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Conservative MP for Regina—Qu'Appelle (Saskatchewan)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 53.50% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Canada's Olympic and Paralympic Athletes June 4th, 2014
It is my pleasure today to welcome to the House of Commons athletes and coaches from Canada's Olympic and Paralympic teams who participated in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
I know I speak on behalf of all members in the House, and indeed all Canadians, when I say how extremely proud we are of each and every one of you. Your successes in Sochi captivated our country and demonstrated the very best of what it means to be Canadian.
Not only did both our Olympic and Paralympic teams finish third in the overall medal standings, but they also competed with honour and truly exemplified the Olympic spirit.
Today, as we pay tribute to Canada's Olympians and Paralympians, let us also take a moment to commend the dedication of all those who have helped these athletes pursue their dreams.
I am thinking about the trainers, the support personnel, the sponsors, organizations such as the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees and, of course, the athletes' families.
On behalf of all members of Parliament, I offer our most heartfelt congratulations to the members of Canada's Olympic and Paralympic teams. Your hard work, sacrifice and determination are truly an inspiration to all Canadians. Thank you so much for all you have done for your country.
I understand there is agreement among all parties and members of the House to have the names of the Olympic and Paralympic athletes printed in the Debates of the House of Commons.
Canada’s 2014 Olympic and Paralympic athletes:
Erin Mielzynski, Manuel Osborne-Paradis, Brittany Phelan, Brad Spence, Elli Terwiel, Megan Imrie, Zina Kocher, Jean-Philippe LeGuellec, Scott Perras, Nathan Smith, Jenny Ciochetti, Benjamin Coakwell, Justin Kripps, Jesse Lumsden, James McNaughton, Timothy Randall, Cody Sorensen, Christopher Spring, Jesse Cockney, Dasha Gaiazova, Perianne Jones, Devon Kershaw, Emily Nishikawa, Lenny Valjas, Heidi Widmer, Caleb Flaxey, Patrick Chan, Gabrielle Daleman, Mitchell Islam, Paige Lawrence, Scott Moir, Dylan Moscovitch, Kaetlyn Osmond, Alexandra Paul, Andrew Poje, Eric Radford, Kevin Reynolds, Rudi Swiegers, Tessa Virtue, Kaitlyn Weaver, Justin Dorey, Maxime Dufour-Lapointe, Justine Dufour-Lapointe, Chloé Dufour-Lapointe, Marc-Antoine Gagnon, Travis Gerrits, Rosalind Groenewoud, Keltie Hansen, Dara Howell, Mikael Kingsbury, Kim Lamarre, Philippe Marquis, Mike Riddle, Audrey Robichaud, Yuki Tsubota, Brady Leman, Kelsey Serwa, Marielle Thompson, Melodie Daoust, Haley Irwin, Rebecca Johnston, Charline Labonté, Geneviève Lacasse, Jocelyne Larocque, Caroline Ouellette, Marie-Philip Poulin, Lauriane Rougeau, Natalie Spooner, Shannon Szabados, Marc-Édouard Vlasic, Jennifer Wakefield, Catherine Ward, Sam Edney, John Fennell, Alex Gough, Arianne Jones, Mitch Malyk, Kim McRae, Justin Snith, Tristan Walker, John Fairbairn, Eric Neilson, Sarah Reid,
Taylor Henrich, Trevor Morrice, Matthew Rowley, Caroline Calvé, Alexandra Duckworth, Rob Fagan, Kevin Hill, Jake Holden, Ariane Lavigne, Derek Livingston, Dominique Maltais, Mercedes Nicoll, Maelle Ricker, Chris Robanske Ivanie Blondin, Anastasia Bucsis, Kali Christ, Vincent de Haitre, Jamie Gregg, Marsha Hudey, Gilmore Junio, Lucas Makowsky, Denny Morrison, Danielle Wotherspoon, Michael Gilday, Charles Hamelin, François Hamelin, Olivier Jean, Valérie Maltais, Marianne St-Gelais, Caleb Brousseau, Joshua Dueck, Robin Femy, Kimberly Joines, Erin Latimer, Mac Marcoux, Kurt Oatway, Kirk Schornstein, Alexandra Starker, Chris Williamson, Mark Arendz, Caroline Bisson, Colette Bourgonje, Sven Erik Carleton, Sébastien Fortier, Louis Fortin, Margarita Gorbounova, Brittany Hudak, Chris Klebl, Robbi Weldon, John Leslie, Tyler Mosher, Michelle Salt, Bradley Bowden, Adam Dixon, Dominic Larocque, Karl Ludwig, Tyler McGregor, Sonja Gaudet, Mark Ideson, Dennis Thiessen
Points of Order May 12th, 2014
Before we move on to questions and comments, if there is time, I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised earlier today by the hon. House leader of the official opposition regarding the voting pattern for motions in amendment for Bill C-23, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other acts.
I would like to thank the hon. opposition House leader for raising this matter, as well the government leader in the House for his comments.
The hon. opposition House leader objected to the way in which the Chair proposes to apply the results of votes taken on motions to delete clauses. The hon. member pointed out that members of his party had proposed 110 such motions in relation to this bill and that other members had also submitted some of the same motions, as well as others. He argued that each motion constituted a distinct question and that members should have the fundamental right to pronounce themselves on each question separately. By applying the result of a vote on one motion to a large number of other motions, he feared that the Chair would force members to vote against clauses they in fact support or vote in favour of clauses they oppose.
In response, the government House leader said that the grouping of votes is in keeping with the recent precedent and that it is not unusual for the results of the vote to be applied in this manner.
The Chair takes seriously its responsibility to select and group motions for debate at report stage. It is often challenging to arrive at a grouping and a voting pattern that all members will find satisfactory, and this is particularly true in cases where there are a large number of motions proposed.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 307, states that it is the duty of the Speaker:
...to ensure that public business is transacted efficiently and that the interests of all parts of the House are advocated and protected against the use of arbitrary authority. It is in this spirit that the Speaker, as the chief servant of the House, applies the rules. The Speaker is the servant, neither of any part of the House nor of any majority in the House, but of the entire institution and serves the best interests of the House...
The hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition is asking that each motion be voted on separately. A similar argument was made by his predecessor in 2012 with respect to Bill C-45, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures. In the decision of November 29, 2012, found on page 12,611 of the Debates, I reminded the House that:
This would diverge from our practice where, for voting purposes where appropriate, a long series of motions to delete are grouped for a vote. Since the effect of deleting a clause at report stage is, for all practical purposes, the same as negativing a clause in committee, to change our practice to a one deletion, one vote approach could be seen as a repetition of the clause by clause consideration of the bill in committee, something which the House is specifically enjoined against in the notes to Standing Orders 76(5) and 76.1(5) which state that the report stage is not meant to be a reconsideration of the committee stage.
The Chair acknowledges that each clause in a bill represents a unique question. That said, it is also clear that our rules and practices foresee circumstances in which the Speaker combines several different questions in a single group for debate and where the vote on one question is applied to others. This is done so that the time of the House is used efficiently and so that the House does not repeat at report stage the work done by the committee that considered the bill.
In the case before us, the Chair has grouped all of the motions to delete proposed by a party or by a member into a single vote. I believe this is in keeping with recent precedents where there are large numbers of motions at report stage.
In fact, to do as the opposition House leader has suggested would be a marked departure from our practices, would be contrary to the very clear direction included in the notes to Standing Orders 76(5) and 76.1(5), and is not something the Chair is prepared to entertain since, as all members know, we are not here to repeat committee stage.
Absent any other direction from the House, I intend to follow those precedents and to maintain the voting pattern I proposed to the House when I rendered my decision last week. I thank the hon. member for having raised this important matter.
Points of Order May 12th, 2014
I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on April 28, 2014, by the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie regarding the procedural acceptability of Bill C-31, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures.
I thank the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie for having raised the question, as well as the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the House leader for the official opposition for their comments.
In raising the point of order, the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie contended that Bill C-31 is not properly before the House nor the Standing Committee on Finance since, prior to its introduction in the House, the government failed to table a copy of a treaty included in the bill, namely:
The Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Canada to improve international tax compliance through enhanced exchange of information under the convention between the United States of America and Canada with respect to taxes on income and on capital.
In his view, the government’s routine tabling of treaties at least 21 days prior to introducing implementing legislation, pursuant to its Policy on Tabling of Treaties in Parliament, has evolved into a parliamentary custom and is therefore a prerequisite to debate.
While recognizing that the policy allows for exceptions, the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie argued that in this instance the government had violated its own policy, thereby infringing upon a custom of the House and creating what he described as a legislative defect.
The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons replied that the process governing the tabling of treaties is in fact a government policy and thus is not found in the rules or practices of the House, nor is it under the purview of the Speaker. He cited numerous Speakers' rulings in support of this position. In addition, he noted that the policy does provide for exceptions, and thus that what is being done in the case of Bill C-31 is in fact consistent with the provisions of the policy.
The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons added that since the treaty was being implemented through legislation, opportunity existed for the House to debate it and vote upon it before it is ratified.
In raising this matter, the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie made reference to what he considered to have been procedural irregularities. It is important to understand in this case what type of procedure, departmental or House, is being referenced. As well, the member asked the Chair for clarity on whether the use of this policy on treaties has become regular enough to deem it a parliamentary custom such that any deviation from it has a procedural impact. In other words, is this a matter of parliamentary procedure, one over which the Chair has any authority?
It is clear to me that the policy in question belongs to the government and not the House. It is equally clear that it is not within the Speaker's authority to adjudicate on government policies or processes, and this includes determining whether the government is in compliance with its own policies.
In a recent ruling, on February 7, 2013, I reminded the House of this at page 13869 of Debates:
It is beyond the purview of the Chair to intervene in departmental matters or to get involved in government processes, no matter how frustrating they may appear to be to the member.
The Chair has nevertheless reviewed the sequence of events described by the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie to ascertain whether there are procedural grounds, as opposed to departmental directives, to support the idea that treaties must be tabled in the House, let alone debated here.
Not surprisingly, the review revealed that many standing orders and statutes deal with the tabling of documents, and House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, on pages 430 and 609 actually enumerates the types of documents that must be tabled in the House. These include certain returns, reports, and other papers that are required to be tabled by statute, by order of the House, or by standing order. Treaties are not mentioned. In fact, the rules and practices of the House are silent with regard to the tabling of treaties.
This leads the Chair to conclude that the manner in which the government has usually chosen to interpret its own policy on treaties cannot be construed as the House having adopted that policy as its own. As always, the rules and practices of the House must emanate explicitly from the House itself. That is not to gain the merits of receiving essential information before considering legislation. However, the distinction between governmental procedures and House procedures remains and must be acknowledged.
Therefore, the Chair cannot find evidence to support the member's contention that Bill C-31 is not properly before the House because of what he has characterized as a deviation from what he contends is the usual practice.
Therefore the Chair cannot find evidence to support the member’s contention that Bill C-31 is not properly before the House because of what he has characterized as a deviation from what he contends is the usual practice.
I thank all hon. members for their attention.
I understand there is a point of order from the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.
Points of Order May 8th, 2014
I appreciate the hon. member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier raising the issue. As she and the government House leader mentioned, the principle of communicating in both official languages is well-established in this chamber. As the government House leader alluded to, there are certain protocols that are adhered to in terms of what the pages will distribute on people's desks. This does not mean that members are not free to distribute things on their own if the goal is to notify members of events or keep them aware of what a member may be doing.
The advantage to the member of providing that in both official languages is that more members will be able to understand and appreciate either the notice of event or the work that he or she is doing. Therefore, the member in question may have failed to do that and may have missed an opportunity to communicate with francophone members of the important work he may have been doing on a particular file.
I do not know that it is something for the Chair to intervene on. If a member does not want to look at the material, he or she is free to not do so. However, I think it is important that members work within the established protocols for distributing materials on people's desks, especially since there can be a lot of them and it can accumulate quite quickly. It would be advantageous to all members in the House to remember that.
Some members speak only one of the official languages. It makes more sense for members to distribute copies in both official languages of their notice of event or whatever they want to communicate. This is an important principle. Members who use only one of the official languages are missing an opportunity to communicate with their colleagues.
I do not want to rule on this, but I think it is an important principle for members.
Points of Order May 7th, 2014
Before addressing the selection and grouping of report stage motions for Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts, I would like to address the point of order raised on May 6, 2014, by the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
I would like to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for raising this matter as well as the Government Leader in the House, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, and the members for Toronto—Danforth, Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, and Winnipeg North for their comments.
The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands raised concerns that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs adopted a motion requiring all remaining questions necessary to dispose of its clause-by-clause consideration of the bill to be put by a specified time, effectively creating a deadline for the debate to end. She argued that this motion contradicts an earlier committee order adopted on October 29, 2013, which gives members from non-recognized parties the ability to speak to their suggested amendments to bills before they are voted on by the committee. Because of the imposed deadline, the member's opportunity to speak to her amendments was interfered with, pursuant to the committee order of October 29, 2013. As such, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands suggested that substantive amendments, even if already voted on by the committee, should be selected for consideration at report stage. Several members rose in support of the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands' point of order.
The government House leader made two central points in response. First, he reminded the House that at report stage the Speaker's authority to select report stage amendments is limited to determining whether they were presented, or could have been presented at committee. Second, he pointed out that the deadline adopted by the committee affected all members the same way, so it is inaccurate to claim that members from unrecognized parties and independents were particularly penalized in this regard.
In examining the matter, it is useful to remind the House of the power of the Speaker to select amendments at report stage. To place the matter in its proper context, it is helpful to refer to the March 21, 2001, statement by Speaker Milliken, found at page 1991 of the Debates, which establishes the guidelines upon which I rely to discharge my responsibility to select amendments at report stage. Speaker Milliken was clear in his intent when he urged:
…all members and all parties to avail themselves fully of the opportunity to propose amendments during committee stage so that the report stage can return to the purpose for which it was created, namely for the House to consider the committee report and the work the committee has done…
These principles are also reflected in the interpretive notes attached to Standing Orders 76(5) and 76.1(5). House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, further expands on these principles, explaining at pages 783 and 784 that:
…the Speaker will normally only select motions in amendment that could not have been presented in committee.
I would remind all members that the guidelines for selection specify whether amendments could have been presented in committee and whether they were defeated in committee. In the case of the committee's consideration of Bill C-23, all members of the committee, as well as any interested independent member, were given the opportunity to present their amendments at committee, and a certain number of these amendments were defeated. The hon. member is now asking the Chair, in exercising its powers of selection, to evaluate whether the consideration afforded such amendments in committee was sufficient.
It is evident that the committee chose to handle its consideration of Bill C-23 in a particular way. A motion setting out the process to be followed was proposed, debated, and ultimately agreed to. Just as the opportunity to present and speak to amendments was decided by way of a committee motion, the deadline by which debate would end likewise was decided by a committee motion. Such decisions are the exclusive responsibility of the committee. I do not believe that it is for the Chair to second-guess how committees choose to manage their business.
The hon. member has asked that I select motions for consideration at report stage because she was not able to debate them in committee. In doing so, she referred to a ruling I gave on December 12, 2012, whereby I noted that I would continue to select motions from independent members at report stage until such time as a satisfactory method was found for them to participate in the clause-by-clause consideration at committee. I understand that the hon. member found unsatisfactory the opportunities afforded to her at the procedure and House affairs committee in relation to Bill C-23. Other members of the committee echoed they too were not satisfied that certain amendments were not debated once the committee's self-imposed deadline was reached. That said, it remains clear to me that the committee considered and voted on all amendments she is asking me to select.
In 2006, Speaker Milliken dealt with a somewhat analogous situation in relation to Bill C-24, the Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act.
On November 6, 2006, the hon. member for Burnaby-New Westminster raised a point of order regarding the decision of the Standing Committee on International Trade to limit debate and set a strict deadline by which point debate would end.
Though the situation was different insofar as he was a member of the committee concerned, I believe Speaker Milliken's response, found on page 4756 of Debates, was instructive:
I do think that committees are masters of their own procedure. They are entitled to make provisions in adopting orders in the committee that govern the way they are going to conduct their business...The committee is allowed to make amendments to the bill. The committee has imposed rules on how those amendments will be dealt with in the committee and how members will be able to address the issues raised by the amendments. It seems to me that [it] is entirely within the jurisdiction of the committee and indeed [it] is [a] quite normal exercise of its powers.
When the bill was taken up at report stage, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster submitted a large number of the amendments that had been defeated in committee, and asked the Chair to select them on the basis that they had not been debated in committee.
In a ruling I gave as Acting Speaker on November 21, 2006, found on page 5125 of Debates, I declined to do so, reminding the House that:
...the Chair selects motions which further amend an amendment adopted by a committee, motions which make consequential changes based on an amendment adopted by a committee and motions which delete a clause. Aside from this, the Chair is loath to select motions unless a member makes a compelling argument for selection based on the exceptional significance of the amendment.
As far as the Chair is concerned, in keeping with past precedents, I cannot see how the imposition of a deadline for the end of the debate could constitute a justifiable argument for the selection of amendments at report stage that were already presented and defeated in committee.
Points of Order May 2nd, 2014
I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Malpeque on April 9, 2014, concerning amendments contained in the Third Report from the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on Bill C-483, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (escorted temporary absence), presented in the House on April 2, 2014.
I would like to thank the member for Malpeque for having raised this important matter. I would also like to thank the government House leader and the House Leader of the Official Opposition for their contributions.
In raising his point of order, the member for Malpeque argued that the amendments adopted by the committee had significantly altered the intent of the bill and that these amendments were not in keeping with the principle of the bill as adopted at second reading. In making his argument, the member referred to the second reading debate, during which the sponsor of the bill had indicated its intent as being to provide the National Parole Board of Canada with the authority to grant or cancel escorted temporary absences for offenders convicted of first or second degree murder. The member asserted that the bill’s main purpose was to remove the ability of institutional heads to grant escorted temporary absences for such offenders.
It was the member's contention that the amendments adopted by the committee, specifically in allowing institutional heads to grant escorted temporary absences once the Parole Board had granted an initial absence, were contrary to the principle of the bill. The member is asking the Chair to declare the amendments in question null and void and to direct that they no longer form part of the bill. The House Leader of the Official Opposition rose in support of the member's point of order.
In his intervention, the government House leader contended that the amendments in question were both consistent with the principle of the bill and within its scope. Several procedural authorities were cited to bolster this opinion. He also noted that the chair of the standing committee had ruled that the amendments were in order and that this ruling should be respected.
The government House leader pointed out that the intent of the bill was to involve the National Parole Board of Canada in granting the escorted temporary absences, which would, in turn, involve the victims by providing them with an opportunity to participate in the hearings during such a process. The new provision, in his view, meets that requirement.
Before addressing the particulars of this point of order, I would like to remind the House of the Speaker’s authority in dealing with a report on a bill containing inadmissible amendments. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, states at page 775:
The admissibility of...amendments...may therefore be challenged on procedural grounds when the House resumes its consideration of the bill at report stage. The admissibility of the amendments is then determined by the Speaker of the House, whether in response to a point of order or on his or her own initiative.
I have examined the third report of the standing committee, as well as Bill C-483, both in its first reading version and in the reprint containing the committee's amendments. The intent of Bill C-483, as stated in the summary to the first reading copy of the bill, is as follows:
This enactment amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to limit the authority of the institutional head to authorize the escorted temporary absence of an offender convicted of first or second degree murder.
The amendment to clause 1 of the bill restructures the bill so that the provisions with regard to the National Parole Board of Canada are removed and later inserted in the subsequent new clause 1.1.
New clause 1.1 of the bill provides that the National Parole Board of Canada is involved in the granting of the initial escorted temporary absence. This process would be very similar to the original provisions previously contained in clause 1. The key difference is a new paragraph that the amendment also added, which provides that:
If the Parole Board of Canada authorizes the temporary absence of an inmate under subsection (1) for community service, family contact, including parental responsibilities, or personal development for rehabilitative purposes and the temporary absence is not cancelled because the inmate has breached a condition, the institutional head may authorize that inmate’s subsequent temporary absences with escort...
This would mean that once the authority is granted by the National Parole Board of Canada for an escorted temporary absence, it remains in place unless it is cancelled. The institutional head may grant subsequent escorted temporary absences only if the original authority from the National Parole Board remains in place. If conditions are breached and the absence is cancelled, authority must be sought anew from the National Parole Board of Canada.
This appears to me to limit the authority of the institutional head in this regard. Escorted temporary absences must still be authorized by the National Parole Board of Canada. What appears to be different in this new provision is the frequency with which authorization must be sought. I can see nothing in the bill as amended by the committee which would alter the aims and intent of the bill, namely the limiting of the power of institutional heads to grant escorted temporary absences and providing a role for the National Parole Board in the granting of such absences. Therefore, I find that the amendments adopted by the committee are indeed in keeping with the scope and principle of the bill as adopted at second reading and are, therefore, admissible.
Accordingly, the House may proceed with its study of the bill as reported from the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
I thank the House for its attention.
Points of Order May 1st, 2014
I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on April 10, 2014, by the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert, regarding the admissibility of an amendment adopted by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food for Bill C-30, an act to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Canada Transportation Act and to provide for other measures and reported to the House on April 8, 2014.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert for having raised this matter, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for their comments.
The member for Edmonton—St. Albert claimed that an amendment adopted by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food in relation to Bill C-30 is inadmissible, because it aims to amend a section of the Canada Transportation Act that is not contained in the bill. He argued that, in so doing, the committee had exceeded its authority and went beyond the scope of the bill that had been referred to it.
On April 28, 2014, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons countered the points made by the member for Edmonton—St. Albert. He asserted that the amendment in question was relevant and consistent with the subject matter of the bill, and respected the rules and usual practices of the House. He explained that the amendment aimed to modify the Canada Transportation Act, which is under consideration in Bill C-30. He also reminded the House that the amendment was considered without procedural objection and was adopted by a recorded vote without dissent.
In a Speaker’s ruling delivered on April 28, 1992, which can be found at page 9801 of Debates, Speaker Fraser explained the restrictions faced by committees when considering amendments to a bill. He said:
As the House knows, the Speaker does not intervene on matters upon which committees are competent to take decisions. However, in cases where a committee has exceeded its authority, particularly in relation to bills, the Speaker has been called upon to deal with such matters after a report has been presented to the House.
In relation to the Speaker’s authority with respect to amendments adopted in committee, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 775 states:
The admissibility of those amendments, and of any other amendments made by a committee, may therefore be challenged on procedural grounds when the House resumes its consideration of the bill at report stage. The admissibility of the amendments is then determined by the Speaker of the House, whether in response to a point of order or on his or her own initiative.
I have reviewed the amendments adopted by the committee, and particularly the amendment that gave rise to this point of order, which created the new clause 5.1 in the bill. It amends section 116 of the Canada Transportation Act, a section that was not originally amended by the bill, to provide an additional power to the Canada Transportation Agency.
The parliamentary secretary referred to several procedural authorities to support his arguments. Most notably, and helpfully, he quoted from House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 766 on the issues of scope and relevance. However, in the same paragraph that he quoted from, a critical element went unmentioned. At pages 766 to 767, it also reads:
In the case of a bill referred to a committee after second reading, an amendment is inadmissible if it proposes to amend a statute that is not before the committee or a section of the parent Act, unless the latter is specifically amended by a clause of the bill.
This is sometimes referred to as the parent act rule.
The Chair has no difficulty agreeing with the parliamentary secretary that the amendment is relevant to the subject matter of the bill. Indeed, as a fellow Saskatchewan MP who represents a large number of grain producers, I can certainly agree on the importance of this issue. As Speaker, however, not only can I not simply act according to my personal beliefs, I must respect House of Commons precedents which, in the case before us, are only too clear. Relevance is not the only test to be applied in judging admissibility. As the amendment in question reaches back into the parent act to modify a section of the act originally untouched by the bill as passed at second reading, long-standing practice leaves the Chair no choice: the amendment and those consequential to it are inadmissible.
The procedural jurisprudence is clear. I am therefore obliged to rule that the amendment, and the two other consequential amendments adopted by the committee, are null and void and no longer form part of the bill as reported to the House. In addition, I am directing that the bill be reprinted without these amendments.
Let me close by recalling how the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader has reminded the House that this bill enjoyed all-party support at second reading and that the specific measures this ruling addresses were unanimously agreed to in committee. In light of that, the Chair would be remiss if I did not, in turn, remind the House that, should there still be a clear will on the part of all parties in the House to effect these changes in the law, there are several very simple and straightforward procedural options available.
I thank honourable members for their attention.
Privilege April 30th, 2014
I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on April 10, 2014, by the House Leader of the Official Opposition regarding alleged misleading statements made by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform during oral questions.
I would like to thank the House Leader of the Official Opposition for raising this matter, as well as the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for their comments.
The House Leader of the Official Opposition claimed that the Minister of State for Democratic Reform had deliberately misled the House when, in providing answers during question period on April 2, 2014, with respect to why voter information cards were being removed as possible forms of identification for voters, he stated that, “There are regular reports of people receiving multiple cards and using them to vote multiple times”. The House Leader of the Official Opposition alleged that this was an answer based on reports that the minister of state knew made no such claim as evidenced by the minister altering his response the following day when he spoke only of “[...] cases where people received multiple voter information cards”. This, argued the opposition House leader, constituted ample proof that the minister of state offered misleading statements to the House knowingly and with the intent to mislead members.
The Minister of State for Democratic Reform countered those allegations, citing examples from the Elections Canada website of voters having received multiple voter information cards and voting multiple times. These he offered as proof of the accuracy of his original comments.
In raising this issue, the House Leader of the Official Opposition has again asked the Chair to determine the degree of accuracy or truthfulness of an answer to see if, on the face of it, it constitutes an instance in which the House was misled.
Members must recognize that there are limits as to what the Chair is authorized to do in this respect. As I reminded the House as recently as January 28, 2014, at page 2204 of Debates:
Successive speakers in our House have maintained our tradition of not intervening in respect of answers to questions, and I do not intend to change that.
As Speaker Milliken stated on December 6, 2004, at page 2319 of the House of Commons Debates:
Disagreements about facts and how the facts should be interpreted form the basis of debate in this place.
Thus, it is not sufficient for members to simply make allegations based on their perceptions of what is or is not factually correct. Members must recognize and accept the existence of differences of fact and interpretation, which have always been a part of the normal cut and thrust of debate and question period.
As Speaker Jerome put it so well on June 4, 1975, at page 6431 of Debates:
...a dispute as to facts, a dispute as to opinions and a dispute as to conclusions to be drawn from an allegation of fact is a matter of debate and not a question of privilege.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 145, goes further when it recognizes that:
In the vast majority of cases, the Chair decides that a prima facie case of privilege has not been made.
Given this last citation, the Chair finds itself in the position of having to point out to the House Leader of the Official Opposition that in citing certain cases as precedents, he may have left an erroneous impression about the frequency of such incidents. In fact, most if not all of the precedents referred to were simply disputes as to fact, as is overwhelmingly the case.
The Chair has carefully considered the current case and the usual wisdom prevails here as well. There is no evidence to suggest that this situation is anything more than a dispute as to facts or that the opposition House leader has in any way been impeded in the performance of his duties as a parliamentarian.
Thus, I cannot conclude that this qualifies as a prima facie question of privilege.
I thank honourable members for their attention.
Privilege April 9th, 2014
I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on March 31, 2014, by the hon. member for Victoria regarding statements made in the House by the Minister of State for Finance during debate on an official opposition motion on December 9, 2013, regarding the New Democratic Party's proposal to phase in increases to basic pension benefits under the Canada and Quebec pension plans.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Victoria for having raised this matter, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the House Leader of the Official Opposition and the hon. member for Winnipeg North for their comments.
The member for Victoria claimed that documents recently obtained through an access to information request had revealed that the Minister of State for Finance had deliberately and repeatedly misled the House by providing misleading numbers and deliberately drawing false conclusions with respect to his party's plan for CPP reform.
The Minister of State for Finance, he suggested, had knowingly cited information about potential job losses from a Department of Finance study, which he linked to the NDP's plan for pension reform, even though the study itself did not do so and even though the finance study was based on a different basic assumption than that of the NDP plan.
As a result, the member for Victoria concluded that the three conditions for establishing that a case of contempt for misleading the House had been met, since the statements by the were misleading, he knew when he made the Minister of State for Finance statements that they were incorrect, and, finally, that he had intended to mislead the House.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons argued that, given the existence of many studies by many organizations on this matter, with the Minister of State for Finance having used numbers prepared by the Department of Finance, the conclusions to be drawn are bound to vary. He also stated that:
The hon. member for Victoria was at pains to point out that the finance department's analysis covered a one-year implementation window, not his seven-year phase-in period. In fact, the Department of Finance uses one year as a simplifying assumption adopted to compare the economic impact of various CPP expansion proposals.
Thus, he felt that this was nothing more than a matter of debate and perspective.
At page 145 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, it is stated:
If the question of privilege involves a disagreement between two (or more) Members as to facts, the Speaker typically rules that such a dispute does not prevent Members from fulfilling their parliamentary functions nor does such a disagreement breach the collective privileges of the House.
The member for Victoria was clear that this was not a matter of whether the studies in question are accurate, but whether the minister of state misrepresented the studies he cited. In fact, he spoke to the importance of accuracy of information brought forward in the House when he stated:
Mr. Speaker, members need to be certain that they are receiving the information they need to adequately represent voters, and they must be able to have confidence in the information provided, especially when it is provided by ministers and ministers of state.
As has been suggested, the information shared in this House does hold extraordinary value as it forms the basis upon which decisions are made in the House. As Speaker Milliken reminded the House on December 6, 2004, on page 2319 of the Debates:
Disagreements about facts and how the facts should be interpreted form the basis of debate in this place.
It is not surprising, then, that the threshold in determining that a member has deliberately misled the House is purposely high. The member for Victoria referred to the three-part test, which I most recently reiterated on March 3, 2014, at page 3430 of the Debates:
...one, it must be proven that the statement was misleading; two, it must be established that the member making the statement knew at the time that the statement was incorrect; and three, that in making the statement, the member intended to mislead the House.
He then argued that the situation at issue fulfills the three conditions that must be met in order for the Chair to find that there is appearance of contempt for deliberately misleading the House.
The Chair has thoroughly reviewed the relevant information provided with this in mind, and it is clear to me that there is no parallel to be drawn between the present case and the cases from February 1, 2002, and March 3, 2014, as has been suggested, nor has the three-part test been met.
Instead, the Chair has before it two interpretations of the issue. On the one hand, the member for Victoria has explained that he believes the statements of the Minister of State for Finance are deliberately misleading because the minister improperly claimed that a Department of Finance study referred to potential job losses due to the NDP pension reform proposal. On the other hand, the parliamentary secretary rejects that characterization, arguing that the minister believes he is justified in linking the finance department report and the NDP pension proposal. Thus, I can only conclude that the Chair is confronted with a matter of debate on a dispute as to the facts in this case.
It should be noted that in my ruling of March 3, 2014, I reminded the House of Speaker Parent’s ruling on October 19, 2000, at page 9247 of the Debates, which states:
Only on the strongest and clearest evidence can the House or the Speaker take steps to deal with cases of attempts to mislead members.
For all these reasons, I cannot conclude that this qualifies as a prima facie question of privilege. I thank hon. members for their attention.
Privilege April 3rd, 2014
I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on March 27, 2014, by the member for Avalon, regarding the government’s response to written Question No. 176.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Avalon for having raised this matter, as well as the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition and the hon. Minister of State for their interventions.
In raising the matter, the member for Avalon explained that the government's response to written Question No. 176, tabled on March 6, 2014, regarding projects approved in Avalon by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency constituted a different answer than those previously supplied to similar questions.
The member stated that the accuracy of the information provided was not the issue; rather, he contended that by changing the departmental process by which information was gathered and responses made, the minister was obstructing the release of information and thereby infringing on the member’s ability to carry out his parliamentary functions.
In responding to the member’s claim, the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons argued that, in fact, an answer had been provided, but without the amount of detail or exact information that the member sought. Thus, he felt that the complaint was actually a debate over the adequacy of the response. For his part, the Minister of State for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency explained in greater detail the response preparation process followed by his department over the past several years in responding to questions from the member for Avalon.
The Chair has been asked on many occasions to weigh in on issues with respect to written questions. Through these questions of privilege, the Chair has had the opportunity to confirm for all members the role of the Chair in this regard, as well as the practices and principles that govern written questions. Some of these bear repeating today.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, states at page 522:
There are no provisions in the rules for the Speaker to review government responses to questions.
On February 8, 2005, Speaker Milliken, at page 3234 of Debates, made a similar point:
Any dispute regarding the accuracy or appropriateness of this response is a matter of debate. It is not something upon which the Speaker is permitted to pass judgment.
On April 3, 2012, in my ruling on another question raised with respect to the government’s response to a written question, I reaffirmed this practice.
The Chair understands that the member is not asking for a judgment on the accuracy of the answer provided. However, he is asking the Chair to judge the actions of the minister and the effect these have had on his ability to function as a member of Parliament. To do so would require the Chair to judge not only the content of answers provided, but also to delve into internal departmental processes past and present. Regardless of whether the department's internal processes on written questions have changed or not, it remains beyond the role of the Chair to undertake an investigation into any such matter or to render any judgment on it.
The Chair’s role is limited to assessing the evidence presented in order to determine whether there has been interference in a member’s ability to perform his or her parliamentary duties. In the present circumstances, the Chair can find no evidence to suggest that the member has been unable to perform his duties.
I therefore cannot find grounds to rule this matter to be a prima facie question of privilege.
I thank the House for its attention.
The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons is rising.