House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pension.

Topics

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.

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board--Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on December 8, 2011, by the member for Guelph in relation to proceedings on Bill C-18, An Act to reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board and to make consequential and related amendments to certain Acts.

I would like to thank the member for having raised this matter, as well as the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the House Leader of the Official Opposition for their interventions.

In raising his concerns, the member for Guelph argued that the Federal Court finding on the actions of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board in relation to Bill C-18 supported his claim that the manner in which the government managed proceedings on the bill violated his privileges as well as those of other members, and rendered the bill and therefore the House's consideration of it, illegal. Given the court's finding, he asked me as Speaker to reconsider the basis for my previous ruling of October 24, 2011 on this same matter, in which I reminded the House that it is the responsibility of the courts and not the Speaker to rule on legal matters.

The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons stated that the decision of the court on this matter in no way limited Parliament's right and ability to legislate, and reminded the House of the undisputed principle that a previous Parliament cannot fetter a future one. Furthermore, he claimed that the House, having already made a decision on this bill, was no longer seized of this matter and, thus, had no jurisdiction to deal with it.

The member for Guelph argues that the decision rendered by the Federal Court has a bearing on the question of the correctness of our proceedings in relation to Bill C-18. He maintains that, despite the Chair having already answered the question in previous rulings, the court decision somehow creates new circumstances.

It is the view of the Chair that the fundamental issue remains unaltered; namely, that the member for Guelph is essentially still asking the Speaker to rule on a matter of law. This, as I have gone to great lengths to explain previously, is something the Speaker cannot do.

In my ruling of October 24, 2011, on page 2405 of the House of Commons Debates, I commented on a long-standing principle that has guided me and my predecessors on the Chair's role in interpreting constitutional and legal matters. I stated:

...it is important to delineate clearly between interpreting legal provisions of statutes—which is not within the purview of the Chair—and ensuring the soundness of the procedures and practices of the House when considering legislation—which, of course, is the role of the Chair.

At the same time, I reminded the House of Speaker Fraser's ruling of April 9, 1991, at pages 19233 and 19234 of the Debates, in which he declared that the Chair must avoid interpreting, even indirectly, the Constitution or a statute.

On April 12, 2005, at page 4953 of the House of Commons Debates, Speaker Milliken stated much the same thing when asked to rule on the admissibility of a bill that would have required him to interpret the constitutionality of a clause of proposed legislation. He stated at the time:

...the Speaker does not make rulings on matters of law; on parliamentary law perhaps, but not on the law of the Constitution or on other laws that affect us. The question of the interpretation of the section of the bill is one that would be determined by a court if the bill in fact becomes law. At the moment, it is a bill before Parliament and Speakers in the past have not ruled on the constitutionality or otherwise of clauses in a bill....Rulings of courts may chuck out some of the clauses that are adopted by this House in a bill, but that happens after the House has passed it and the Senate has passed it and it has received royal assent, because even the courts have no jurisdiction in the matter before.

In the same ruling, Speaker Milliken spelled out for the House the very limited kinds of legal and constitutional matters that Speakers may rule on when he stated:

What they may decide is whether the terms of a bill are in compliance with a prior resolution of this House, a ways and means motion, for example, or a royal recommendation in respect of a money bill, but beyond that, Speakers do not intervene in respect of the constitutionality or otherwise of provisions in the bills introduced in this House.

That the Federal Court granted a breach declaration regarding the actions of the minister with respect to the bill does not fundamentally change either the nature of the question being raised or the role of the Speaker in answering it. To find that the member was obstructed or interfered with in the performance of his duties because he participated in the legislative proceedings on a bill that was allegedly improperly before the House would require me to rule on the legality of the bill and this is simply outside the bounds of what can be considered by the Speaker.

Instead, just as I did in my ruling of October 24, 2011 on this same matter, I must again confine myself to the procedural aspects of the question. Now, as then, I can find no evidence to substantiate the member's claim that there has been an interference with members' ability to fulfill their parliamentary duties. As such, I cannot find that there is a prima facie question of privilege.

I thank all members for their attention.

Bill C-25--Time Allocation Motion
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That, in relation to Bill C-25, An Act relating to pooled registered pension plans and making related amendments to other Acts, not more than two further sitting days shall be allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the bill; and

That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government orders on the second day allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-25--Time Allocation Motion
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Shame.

Bill C-25--Time Allocation Motion
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1 there will now be a 30 minute question period. If we can keep the questions and the responses close to a minute, we can accommodate many members.

I would like to remind the House that the Chair in the past has treated this period similar to question period, so a preference will be given to opposition members. However, government members will be accommodated a few times in the rotation.

I will open the floor now and I will recognize the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain.

Bill C-25--Time Allocation Motion
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I am happy to rise in the House on this occasion, but I have to say this is an absolute disgrace. The bill that we only started to deal with in the House yesterday deals with the most fundamental question that is before Canadians today and that is pension reform.

The House will know that when the Prime Minister was in Davos, Switzerland he raised concerns among every single senior in this country who is now concerned about the future of his or her pension.

We have a bill before us in the House that proposes to amend how we deal with retirement income security for Canadian seniors. After only two NDP members spoke to it in the House, the government House leader rose yesterday and said that was enough debate. He said that he was tabling a motion for time allocation because the government had had enough of this and needed to invoke closure.

Nobody has had an opportunity to be consulted. Canadians deserve to be heard on this important bill. The minister should not be shutting down debate. He should be encouraging Canadians to participate. He should be encouraging people to be heard.

The Conservatives have moved time allocation 13 times since the election, 11 times since the House came back in September. There is absolutely no justification to move closure on a bill after only two speakers from the official opposition have had the opportunity to voice the concerns of their constituents.

The minister should not be shutting down the voices of Canadians. We need debate. I would ask him to reconsider this really ill-conceived motion.

Bill C-25--Time Allocation Motion
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, my friend has said that we need to give an opportunity to consult Canadians on this issue. I do not know where she was during the last election because that is in fact exactly what happened. This was an issue in the last election.

Bill C-25--Time Allocation Motion
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

You did not mention it in the pension platform.

Bill C-25--Time Allocation Motion
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, I hear the member saying that we did not mention it in the last election. I will correct that. I will actually read from the platform of the Conservative Party in the last election. That platform says that a re-elected Conservative government “will work with our provincial and territorial partners to implement the pooled retirement pension plan as soon as possible in our next term of office.”

So, not only is it something that we put forward to Canadians, not only is it something that Canadians had a chance to debate thoroughly in the last election, not only is it something on which Canadians then gave us a majority mandate to move on, it is something we committed to implement as soon as possible.

The pooled registered pension plan is a vehicle that will create new alternatives for Canadians, new ways of saving for their retirement, especially those who are employed in small businesses or are self-employed, people who do not have the option right now of private pensions that larger employers have often offered in the past. We are creating new opportunities for people to save for their retirement.

Yet the opposition, notwithstanding Canadians having endorsed that in the last election, seems to think that is a bad idea and does not even want to make a decision on it. Those members just want the debate to go on perpetually. The debate took place in the last election. Canadians passed judgment. They elected us and gave us a mandate to implement it as soon as possible. That is what we are doing today.

Bill C-25--Time Allocation Motion
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, if we listen very carefully to what the House leader just said, he said that because the Conservatives were elected last May, that is in fact a clear mandate for them to do anything they want without any debate whatsoever. That is the argument that the Conservatives brought forth last fall, throwing in the fact that they said they had to do things in a hurry.

We are not sure why this particular bill fits into that category. However, the fundamental point is that the House leader is telling us as long as they were elected and they talked about it in the election campaign, then they can go ahead and do this; that there does not have to be any debate. Is that the tone he is setting for this 41st Parliament? Is that the shot across the bow that is telling us that is the way we are going to do things for the next three and a half years?

Bill C-25--Time Allocation Motion
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, the Liberal House leader has a very odd interpretation of what I said. In fact what I said is quite to the contrary. It is that having heard Canadians, having made commitments to them about what we would do, having received their endorsement that we should do that, we believe that we are not just permitted to but also, in a democracy, duty bound to carry out our commitments. I know that is a novel approach for Liberals who may say one thing during an election and do something very different afterwards.

Our belief is that when we make commitments to Canadians, when we tell them what we are going to do, we have to deliver on those commitments. We have to do what we told Canadians we would do. We will continue to do that in this government.

Bill C-25--Time Allocation Motion
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is a sad day in the House of Commons, because it is the 14th time that the government has invoked closure. Fourteen times. As a result, the voices of ordinary people from across Canada are not being heard in the House of Commons. As we know, the government even invoked closure after 14 minutes of debate in one instance. It is unbelievable that the government is refusing to listen to the people who speak for Canadians and thwarting the democratic process in the House of Commons.

The government has to deal with another problem. Seniors across the country have reacted strongly to its hidden agenda. The government wants to cut old age security, and it does not want to provide the support that our public pension system needs. The government wants to cut short the debate to prevent people from hearing more extensive debate on the future of seniors' pensions.

My question is, why is the government so scared of seniors that it wants to shut down debate on pensions here in the House of Commons?

Bill C-25--Time Allocation Motion
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, there were so many inaccuracies in what the hon. member just said that I think I could take up the rest of the question period responding to them all.

First, he does not seem to understand parliamentary procedure. We have not invoked closure here. We are using a device called time allocation that allows for certainty in the debate process. It allows for debate to continue, but it ensures that we will actually make decisions.

I know their way is to delay interminably and prevent decisions from ever being made. That is why they kept moving motions to prevent previous bills from even going to second reading. We want to be able to make decisions. We think everyone in this House is entitled to vote.

Second, on the issue of what represents democracy, apparently he does not think an election where Canadians pass judgment represents democracy. We think that represents the highest level of democracy. Canadians have endorsed us and asked us to deliver on pooled registered pension plans, and to do so as soon as possible. We feel that is an important commitment to carry out, including the provision made to Canadians that we will do it as soon as possible. For that reason, I have to reject what he said.

Finally, in terms of what we are delivering here to Canadians, this is another option for saving for one's retirement. How the NDP could be opposed to creating vehicles for people to receive pensions, I do not comprehend, especially those who are self-employed or employed in smaller businesses and therefore cannot participate in larger pension plans.

Why is it that the New Democratic Party seems to think that is not fair, that it only thinks that those who are employed in big institutions should be entitled to pensions? We do not agree with that. We think there should be more options for people.

Bill C-25--Time Allocation Motion
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Madam Speaker, I have to try to keep calm. The House leader said that the Conservatives were elected. We were also elected. Our job here is democracy. We brag around the world that Canada is the background of democracy. The member has the audacity to suggest that a couple of hours of debate on something that is as important as the retirement plans of Canadians be subject to closure motion and time allocation.

It is a slap in the face to every Canadian. It is a slap in the face to all those people who look at Canada as a model of democracy. This is the 13th time since September that Conservatives have introduced time allocation or closure. It is absolutely a disgrace and an embarrassment to all of us as parliamentarians. On an issue as important as retirement, and when we all have ideas to make it better, the PRPP is only one option. There are many. Let us work together and not bring in closure so quickly.