House of Commons Hansard #101 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was banks.

Topics

Public Services
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, normally I would say that I am pleased to present a petition but I am saddened today because this petition contains 4,000 signatures of people who are very fearful of the cuts to public services because that is a major contributor to their security and safety.

The petitioners are calling upon the government to stand back from the proposed cuts in the budget, which we are hearing will be anywhere from $4 billion to $8 billion, that will reduce our public services and the workers' ability to take care of Canadian citizens.

As one can see, it is a comprehensive 137 pages with 4,061 signatures.

Criminal Code
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have before me a petition from hundreds of people across the country who are asking the government to request that Parliament amend the Criminal Code to decriminalize the selling of sexual services, criminalize the purchase of sexual services and provide support to those who desire to leave prostitution.

The second petition also addresses the issue of targeting the people who purchase sex in terms of the Nordic model and make the victims of sexual exploitation victims, not criminals.

Human Trafficking
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I also have hundreds of petitions that have come forward requesting that the government put in a national action plan to support victims of human trafficking, which is critical. I am pleased to say that our government is in the process of doing that.

These petitions are in support of that national action plan.

Housing
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions. One petition is particularly timely as we look at what is on today's order paper. The hon. member for Shefford has put forward Motion No. 331 relating to housing.

The first petition is on point. It is from members of my community in Saanich—Gulf Islands, particularly from Salt Spring Island who recall that there used to be tax rules that encouraged the building of purpose-built rental units to become part of the affordable housing solution.

Supporting the recommendation of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the petitioners ask that we restore, perhaps in tomorrow's budget, the measures that would encourage purpose-built apartment units as rental housing.

The Environment
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the second petition I present this afternoon, I am so pleased to see that residents of Toronto, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, as well as some from Vancouver, have banded together to encourage the House to insist on fair due process, no jumping to conclusions, or jumping to pipelines and supertankers in this case. The petitioners ask that the Government of Canada cease and desist from prejudging the matter and allow the voices of those who oppose supertankers to be heard. This relates to the Enbridge proposal.

Vietnam
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I stand today on behalf of many Calgarians to present a petition stating that the communist government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam continues to violate the basic human rights of its people.

The communist government arrests and detains its citizens whose only crime is to expose to the people of Vietnam the current situation of the country, namely, corruption and the Chinese occupation of the Paracel and Spratly islands. The communist government also arrests and detains religious dissidents whose only crime is practising their religion and promoting freedom of religion for the people of Vietnam, both Buddhists and Catholics. The communist government also arrests and detains political dissidents whose only crime is petitioning for political reform, justice and democracy for the people of Vietnam.

The petitioners request that our government call upon the Government of Vietnam for the release not only of the detainees, but all the prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.

41st General Election
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I present a petition that has been signed by a number of people from Manitoba regarding the robocalling that was done and the concerns that have been expressed by over 30,000 Canadians who have actually contacted Elections Canada.

The petitioners hope that the government would recognize the value of attempting to restore public confidence in the electoral system and allow for direct action by Elections Canada and, I would also suggest, by having a royal commission investigate the whole matter and come up with recommendations.

Questions on the Order paper
Routine Proceedings

March 28th, 2012 / 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 ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order paper
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order paper
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

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 ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie has given the Chair notice of a question of privilege.

Question Q-410
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise on a question of privilege related to question Q-410, which I submitted on December 14, 2011. You will recall that I already raised this question in a point of order on March 14, out of concern that the government would not provide a response to my question within the deadline of 45 sitting days, as per Standing Order 39(5). The deadline was Friday, March 16. Having received no indication from the government that it would provide an answer to my question, I am rising today to speak to this troubling matter.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you look at the following three pieces of evidence when you review my request. First, I ask that you look at the question that I submitted to the government. Second, I ask that you look at the answer the government provided to my question. Third, I ask that you also look at the procedural aspects of this question, what procedural experts have said about the matter, and the troubling precedents being set with regard to written questions.

The question I asked concerned the office of religious freedom that the government had announced it was creating. In order to simplify the question for the government, the question was divided into 21 sub-questions, as is the norm for written questions. I will not read the entire question to the House, since you can find it in previous order papers. However, I will give you some examples of the level of specificity of the sub-questions.

For example, I asked, “when did the government decide to establish an Office of Religious Freedom and at whose request”. I asked, “who was consulted regarding the creation of the office”. I asked for the names, positions, and religious affiliations of the guests who attended consultations on the new office of religious freedom in October 2011. I asked what discussions were held at DFAIT about inviting Amnesty International and why this organization was not invited.

As you can see, Mr. Speaker, I asked specific questions to which there are certainly specific answers. The list of people who attended a meeting held months ago should be available. Nonetheless, on March 12, the government provided the following answer, which is worth reading aloud, especially since it is not very long. In fact, it is shorter than the question. The answer I was given is the following:

The promotion and protection of human rights is fundamental to Canada's foreign policy, and the Government of Canada believes strongly in the ability of all people to be free to practise their religion of choice. Canadians enjoy the rights and privileges that come with living in a free and democratic society in which human rights are respected. The government is also keenly aware of the struggles that religious minorities face around the world. During the Speech from the Throne on June 3, 2011, and again at the United Nations General Assembly, the Government of Canada committed to creating an office of religious freedom.

At this time, no formal announcement has been made and work is ongoing. It is expected that the office will focus on areas such as advocacy, analysis, policy development and programming related to protecting and advocating on behalf of religious minorities under threat; opposing religious hatred; and promoting Canadian values of pluralism and tolerance abroad. The budget for the office will be $5 million per annum for the next 4 years. The government expects to have more to say about this important initiative shortly.

These are fine words, but they do not answer my questions. I would remind members that I had specific questions, such as who attended the October 11, 2011, meeting.

The government has made absolutely no effort to even attempt to answer the 21 sub-questions I submitted.

The government claims that it answered some of my sub-questions and that my dissatisfaction is merely a matter of opinion. I am not asking you to judge the quality or lack thereof of these minor elements. What I am asking you to do today, Mr. Speaker, is rule that the government's refusal to answer most of the sub-questions in my written question constitutes a violation of my rights as a member of Parliament.

According to House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, page 517, the purpose of written questions is described as follows:

...written questions are placed after notice on the Order Paper with the intent of seeking from the Ministry detailed, lengthy or technical information relating to “public affairs”.

In Chapter 7 of her November 2004 report, entitled “Process for Responding to Parliamentary Order Paper Questions”, the Auditor General wrote:

The right to seek information from the Ministry of the day and the right to hold that Ministry accountable are recognized as two of the fundamental principles of parliamentary government.

Written questions are one of the tools that Canadians, via their elected representatives, can use to force the government to be accountable.

Mr. Speaker, I hope that you will consider this matter seriously and recognize that it involves a prima facie breach of my privileges as a member of Parliament. None of the information that I requested in my question is to be found in the government's response. A comparison of the question and the answer in the March 12 House of Commons Debates shows that the answer is, in fact, shorter than the question.

On March 14, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons told the House:

What the government has done is respond to the member's question within the 45-day time limit. I think the answer is self-explanatory, which is that there will be further information coming in a short period of time. We expect that should satisfy the member's concerns.

Yet he went on to say that:

Further information will be forthcoming and it should be done soon in an appropriate period of time.

I have no doubt that, in the coming weeks, months and years, the government will come up with other talking points on the office of religious freedom, but I would argue that it has not responded, nor is it ready to respond, to the specific questions I asked in Q-410, questions that it could have responded to, since it had the information. I believe this constitutes a breach of my privileges and an insult to all members.

I would like to refer to a Speaker's ruling from December 16, 1980, found on page 5797 of the House of Commons Debates. The Speaker stated:

...it would be bold to suggest that no circumstances could ever exist for a prima facie question of privilege to be made where there was a deliberate attempt to deny answers to an hon. member.

I would also refer to the twenty-first edition of Erskine May, which describes contempt as follows:

...any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence.

I would like to emphasize the word “omission”.

The government can try to muddy the waters on this by repeating that it has already answered my question, but in fact it has not.

Mr. Speaker, I am simply asking you to examine my question, look at the minister's response and reach a decision. If you do find a prima facie case that my parliamentary privileges have been breached, I will move the appropriate motion in due course.