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 c-38.

Topics

Bill C-38
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think this is a critical issue.

I have been attentive to this debate. I have already made my submissions on the substantive question of privilege and do not intend to enter into that again. I have had my opportunity. However, the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley made his point in an approximately 20-minute statement of argument around that question of privilege. I responded briefly. Now the Liberal Party in the House has chosen this moment to provide its guidance.

The Speaker has not yet ruled on that question of privilege. Falling back on parliamentary tradition, it seems to me that this is akin to what we would have in the British Commonwealth tradition of natural justice. One must allow all parties, in a timely fashion, to put forward their argumentation.

I agree, it would not be appropriate to talk forever. On the other hand, I think it is awkward for the Speaker to comment on the quality of a presentation until the hon. member for an official party of this House has concluded his or her remarks. This is not to criticize you, Mr. Speaker, I never would, but I think it is an important point.

Bill C-38
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I would simply remind all hon. members that any time a question of privilege is brought forward in this place it is an important matter. The House leader for the official opposition has made this question of privilege and it is under consideration. Absolutely, members have the opportunity to add comment.

The chair did not cut off the member for Winnipeg North but merely wished to point out that the ability to speak to a question of privilege is not indefinite. I was urging him to make his point, to present new information and to move forward with this as expeditiously as possible.

The hon. member for Bourassa.

Bill C-38
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have had the privilege of sitting in this House for the past 15 years. I truly hope that your ruling will not set a dangerous precedent.

Some members deliver their speeches off the cuff. Other members read their speeches.

There is sometimes an impression that when members read their texts, we can measure their time better and there is a beginning and an end. Just because my colleague is speaking off the cuff does not mean that he should be cut off.

It would be more judicious and more respectful to pay attention and to allow my colleague to express his point of view. I do not wish to give the impression that, here, in this cradle of democracy, a member can be cut off, especially when it is a point of privilege and not a point of order. When a question of privilege is raised, members should be allowed enough time to fully express their points of view.

Bill C-38
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The Chair appreciates the input and advice offered by all hon. members of this place. As I said before, the Chair did not cut off the hon. member for Winnipeg North, but merely asked him to move expeditiously.

With that, if the hon. member for Winnipeg North would like to continue with his address to this question of privilege, he has the floor.

Bill C-38
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate your comments and interjection.

I want to assure all members that in my experience through the years I have come to recognize that privileges are important. The reason so much attention is given to and a lot of discretion is allowed when a question of privilege is raised is so the member who raises the issue feels comfortable enough to adequately express what he or she believes is important to say. That is the spirit in which I raised point today.

I was present when the NDP House leader raised the privilege. I have had the opportunity to listen to many speeches regarding Bill C-38 and issues related to privilege.

The timing of my standing right now is critically important. Mr. Speaker, you have the power to make a difference in terms of what is going to happen over the next period of time. The Liberal Party as an entity, from what I understand, has not had the opportunity to express its thoughts on the privilege which the New Democratic Party member brought forward.

In the best way that I can, I will try to keep my comments short and concise, but I want to make sure that people understand why I feel it is so important and where I am coming from in regard to addressing this issue.

First and foremost, all members of Parliament have an important responsibility. Our constituents want to know that we are doing our job. Part of that job is what takes place on the floor of the House of Commons. We do our job in many different ways.

The privilege to which the member made reference is in regard to information that we have not been able to access. Not having access to information seriously impacts on our ability as members of Parliament to make good decisions.

The public has a great deal of interest in what we do inside the House. I always like to cut it down to two or three things. One of those things is the budget.

The Government of Canada spends a lot of money, in excess of $250 billion. As parliamentarians we have a responsibility to try to understand the kind of money that is being spent. We also need to be able to obtain information that the government has talked about in putting together its budget to present to the House. I could give a specific example in terms of my own critic portfolio. It is a relatively small expenditure, but it is an important expenditure which has a profound impact. That is why I say information is critically important. We ask the government to provide numbers and to tell us what type of offices are going to be closed down. We ask what impact it is going to have in terms of tax dollars.

There have been some significant changes in immigration. I want to cite a specific one. The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism made an announcement not that long ago, in which he said that the government wants to deal with the immigration backlog. In wanting to deal with the immigration backlog, he referred to skilled workers. He said that workers who had applied through the skilled workers program prior to 2008 were going to be deleted from the data banks. The government has put money aside that ultimately is going to be used to reimburse the landing and processing fees.

In looking at that, we say that we are debating a very important bill on the budget and we need specific information related to that. How do we know that the numbers mentioned by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism actually represent adequate compensation for those individuals? One could argue, as I have, that particular policy announcement was a cruel thing to have done, but at the end of the day, if we read the budget bill that we are expected to vote on intelligently, we need to have some very important information, and I am not convinced that information has been provided to us.

Let me use the example of someone from the Philippines who five years ago put in an application. According to this budget bill, the government is going to return that person's application fee and processing fee or landing fee. I am not 100% sure, but is important information to have. The government, with the passing of this budget bill, is going to be reimbursing those fees. If we look into it more deeply—

Bill C-38
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the Speaker has told the member that this is supposed to be relevant to the question of privilege. It seems that the member is getting into the budget debate. I wonder if he understands that he is still speaking to a question of privilege. Just to keep him on track, I am curious to know if he has that in mind when making his statement now.

Bill C-38
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

An hon. member

Point or order.

Bill C-38
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

June 13th, 2012 / 5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Before I go to the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, at the time the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River rose, I was also rising to interrupt.

I would like to provide all hon. members with some guidance in terms of the way in which a point of order or question of privilege ought to be raised. I will quote from House of Commons Procedure and Practice, by O'Brien and Bosc, page 143, related to the initial discussion of points raised. It states:

A Member recognized on a question of privilege is expected to be brief and concise in explaining the event which has given rise to the question of privilege and the reasons why consideration of the event complained of should be given precedence over other House business.

It goes on to state on page 144:

The Speaker will hear the Member and may permit others who are directly implicated in the matter to intervene. In instances where more than one Member is involved in a question of privilege, the Speaker may postpone discussion until all concerned Members can be present in the House. The Speaker also has the discretion to seek the advice of other Members to help him or her in determining whether there is prima facie a matter of privilege involved which would warrant giving the matter priority of consideration over other House business. When satisfied, the Speaker will terminate the discussion.

I bring this to the House's attention. Before I go to the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel and back ultimately to the member for Winnipeg North, I will remind all hon. members that in the case of a question of privilege, the floor is not the members' until they choose to stop. The Speaker has the right to terminate that discussion if the Speaker feels that relevant points that have not been previously raised have not been brought forward. That is left to the judgment of the Speaker.

On a point of order, the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel.

Bill C-38
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my interventions usually do not last very long, so I will make it quick. On the point of order by the member opposite from B.C., I am not sure if he understands what the question of privilege is. The member for Winnipeg North is responding on behalf of the Liberal Party.

As the member for Bourassa mentioned, just because the member does not speak from prepared notes and has a time limit of 5, 10, 15 minutes or half an hour, he is going to make a point.

I have the question of privilege by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. He has easily made four or five points and spoken about two acts. To make a comment on each and every one of those points is going to take over two or three hours. The member, I think, is going to speak for another five minutes. I think we should allow him to make his point. We are talking about something that is timely. We are about to vote on a budget bill that is over 500 pages long and which affects over 70 acts. We do not have all the proper information. Parties on this side of the House are asking for information. The points have been relevant and I think it has to be put on the record.

With all due respect, I think the member for Winnipeg North should be given the time--

Bill C-38
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel has suggested that the hon. member for Winnipeg North, who in this case is speaking on behalf of the Liberal caucus and wishes to put forward the position of the caucus ought to be given reasonable time. The Chair agrees that reasonable time should be provided. The member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel has suggested that if the hon. member for Winnipeg North had five more minutes, that would be sufficient. I am willing to take that suggestion. If the hon. member for Winnipeg North could complete his remarks in five minutes, I think that would be reasonable.

I thank the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel for his advice on that matter.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Bill C-38
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, on the same point of order, the member from B.C.—

Bill C-38
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order. The discussion from the Chair is not to do with what the hon. Conservative member from B.C. raised, but is rather on the question of privilege itself. If the member could restrict his comments to that, it would be greatly appreciated by the Chair.

The hon. member for Bourassa on a point of order.

Bill C-38
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have too much respect for you to say that you are easily influenced. However, it seems to me that the tone changed after the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons whispered in your ear.

As an MP, I think that if the official opposition has the right to raise a point of order, the Liberal Party of Canada has the right to respond appropriately. I find that attitude unacceptable. The member for Winnipeg North is in the right in this case. We are all equal. When we have something to say, we rise. The question of privilege is important because it applies to all members. I would not want anyone to have fewer rights than anyone else just because someone whispered in someone else's ear.

The official opposition had the right to raise its point of order in the appropriate way, and this is not about holding up a stopwatch and timing five, six or seven minutes. If the member can raise a point of order, he is fully within his rights to do so. We have to be careful not to provoke anyone. Even if they have a serious cough, they have to last the night. They should be careful and look after themselves right away.

The Liberal Party has as much right as any other party to express all its points of view. This is not a question of 5, 10 or 15 minutes. They all have the right to express their views, and so do we, because we belong to a party in the House, too.

Bill C-38
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The Chair would like to clarify for all hon. members, including the member for Bourassa, that this Chair is not influenced by individual members, and if the hon. member for Bourassa is suggesting otherwise, that is a serious accusation. If that is the point that is being made, that point needs to be made clearly.

It is quite clear that several minutes ago I pointed out to the hon. member for Winnipeg North that the right to speak in response to a question of privilege is essential and is respected in this place, but that does not mean that any member rising on a question of privilege has unlimited time on the floor.

Just a moment ago, the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel pointed out that the hon. member for Winnipeg North was speaking on behalf of the Liberal caucus, that he was making important points and that he thought it reasonable that if the hon. member for Winnipeg North was given an additional five minutes, he could make those arguments. I was in agreement with that and was at the point of giving the floor back to the hon. member for Winnipeg North.

The hon. member for Bourassa.

Bill C-38
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of respect for this House and for the Chair. I started by simply saying that I have a huge amount of respect for you and I think you do an outstanding job.

However, that is why I was wondering, because I am very sure that you are not influenced. That is why I said that since the official opposition had given its opinion, standard practice is to allow my colleague a full chance to express himself. This is not a filibuster. As it is a question of privilege, the member for Winnipeg North should have the right to express himself.

With all due respect, I just wanted to share some of my 15 years of experience—that is not nothing—because I have seen all kinds of things. I know that the member for Winnipeg North is acting in good faith. We should give him the time to fully express his opinion because that is the point of a question of privilege.