House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was panama.

Topics

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Beauce
Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, as we know, Canada is a democratic country with a parliamentary system, and under the Constitution, Canada's head of state is the Queen of England. Unlike the Bloc Québécois, we are not ashamed that the Queen is our head of state.

We know that the Bloc Québécois would like to destroy this country and make Quebec an independent country. That is not—

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please.

The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley now has the floor for the Thursday question.

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville has to come to order.

The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, what an exciting way to end question period. I encourage my friend's enthusiasm. We have not seen that kind of vigour in a while.

As we proceed through the budget implementation act, the more than 425-page omnibus Trojan horse bill that is only a budget bill in name, in title but not in effect, we now know there will close to 1,000 or more amendments preceding to this bill, a situation that could have been avoided if the government had listened to reason at the beginning of this process and actually divided the bill into its component parts so Canadians could understand it and so members of Parliament could do our work. This will occupy the House for some time, I believe at the beginning of next week.

The question for the government is this. What will follow, if possible, in the days to come?

June 7th, 2012 / 3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I am not quite as enthusiastic as the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, but I will try.

This morning, my hon. friend, the member for Edmonton—Leduc and chair of the hard-working Standing Committee on Finance reported to this House that Bill C-38, the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, has passed the committee and been recommended for adoption by the House.

I am pleased that the Standing Committee on Finance followed the lead of the House with respect to the longest debate on a budget bill in the past two decades. The committee gave this bill the longest consideration for a budget bill in at least two decades. That is in addition to the subcommittee spending additional time to consider the responsible resource development clauses.

This very important legislation, our budget implementation legislation, economic action plan 2012, will help to secure vital economic growth for Canada in the short, medium and long term. Given the fragile world economy that is around us, this bill is clearly needed, so we must move forward. Therefore, I plan to start report stage on the bill Monday at noon.

In the interim, we will consider second reading of Bill C-24 this afternoon. This bill would implement our free trade agreement with Panama, which I signed when I was international trade minister, some 755 days ago. It is now time to get that bill passed.

Tomorrow, we will consider third reading of Bill C-31, the protecting Canada's immigration system act, so the Senate will have an opportunity to review the bill before it must become law, within a few weeks' time.

Next week I plan to give priority to bills which have been reported back from committee. It goes without saying that we will debate Bill C-38, our budget implementation bill. I am given to understand that there is a lot of interest this time around in the process of report stage motion tabling, selection and grouping.

Additionally, we will finish third reading of Bill C-25, the pooled registered pension plans act, and Bill C-23, the Canada–Jordan economic growth and prosperity act.

The House will also finish third reading of Bill C-11, the copyright modernization act. The bill is a vital tool to unlock the potential of our creative and digital economy. It is time that elected parliamentarians should have their say on its passage once and for all. I would like to see that vote happen no later than Monday, June 18.

If we have time remaining, the House will also debate second reading of Bill C-24, the Panama free trade act, if more time is necessary, as well as for Bill C-7, the Senate reform act, and Bill C-15, the strengthening military justice in the defence of Canada act.

Bill C-38
Points of Order
Business of the House

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to respond to the point of order that was raised earlier this week by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands concerning Bill C-38.

Simply stated, I wish to reiterate that we in the Liberal Party also have deep concerns about this legislation. That the government's argument for putting it forward in its current form is that it is all essential in order to help us stimulate our fragile economy is completely disingenuous and frankly very misleading.

For example, the government's plan to change the age for receiving old age security from 65 to 67 beginning in 2023 is hardly a critical budget decision that must be taken at this time and within this bill. I dare say most of us will not even be here 11 years from now.

Another example has to do with all of the changes to environmental and fisheries legislation. The government would have us believe that these changes have to happen right away to protect our fragile economy, but these laws will have serious repercussions and must be debated in the context of their own bills.

What has happened with Bill C-38 is quite astounding. This now infamous budget megabill has caused outrage from one end of the country to the other and the remarks of the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands certainly mirror the concerns expressed by Canadians. Simply put, there is no common thread uniting all the elements of this massive bill. What is more, many of the elements are not even of a budgetary nature, even by the wildest stretch of the imagination. As such, Bill C-38 is not a legitimate omnibus bill.

We know that budget bills can be quite lengthy, but clearly, this government has brought the meaning of the term “omnibus” to an unprecedented level.

The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons can tell us that the bill does have a common thread—the budget—but I beg to differ. The government should not be using the budget as a catch-all to introduce everything including the kitchen sink.

For example, if we look at clause 52 of the bill, we will see that it enacts an entirely new piece of legislation called the Canadian environmental assessment act, 2012, within a single clause of a 753 clause bill. This clause only received a maximum of 15 minutes consideration at committee.

The rules and practices surrounding omnibus bills are in place for a reason. How can members of Parliament adequately study such a bill when its content is so wide ranging and disjointed. Dare I say it, perhaps that is what the members on the other side were counting on.

I must underline, in the strongest possible terms, the fact that legislation such as this makes it almost impossible to scrutinize properly. A budget bill dealing with financial measures and taxation is one thing. The hodgepodge of clauses impacting more than 60 pieces of federal legislation before us is a completely different proposition.

In conclusion, I truly hope that the government splits this bill into several parts, because the fact is that Canadians want several parts of Bill C-38 to be addressed separately. I trust that you will rule accordingly, Mr. Speaker, and I thank you for that.

Bill C-38
Points of Order
Business of the House

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I receive the hon. member's further contributions on this point.

Questions on the Order Paper
Points of Order
Business of the House

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, on a different point of order, I rise in relation to a question on the order paper in my name, to which the government replied with an answer that was not only insufficient and incomplete, it was effectively a non-answer.

I do this in light of the recent ruling that you issued, Mr. Speaker, on the matter of a question raised by the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie concerning the government's response to written Question No. 410.

My Question No. 588 related to the budget and asked in part:

(a) with how many groups and organizations did the Department of Finance consult on?

It then asked specifically how many were represented by women and and how many were led by women respecting the individuals, groups and organizations consulted by the Minister of Finance or Department of Finance in preparation of budget 2012.

The answer I received to these questions states that the department and minister sought, and I quote, “the input of countless individuals and groups of both genders”.

As you noted, Mr. Speaker, in your ruling on April 3, and I quote:

...order paper questions are a very important tool for members seeking detailed, lengthy or technical information that helps them carry out their duties.

While you note the limited power of the Speaker in these matters, and I appreciate that, you go on to observe that in the case of the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, the government indicated that it would table additional information. To quote your ruling:

The original response to Question No. 410 tells us that this is how the government intends to proceed in this case, just as we have recently seen the government provide such supplementary responses to other questions.

Mr. Speaker, the government has not indicated in any way that it will table any further information or further respond to my question. Therefore, the situation that I raise is distinguishable from the case brought forward by the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.

Let me be very clear respecting the remedy I am seeking.

You have ruled, and O'Brien and Bosc agree, that quibbles over the content of responses do not rise to the level of a breach of privilege, and I am not referring to that.

That said, previous rulings of O'Brien and Bosc do note that the ministry's “failure” to answer a question, and this is what I am referring to here, is grounds for referral of the matter to a standing committee. As such, this point of order is to ask you to refer the government's failure to answer the question to the Standing Committee on Finance.

I want to be clear as to why this is a failure to respond. Simply put, this House cannot allow situations where the government puts whatever words it wants on a page and deems that an acceptable response regardless of the question. All hon. members would agree that there has to be some correlation between the question and the response.

The rules regarding your purview, Mr. Speaker, I understand are such—and you have ruled on this matter—that you will not engage as to matters of accuracy and completeness of response. I am not referring to the issue of accuracy or the completeness of response on the part of the government to my question. I am referring to the utter lack of any response to the question.

While we could quibble about whether the word “countless” is an appropriate response to the question of “how many” groups the Department of Finance consulted, there is no way anyone can argue that the word “countless”, even with “both genders” added, is in any way a response to the question of “How many of the groups were represented by women?”, and even more specifically, “How many of the groups were led by women?” There simply is no answer in what I received.

If this were allowed as a response, it would make a mockery of our written questions process.

Questions on the Order Paper
Points of Order
Business of the House

3:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I will say initially that in terms of budget consultation, we had probably the broadest public consultation in Canadian history in preparation of this budget. Literally hundreds of consultations were done by the Department of Finance. As well, cabinet ministers and members of Parliament prepared summaries and submitted them to the Department of Finance for its consideration in preparation of this budget. That is why, when the word “countless” is used, it is actually quite accurate.

I carried out a number of those myself, and I cannot recall how many women were involved, how many women led the groups with whom we spoke, or whether I could say that someone was the leader of a group of not.

Mr, Speaker, while I appreciate that the member may wish that there was some kind of excessive record keeping when we consult the Canadian public, I think you will see that the nature of the consultation—how broad it was, and how many thousands of Canadians participated in the many consultations—makes what he is seeking difficult to provide. In any event, I expect I will be back with some further submissions on this.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation Motion
Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

moved:

That, in relation to Bill C-24, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama, not more than seven further hours shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the bill; and

at the expiry of the seven hours, 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 said bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation Motion
Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

As we have done in the past, we will have a 30-minute questions and comments period. We will ask members to keep their questions or comments to about a minute and their responses to a similar length of time.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation Motion
Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, the government wants to invoke closure. Why? Why has the government invoked closure time and again on all issues for the past year?

We must have a discussion about whether or not it is in Canada's interests to enter into this free trade agreement. The government must answer to Canadians. It must fully explain to them the reasons for the agreement and not hide again behind closure in order to impose on Canadians matters that affect them directly.

I want an answer. Why is the government acting in this way?

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation Motion
Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the real question is why the New Democratic Party continues to resist any measure that brings into place legislative measures that are designed to achieve economic growth and prosperity for Canadians. The purpose of this bill to implement the Canada–Panama free trade agreement is to create economic opportunities for Canadians.

In 2011, Canada's exports to Panama totalled $111 million. That was a 20% increase over just two years earlier. We export a wide variety of goods and services to that country, and the result is the creation of jobs and economic growth and prosperity here in Canada.

We want to see those exports grow. We want to see those markets grow so that Canadians have more opportunity to benefit from the jobs that would result. The real question is why NDP members always resist, to the fullest extent possible, such measures to create jobs for Canadians.