House of Commons Hansard #214 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was municipalities.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure Plan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure Plan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure Plan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure Plan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I request that the division be deferred until tomorrow, at the expiry of time provided for government orders.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure Plan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

Accordingly, the vote on the motion will be deferred until tomorrow evening.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure Plan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you see the clock at 5:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure Plan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

Is it agreed?

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure Plan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from February 14 consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Missing Aboriginal Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

Pursuant to the order made on Thursday, February 14, 2013, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion relating to the business of supply.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #617

Business of Supply
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

The hon. Minister of Human Resources is rising on a question of privilege.

Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development
Privilege
Government Orders

February 26th, 2013 / 6 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the question of privilege raised yesterday by the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

I have been clear over the past two days, just as I was on February 1. Service Canada does not have individual quotas for staff.

As I have also said before, there are performance targets to help protect the benefits of the unemployed from fraud.

There is a clear difference between a quota and a target, and that is simply that there are no negative consequences for staff who fail to meet targets.

As with any business organizations, managers work with their staff to set out general expectations or indicators over the course of the year. Within the federal public administration, career progression is clearly set out by the Public Service Employment Act and is established through a merit-based process.

The documents referenced by Le Devoir, which were cited by the official opposition House leader, are not used as part of the merit process.

As I have said before in this place, Service Canada was able to stop almost half a billion dollars in ineligible payments last year. However, the employment insurance program still lost hundreds of millions more due to fraud. This is why we continue to work on behalf of Canadians and employers who pay premiums to ensure that their money is used properly.

This is no contradiction. Service Canada and I have been clear that Service Canada does not have quotas for staff.

The House leader for the official opposition cited your ruling on May 7, 2012, where the Chair set out a three-part test for establishing a contempt for deliberately misleading the House.

The first part of that test is that it must be established that the statement was misleading. In this case, the statements are not misleading because they are not contradictory. Therefore, I respectfully submit that the analysis must stop here.

Before concluding, let me quote page 510 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, which states:

In most instances, when a point of order or a question of privilege has been raised in regard to a response to an oral question, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is a disagreement among Members over the facts surrounding the issue.

In fact, this approach seems to have guided your immediate ruling on February 4, 2013, when the Chair addressed a point of order from the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst on one of my February 1 question period responses.

At page 13629 of the Debates you stated:

I think what we have here is a question as to an interpretation of what was said or how it was said. It is not for the Chair to rule on.

One final authority that I would cite is the ruling of Speaker Milliken from January 30, 2008. At page 2434 of the Debates, your immediate predecessor stated:

...as I have mentioned before on various occasions in this House, any dispute regarding the accuracy or appropriateness of a minister’s response to an oral question is a matter of debate; it is not a matter for the Speaker to judge.

Therefore, I would like to submit that this dispute about my response to an oral question is likewise a point of debate and certainly not a prima facie case of privilege.

Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development
Privilege
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, we will look carefully, because she cited a number of references. We will reserve the right to comment further, if it feels appropriate and if there is something in her argument that changes the nature of our point of privilege and that this is a prima facie case.

I have a couple of initial reactions. The minister is trying to make a distinction between “performance objectives” and “quotas”. If included in the way employees are measured or the way their acceleration within the public service is monitored and measured by their superiors, it seems to me that the quotas or performance objectives have some bearing on the employees' advancement and the way their managers consider whether they are effective.

The second point is that in her comments today, she said that as much as $500 million was recouped from fraudulent employment insurance claims, which we in the official opposition would encourage, because that money should be recouped from those who fraudulently claim EI benefits they are not entitled to. She then goes on to say that there are hundreds of millions of dollars more in fraudulent claims out there that they simply cannot get. That seems to be what the quota program is about. If she has these facts in front of the House, then she clearly can make a case that there is a need for this quota system. However, she is trying to have it both ways, suggesting that there are many hundreds of millions of dollars more in fraudulent claims out there, hence the quota system, which she then later denies. The door-to-door efforts of her ministry have apparently, we have now heard, since been suspended. We do not know.

The fact remains that under your ruling, there is the three-part test. The first part is whether there was an intention to mislead. We asked the minister very clearly: Is there a quota system in place for employees of Service Canada? She said flatly “no” and wants to somehow change the definition of the word, from “quota” to “performance objectives” and the like. Well, an objective and a quota are the same thing if the effect is the same. She is entitled to her own opinion but not her own facts.

We will look at her submission today and see if there is anything further we need to add on the substance of the rules that guide the House. However, initially we cannot suggest that we are moved by a further interpretation and opinion, when, in fact, her intention was always clear, which was to essentially mislead Canadians as to the existence of a quota program that is obviously well in place in her department.

Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development
Privilege
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I thank both the minister and the House Leader of the Official Opposition for their further interventions on this point.

It being 6:10, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business, as listed on today's order paper.