to do likewise.

Canadian Wheat Board
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I see the hon. member for Davenport is rising. He has already presented a petition. It is the custom of the House that if a member has more than one petition, they should be done at the same time.

Is there unanimous consent of the House to allow the member for Davenport to present an additional petition?

Canadian Wheat Board
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Post Corporation
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the undersigned of this petition call upon the government to maintain the integrity of Canada Post as a public corporation and to affirm its commitment to the creation and protection of good jobs for all Canadians, young and old.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:30 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 ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Notice of Proposed Procurement Concerning Canadian Wheat Board—Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

September 28th, 2011 / 3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on September 19, 2011, by the member for Malpeque concerning a notice of proposed procurement in respect of the Canadian Wheat Board.

I would like to thank the member for having raised this matter, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the members for Winnipeg Centre and Winnipeg North, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board for their interventions.

Before reviewing the arguments in the case before us, it might be useful to offer members a short explanation of what constitutes a contempt of the House. Whereas the privileges that extend to members individually and to the House as a collectivity are finite and can be categorized, contempts cannot be enumerated or categorized.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at pages 82 and 83, notes that the House claims the right to punish, as a contempt, actions which are not specific breaches of privilege, but which tend to impede the House or its members in the performance of their functions or are offences against the authority or dignity of the House. While all breaches of privilege are contempts of the House, not all contempts are necessarily breaches of privilege and the House of Commons enjoys a very wide latitude in maintaining its dignity and authority through the exercise of its contempt power.

As noted on page 85 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice:

By far, most of the cases of privilege raised in the House relate to matters of contempt challenging the perceived authority and dignity of Parliament and its members.

In the present case, the member for Malpeque has alleged that a contempt of the House has arisen from “the presumption that the repeal of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, a procedure which can only be sanctioned by an act of Parliament, will in fact occur”. This presumption, he maintains, is evidenced by a direct reference in the notice of proposed procurement for a contact posted on the MERX Canadian Public Tenders website on August 11, 2011. To support his contention, the member for Malpeque has pointed to a statement in the notice that reads as follows:

The purpose of the audit is to provide reasonable assurance of the total financial impact of the repeal of the Canadian Wheat Board Act and the dissolution or winding up of the CWB after the final pooling periods (expected to be July 31, 2012).

In his view, the posting of this notice constitutes contempt since no legislation has been tabled, let alone passed, regarding the winding up of the Canadian Wheat Board.

The parliamentary secretary pointed out that contrary to the assertion of the member for Malpeque, the very fact that no legislation had yet been introduced concerning the future of the Canadian Wheat Board, and that there had not been any public advertising stating when such legislation would be introduced or passed was proof enough that the government was not presuming that Parliament would take a particular decision in relation to the future of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Rather, he explained, the government had simply issued a notice of procurement asking interested and qualified suppliers to provide the government with audit information regarding the financial impact of the repeal of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, if that were to occur based on certain assumptions.

In his submission, the member for Malpeque quoted from a number of rulings by my predecessors, Speakers Fraser, Parent and Milliken, pertaining to the issuance of government advertisements containing language that was seen to presume on decisions that Parliament had yet to make. The Chair has reviewed those rulings and understands why the member for Malpeque has used them in his arguments before the House. There is no doubt that they deal with the principle the member feels has been offended in this case. A close reading of the circumstances in each of the cases cited shows, however, that this particular case is not quite as analogous as the member has suggested. For example, in the case of the decision by Mr. Speaker Fraser, much of the controversy surrounded government advertisements that clearly stated a date when the then proposed new GST would come into effect. In addition, it should be noted that the MERX document now at issue was not publicized widely in the same manner as the 1989 GST advertisements.

In this case, the Chair has closely examined the wording of the notice of proposed procurement and has found no reference at all to a date by which the Canadian Wheat Board Act will be repealed. Instead, as the parliamentary secretary has pointed out, the notice requests specific audit information regarding the financial impact of the repeal of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, if such a repeal occurs, and proposes certain assumptions on which to base the calculation of that impact. One of these assumptions is that the final pool period is expected to be July 31, 2012. In the opinion of the Chair, the language is not absolute. The member for Malpeque has also quoted from the terms of reference of a task force the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has established. Although the Chair has not seen this document, the parts quoted by the member for Malpeque appear to use similar language.

The notice itself presents a hypothetical scenario. It does not foresee a specific timetable for legislative action, let alone presume the outcome of such action. As I see it, the notice and task force terms of reference form part of a planning process that might be expected in contemplating the possibility of the repeal of the Canadian Wheat Board Act. I know the member for Malpeque does not expect the Chair to monitor all internal processes undertaken by the government as part of its preparatory work in advance of proposing legislative measures to the House. Accordingly, I cannot agree with the hon. member for Malpeque's statement that “The government presumes that the act has been repealed, which in fact it has not”. I see no evidence of such a presumption.

In the present instance, I do not believe that the wording of the text of the notice of procurement posted on the MERX site is ambiguous: rather, in my view, it presents a hypothetical case and seeks information on the impact of such a scenario. The Chair cannot find therein a challenge to the authority or dignity of the House or its members, or the primacy of Parliament.

Therefore, I must conclude that the case does not constitute a contempt of the House and there is no prima facie case of privilege.

I thank all members for their attention.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to add a few more comments.

Yesterday, I closed by asking about a nonsensical contradiction: how do we show respect for victims, by creating the necessary conditions to produce more victims in the coming years? I would like to explain a few other things that do not make sense before leaving the House today—

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. It seems that there are problems with the interpretation. Is it fixed now? Okay.

The hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup may resume.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a moment to address the communities that may be tempted to support this bill thinking that a prison expansion in their area would be a good thing. The expansion of our prisons should never be considered anything other than a collective failure. Let us not forget that. Having more citizens in prison must be considered a definite sign of the failure of our training programs and the failure of our economic system to create jobs. Prisoners are not a natural resource that help the development of a region in which there is a prison. Let us always keep this perspective in mind when making these collective choices.

Another thing related to this bill that does not make sense is the fact that it affects the right of judges to simply do their work, exercising their right to judge. This is an ideological blunder. It is something that leads us to a sort of limitation on what the law should be and deprives judges of their opportunity to think. What will happen if we tell a judge that the theft of an apple is punishable by a minimum sentence of one day in prison? A judge's job is to determine whether the apple was stolen simply as mischief or whether it was stolen to feed a starving child. Any judge who does his or her work properly would not impose the same sentence in these two cases.

The government's ideological leaning is a very bad thing and it is depriving judges of their right to simply do their job. That is why the Canadian Bar Association and the Barreau du Québec are concerned about this bill and even blatantly opposed to it.

There is an important point here. This bill does not make any sense. How can judges work with a law that would lead them to impose sentences on small-time drug dealers that are twice as long as the sentences imposed on those who sexually abuse minors? That is what the bill before us is proposing.

Another thing that does not make sense is how Canadians' right to debate is being affected. By combining all these bills, the government is manipulating the public debate. The members opposite can be sure that Canadians will not be fooled. The right to a pardon is being questioned. If someone says that it is important to retain the right to a pardon, it does not mean that they support pedophilia. The two things are unrelated. The government is manipulating the debate and should apologize for insulting Canadians' intelligence.

Therefore, we have a very simple choice to make. The government is moving towards a very repressive system. I will go back to the example I began giving yesterday of the movie, A Clockwork Orange. In this very popular movie, young people who are discovering their leadership qualities live in such a repressive society that, to be noticed, they have no other choice but to become delinquents. The more repressive the society becomes, the more that is the choice facing these future potential young leaders: to be noticed, they must be delinquents in a repressive system.

At the other end of the spectrum, another very popular movie, Mr. Holland's Opus, is about a high school music teacher who fights cuts to his budget for clarinets, saxophones and drums, and helps young future leaders to develop.

This government is ramming a choice about our society down our throats. It does not want to use any part of the $5 billion of public money to ensure that a talented young 13-year-old girl somewhere in Canada has the clarinet that will help her to develop as a citizen, or that young people who are members of a theatre group have the money to go on a provincial tour. It has decided to invest such a huge amount in repression that there will not be enough money for education, extracurricular activities or rehabilitation that would simply lead to a lower crime rate this year, next year and for decades to come. This is a social choice that is being rammed down our throats. Canadians are not fooled and it is really a very bad choice.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, in listening to the member, I wonder if he had an opportunity to read part of the legislation. It would appear that he would have Canadians believe that an innocent 13 year old is growing five pot plants in his basement for his buddies whose parents will not let them smoke dope.

Has he read the parts in there where the aggravating circumstances actually kick in such as where violence has been used in selling drugs, where it is used in prisons, where it is used by abusive positions in authority, where weapons are involved? These are serious drug offences. Did the member read those aggravating circumstances?

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, our colleagues form the government keep bringing up these extreme examples. Yet the bill sets out minimum sentences for minor crimes. In Quebec in particular, efforts are very focused on rehabilitating youth. In the 1980s, I had the misfortune of living in an area with a relatively high crime rate. The crime rate has dropped; rehabilitation works.

They always talk about horrific crimes like sexual abuse against a minor that involves a weapon. We completely agree that the law needs to crack down on serious crimes and sexual offences against children. We are not questioning that. It is the other part of Bill C-10, which sets out minimum sentences for minor crimes, that we do not agree with.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, as my colleague will know, the inclusion of so many new mandatory minimum sentences in the act removes the incentive for defendants in our court systems to reach a plea of guilty.

Has my colleague seen anything in Bill C-10 that will relieve or even mitigate the added congestion and delays in our court system that will be caused by forcing so many defendants to trial?