House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was yea.

Topics

National Public Transit Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

National Public Transit Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

National Public Transit Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

National Public Transit Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

National Public Transit Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

National Public Transit Strategy Act
Private Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 20, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Speaker's Ruling—Bill C-38
Privilege
Private Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on June 11 by the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition regarding information on the impact of Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures.

I thank the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition for having raised this question, as well as the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the hon. member for Winnipeg North for their comments.

The House Leader of the Official Opposition maintains that he was unable to secure the government's co-operation when he attempted to obtain information on the impact of Bill C-38 by means of written questions, questions asked during question period and in committee, and requests made through the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

He charged that this failure to respond to a requests for information impeded members in their ability to hold the government to account and “makes them vote blind on the actual budget”, thereby constituting a breach of members' privileges and a contempt of the House.

The House Leader of the Official Opposition also maintained that by refusing to respond to the request by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the government had violated the Federal Accountability Act, because the reasons given by the Clerk of the Privy Council to justify the refusal were not justifiable under the law.

The government House leader argued that the opposition House leader had failed to bring this matter to the attention of the Chair at the earliest opportunity. He contended that no specific part of Bill C-38 was objected to, arguing that the information referred to by the opposition House leader was, in any event, germane, not to budget implementation bills like Bill C-38 but rather to appropriation bills that Parliament would be asked to consider.

At the outset, it is important for members to know that it is not for the Speaker to decide whether the opposition House leader is correct in stating that the government is required by law to provide the Parliamentary Budget Officer with certain types of information. This is a legal question and is not a matter for the Chair to advocate, much less enforce.

In my ruling of October 24, 2011, which is found on pages 2404 and 2405 of Debates, I reminded the House of the long-standing principle that has guided the Chair in interpreting constitutional and legal matters. At the time, I also said:

...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.

Thus, should members feel that the government is in breach of the Federal Accountability Act, redress for such grievances may be sought through the courts, not here in the chamber.

Echoing the ruling given by Speaker Milliken on April 27, 2010, on the question of privilege concerning the Afghan detainee documents, the opposition House leader argued that in a system of responsible government, the right of the House to hold the government to account for its actions is an indisputable privilege. In the 2010 case, however, the circumstances were quite different. There had been a House order and committee orders requiring the production of documents. So it was the responsibility of the Chair to ensure that the orders of the House were obeyed. In the case before us, there are no such orders and, in their absence, the Speaker has neither the authority nor the power to compel the production of information.

This brings us to the opposition House leader's core argument, namely, that members are being impeded in the performance of their parliamentary duties because the government is not providing them with certain information that they need to properly consider legislation and hold the government to account. The Chair treats all matters that touch on the privileges of members with great seriousness.

In that regard, it is completely legitimate to try to obtain information through a variety of means available to parliamentarians. Speaker Parent confirmed this when he stated, on page 688 of the House of Commons Debates:

In order to fulfill their parliamentary duties, members should of course have access to the information they require.

Members have every right to seek financial information at any time, they need not wait for it to be found in appropriation bills or any other legislative proposal. Such requests have happened before and they will doubtless happen again.

In the case before us, the opposition House leader has acknowledged that information was unsuccessfully sought through various means including written questions, questions posed during question period and questions posed in committee. I cannot presume to judge the quality of the responses that have been received.

Speaker Milliken clearly established this on December 1, 2010, on page 6677 of the House of Commons Debates:

...it is not for the Chair to decide whether an answer or response given to a question constitutes an answer to that question. It is beyond the competence of the Chair to make that kind of decision under our practice.

Similarly, O'Brien and Bosc at page 523 points out that it is not for the Speaker to determine the quality or accuracy of the information provided by the government. This is consistent as well with a ruling given by Speaker Bosley on May 15, 1985 at page 4769 of the Debates in which he states, “I think it has been recognized many times in the House that a complaint about the actions or inactions of government Departments cannot constitute a question of parliamentary privilege.”

Furthermore, as I noted earlier, there is no House or committee order requesting the information sought by the hon. member. The Chair appreciates his frustration and I understand that he may feel aggrieved in view of his unsuccessful quest for more detailed information.

However, while the member may have a legitimate grievance, I can find no evidence that he or any other member has been impeded in the fulfillment of their parliamentary duties. Accordingly, I cannot find that there is a prima facie question of privilege in this case.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

The House resumed from June 11 consideration of Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

June 13th, 2012 / 7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you for recognizing me.

It is a great pleasure for me to discuss Bill C-38 this evening.

The United States and especially Europe are in grave trouble. Canada's economy has emerged from the global recession much better than other industrialized countries, especially those in Europe.

Because this government has done its homework since its first victory in 2006, the 2012 election was the first in Canadian history that a government won following a recession. I had voted against holding that unnecessary election.

Those on the other side who had voted for the dissolution of the 40th Parliament remind me of turkeys who vote for an early Christmas. Through this election, voters gave us a clear mandate to keep up the good work with the economy and balance the books as quickly as possible. Canadians want jobs to be created and that is what they expect from us.

Locally, Ottawa roughly had 542,200 people employed at the beginning of the month of May 2012. Between April and May 2012, Ottawa witnessed a drop in unemployed by 9,000, which led to a decrease in unemployment by a tenth of a percent. Since October 2010, the unemployment rate has dropped by an eighth of a percent.

In accordance with the information presented in the 2012 economic action plan, this government has established that it would be near a balanced budget in 2014 and that a balanced would be obtained in 2015.

It is crucial that we return to a balanced budget. It is only under these circumstances that our government can continue to make important investments.

In Ottawa, there is no lack of projects waiting to happen. The cities of Ottawa and Gatineau are calling for a new interprovincial bridge at Kettle Island. The National Capital Commission is currently holding public consultations on this matter. In fact, it held a public hearing yesterday at the Shenkman Arts Centre next door to my constituency office.

On the topic of transportation networks, another project will remain at the centre of discussion for the city over the next few years. July 13, 2011, the City of Ottawa adopted a motion presented by councillor Stephen Blais, to extend the route of the light rail transit towards the east as quickly as possible.

The 2008 transportation master plan does not call for extending the light rail line from Blair station to Trim Road before 2031.

By bringing this motion forward before the master plan is reviewed, the city council is ensuring that the feasibility study for the Orleans LRT extension can be completed as soon as possible so that residents from the east end can have access to light rail sooner. For that, Councillor Blais and his partners, Councillor Rainer Bloess, Councillor Bob Monette and Councillor Tim Tierney deserve kudos.

And Ottawa–Orléans is the North American leader in respect to the use of public transit.

If we want major infrastructure projects like these to become reality, both in Ottawa and elsewhere in Canada, we need to balance the budget. It is always easier to make investments with a healthy financial position than with a deficit.

In 2012, federal support for the provinces and territories reached a record high and will continue to rise.

In 2012-13, Ontario will receive record support through major federal transfers, most of which is earmarked for health and will provide this province with $19.2 billion.

This investment represents a 77% increase in transfers relative to those made by the previous government. Even if the government, under the mandate of its Canadian electorate, tightens its belt, its methodology differs from the previous government, now a third party in the House of Commons.

They had slashed the transfers to the provinces. They had slashed the funds reserved for health and education. They had forced the provinces to lay off nurses and teachers.

In addition to drastically cutting funding to the public sector, the previous government balanced the budget on the backs of the provinces, while this government continues to increase its share of federal transfers, therefore towards health care, and proposes a 2% decrease in budget spending in the public service. The previous government had cut tens of thousands of jobs from the public service in one fell swoop.

Our approach is incremental. This means that, despite what doomsayers predicted, job losses have been far less significant than certain predictions would have had us believe, the worst of which predicted that 60,000 public servants would be shown the door.

We are now talking about cutting 4,800 jobs in total in the national capital region in the next three years, and that is after increasing the number of public servants by 13,000 over the past five years.

Despite everything, this decision was not made lightly. We have one of the most competent public services in the world.

But, when we look elsewhere, things do not look so bad here. We are far from the situation in Greece, where 15,000 public-sector employees were cut, and an additional 30,000 people were temporarily laid off.

We are far from the situation in Italy, which almost went bankrupt before an interim government resolved to take the measures deemed necessary. Since then, Italy has increased its sales, housing and property taxes. These are things we are not doing.

Since 2006, the Canadian government has kept its word regarding taxation. Canadian taxpayers today are paying less tax than at any point in the last 30 years.

The budget we are now debating today strongly supports world-class innovation and research. This government believes in innovation. On March 27, I was pleased to announce that nearly $1 million would be allocated for an IT professional mentoring program to encourage primary and secondary school students in Ottawa to take an interest in science and innovation.

I see this measure as a great opportunity for the National Research Council of Canada, located at the doorstep of Ottawa–Orléans.

The good and wise people of Ottawa—Orléans know of my unfailing support for scientific research and development. In this budget the Minister of Finance has taken action on the Jenkins report and is investing $1.1 billion in direct support for R and D and $500 million in venture capital.

Small and medium-sized enterprises are at the core of the Canadian economy and that of Ottawa–Orléans.

Constituents, who on three occasions have given me the honour to serve them in the House, can count on dynamic small businesses. The Orléans Chamber of Commerce alone counts on the support of over 200 members.

Before the budget was drafted, businessmen and businesswomen in Orléans took part in a brainstorming session that I chaired, along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, my friend from Ottawa West—Nepean.

The owners of two SMEs in Ottawa–Orléans, Access Print Imaging and Sure Print & Graphics, shared their ideas, as did Joanne Lefebvre, chair of the Regroupement des gens d’affaires de la capitale nationale, and Jo-Anne Bazinet, chair of the Orléans Business Club.

I am sure that they will be pleased, as will other dynamic members of the Orléans business community, with the important measures we have put forward in Bill C-38. Our government recognizes the vital role that small businesses play in the economy and job creation.

The 2012 economic action plan provides several key measures to support them in their growth.

The hiring credit for small business, a credit of up to $1,000, has been extended. This measure will benefit up to 536,000 employers.

Everyone knows red tape hinders efficiency. It was a point raised at the round table I chaired along with the member for Ottawa West–Nepean.

The government has committed to cutting red tape. It has established the one-for-one rule and pledged to create a red tape reduction plan--

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

7:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but his time has run out.

We will now move on to questions and comments.

The hon. member for Hull—Aylmer.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Madam Speaker, I am surprised to hear the member for Ottawa—Orléans say that the national capital region will experience extraordinary economic development. He says that only 5,000 public service jobs will disappear, but all the economists put that number at 20,000, and let us also not forget the economic impact on businesses in general.

I would love to understand the thinking of the member for Ottawa—Orléans. Instead of fighting for public service jobs and services, he has the nerve to tell us that the national capital region will somehow benefit from everything that is happening in the government, and that includes people who are waiting for jobs, and people who require services.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer very much for her question.

She thinks the only good jobs are public service jobs. Public service jobs are very important. However, taxpayers are not the only ones who can support the economy.

Recently, over the past month, 9,000 new jobs were created in the national capital region. These are good jobs, even though they are not public service jobs.

As for the cuts, it is all relative. They are not the drastic cuts that the unions announced. We are not talking about 60,000 jobs, as we were told, or even 20,000 jobs, as claimed by the hon. member. These are minimal cuts that will be more than absorbed by the jobs created in the private sector.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Madam Speaker, I know that my colleagues want me to ask a question on OAS.

Certainly, if there is a group of Canadians who are most hard done by this provision in the bill, it is those turning 66 or 67 years old down the road. It is those who live on low income and try to get by week to week. It is those Canadians with disabilities who, when they hit 65, think they have won the lottery because they are able to received OAS and the guaranteed income supplement. They think they have struck it rich. However, they will now have to wait another two years in order to realize that, and for no reason whatsoever, with no rationale whatsoever.

I would ask my colleague this. Why did the government not at least make some kind of provision for those most vulnerable, for those on restricted incomes, for the disabled people across this country? Why did the Conservatives not make provision for them?

If the member comes back with the point about income splitting, he has to know that one needs an income to split before benefiting from that.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member knows that I always enjoy his rhetoric. However, in the meantime, I would ask that the member for Malpeque recognize that he has not been recognized.

The hon. member is asking about OAS. He is trying to scare people with stories that do not happen.

We are an incrementalist government. What he says is going to happen will not happen for another 13 years and when it does, it will happen incrementally, starting seven years from now. He does not have to scare people with this. People will have time to plan for this, and by planning they will be able to deal with their future on their own.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the chance to participate in the debate on Bill C-38. The theme of my remarks is “How have the mighty fallen”.

Those of us with some sense of history and memory can recall the spirit that brought Reform into this House. It was the spirit of parliamentary accountability. It was the spirit of free votes. It was the spirit of constructive dissent. It was the spirit of recall. It was the spirit of bringing the executive to heel. It was the spirit of letting Parliament be free and letting Parliament be sovereign and letting Parliament be powerful.

How have the mighty fallen on that side of the House, from those basic premises of a Reform Party led by the likes of Preston Manning, who stood in this place, not in the front row but among the members because he did not want to be seen as any different or better than any of the other members.

I say to my colleagues that they should look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves “Where was the Reform Party spirit in this legislation, an omnibus bill that, like a Mac truck, drives through parliamentary sovereignty, drives through the power and ability of Parliament to control the public purse, ignores any scrutiny by committee and denies the rights of members to dissent?”

The poor member over there from Kootenay—Columbia had four hours of freedom, four hours of conscience, four hours of power, where he told his constituents that if he had his way he would split the bill. We can only imagine the woodshed to which that member was taken. We can only imagine the number of young enthusiasts in the Prime Minister's Office who tied him up to a chair and made him watch the speeches by the Prime Minister over and over again. They would not have taken the masking tape off his mouth until he had promised that he would never express independence or dissent again.

On this side, we say “Shame on the Conservative Party.” Shame on a party that has lost its way, that has lost its principles, that has tied up its members and denied them the right of conscience and the right to speak. That is the great irony of ironies.

Who would have believed that it would be the spiritual successors of the Reform Party that would in fact be denying Parliament, tying it up in knots, insisting on our voting on 70 different pieces of legislation, totally gutting all of the environmental legislation, passing a brand new environmental assessment act in just one clause.

It was the greatest conservative, who is also a great liberal, Edmund Burke, who reminded us that society is a contract not only of the living but also between those who have died, those who are living and those who are yet to be born.

When we look at the importance of the environment to a genuine conservative movement, a movement that wants to conserve, contrast that with those who want a pipeline in every backyard without any kind of environmental hearing, who have a Minister of Natural Resources who takes off after individuals who appear before an environmental inquiry, where we have legislation that takes away the protection of the fish habitat from the basics of our legislation, and that also, as has already been said by my distinguished colleague from Cape Breton, deprives the poorest of seniors in the future of access to old age security and the guaranteed income supplement.

That is what has happened to the Conservatives. They are not real Conservatives because they do not want to conserve the thing that matters most to us: our environment, the thing that we have to pass on to the next generation. That is what they are changing.

This government is prepared to deny Parliament all the rights we have had for years: the ability to study a bill, the ability to change it and the ability to amend it. Above all, in this Parliament, every MP should have the right to his or her own conscience, the right to make decisions and the right to act independently.

I can say that that is what the Liberal Party of Canada is committed to.

If we are serious about democracy, then we have to be serious about the environment.

By way of contrast, regarding the comments made over the past several weeks by the leader of the official opposition with respect to the question of the environment, with respect to the so-called Dutch disease, and with respect to the issue of how we need to go forward, I want to make this very clear: The Liberal Party is committed to sustainability. We are committed to the principle of sustainability over time. We are also committed to the principle of development. Nothing is gained for Canada when we pit one region of the country against another. Nothing is gained for Canada when we say that those provinces that are rich in resources are somehow responsible for the difficulties and challenges facing those provinces with less.

I have been in this House for a while and I can recall and know the impact these divisions can have on this federation of ours. It will do nothing for us as a country if we say, even as a momentary proposition, that the success of one region of the country or one province is somehow being purchased at the expense of others. That is never going to be a way to build a country. A country cannot be built on resentment. A country cannot be built by way of saying that those who are successful must somehow be torn down. We do not agree with that. We do not share that perspective.

That is why I believe that at this moment in Canadian history, there has never been a time when the message of the Liberal Party has been more important for all the people of the country. I am very proud to say that this message has to come through loud and clear. Yes, we want development, and we want it to be sustainable.

I can say to those people who are being laid off at the Round Table on the Environment and the Economy to come to us. We want to talk to people about these issues. When I talk to the leaders of the business community in Alberta, they want a clearer price for carbon. They want to have a clear indication of what it is going to cost them to build and to rebuild. They know that perfectly well.

This is an issue where we need to bring people together, where we need to reason together.

This is an issue we need to unite the public on. There has been enough division. We do not want any more division. We do not want a world where the Leader of the Opposition sees the Prime Minister when he looks in the mirror and where the Prime Minister sees the leader of the official opposition when he looks in the mirror.

Are the members of the official opposition free to express themselves? I doubt it. Are they free to have an opinion that differs from their leader's? I doubt it.

In contrast, I can say that my MPs are free to make their own decisions. They are free to choose how they will vote. They are free to speak. I can assure everyone that all our caucus meetings are a great expression of the principle of democracy, a profound, open and, I must say, liberal democracy.

Therefore, when we see Bill C-38, it is impossible in 10 minutes to go through all of its aspects and all of its different parts. It is grotesque in the way it attempts literally to drive a truck through basic principles and institutions that have been critical to the good governance of the country. Whether it is the round table, the inspector general for CSIS, or whatever the institution may be, a genuine conservative does not drive a truck through these institutions. One protects and preserves and improves them.

One does not cut down, one does not destroy and one does not divide simply for the sake of division. One does not polarize simply for the sake of polarization.

This country needs to come together in an important way.

I want to express my appreciation to the Speaker tonight and my dear colleagues who are speaking so well on this issue and have provided leadership. We will be voting not just once, not just twice, not just three times, but 160 times against this terrible piece of legislation.