An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Ethics Commissioner and Senate Ethics Officer) and other Acts in consequence

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

Sponsor

Jacques Saada  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)Government Orders

April 29th, 2010 / 1:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

“Only candidates elected by the people will be named to the upper house”, said the Prime Minister in 2004. “The upper house remains a dumping ground for the favoured cronies of the prime minister”, complained the current Prime Minister in 2004. “A Conservative government will not appoint to the Senate anyone who does not have a mandate from the people”, again from the Conservative Party.

Those are some of the claims that the Prime Minister has made, along with many other statements about the Senate that, unfortunately, have undermined the credibility of the Senate in the minds of the public.

What has the Prime Minister actually done, given those very clear assertions over many years that he would not be appointing senators and that there would not be partisan appointments? The Prime Minister appointed more senators in a single year than any prime minister in history. He appointed 27 senators. He is the Senate patronage king, and these have been some of the most blatant, partisan appointments in history.

We have seen well-connected party partisans throughout the Senate appointments, including fundraising chairs, national fundraising chairs, top strategists, Conservative staffers, Conservative communications advisers, failed candidates, Conservative-leaning journalists and so on. Essentially, we have an entire national election team for the Conservatives now on the Senate payroll. That is not even speaking to some of the questionable histories of senators, such as the one who is facing a sexual harassment complaint before a Human Rights Tribunal and who was president of an organization under investigation for financial impropriety.

How does this speak to the credibility of the Prime Minister's claims about improving democracy through his changes to the Senate? Not well, I would contend.

The objective claimed is to modernize democracy, which is a laudable objective.

I would like to talk a bit about some of the context that the government has on its record in terms of democracy. If we are to take improving democracy at face value, we would expect to see that as having been an objective with the government and the Prime Minister. I would contend that the facts do not suggest that is the case.

What about the fundamental underpinnings of democracy, such as openness, accountability and integrity? How has the Prime Minister fared?

In terms of openness, is the Prime Minister willing to hear from Canadians? I think a number of organizations would contest that willingness. In fact, organizations that disagree with the government are finding themselves punished. A member of one organization in civil society told me yesterday that there was a chill right across civil society because many organizations, such as the Canadian Council on Learning, KAIROS and Rights & Democracy, are seeing their funding cut for ideological reasons or because they are speaking up, which is what their organizations are designed to do.

In terms of openness, we have an Information Commissioner calling the government the most secretive in history. I have an example of that in a freedom of information request that I put forward around the disaster in a Canadian pavilion at the Olympics. I received two blanked out pages. Maybe that information was a state secret or a military secret but I do not think so.

In terms of openness, the government is preventing debate on critical issues by slipping key public policy changes into budget implementation bills, so that it does not have to debate on their merit. These are key issues, such as pay equity, the Canada Environmental Assessment Act and the protection of our environment. One must conclude that openness, that fundamental tenet of democracy, is not something that the government has promoted. In fact, it has seriously undermined it.

The same argument, unfortunately, needs to be made for accountability. The ruling by the Speaker the other day was an example. There are numerous other examples of accountability breaches by the Conservative government.

One of the key democratic mechanisms that we have as parliamentarians is the oversight officers of Parliament. The list of those oversight officers, or independent officers, whose job it is to ensure the integrity of government, who have been fired, sidelined, “resigned” early in their term or not reappointed, is very long. It includes the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Linda Keen; the environment commissioner, the president of the Law Commission of Canada, the head of the Canada Emission Reduction Incentives Agency, the Military Police Complaints Commissioner, the RCMP Public Complaints Commissioner; and the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.

The Liberal Party of Canada hosted a round table on that very issue during prorogation here in Ottawa. We heard from a range of constitutional experts and others as to the weakening of the fabric of democracy that takes place when the oversight officers are not able to speak their minds and are not able to speak the truth without fear of retribution. How does that illustrate the government's commitment to democracy? It actually illustrates the opposite.

I would remind all members of the words of Aristotle:

If liberty and equality, as is thought by some are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.

That is not what we have been seeing under the Conservative government. unfortunately.

This is relevant to Bill C-10 because there is a claim here that the government is trying to strengthen democracy.

The process by which Bill C-10 has come about is one that raises great questions. I will just provide a quick summary of the timeline.

Bill C-10 has several predecessors. In May 2006, Bill C-4 was introduced. It was recommended by the Senate to go to the Supreme Court of Canada on the constitutionality issues. The bill died when Parliament was prorogued in September 2007. This was followed by Bill C-19, which was tabled but never brought back for debate. It died in 2008 when an election was called just after the government passed a fixed election date law.

In May 2009, Bill S-7 came back to the House with the same eight year term limits. It was debated for three days only and then it died when the Prime Minister prorogued the House in January 2010 to avoid accountability with respect to questions on the Afghan detainee issue.

The bill has come back a fourth time as Bill C-10, with some minor modifications. One must question whether this is actually a serious attempt to improve democracy or whether it is posturing by the government. Whatever it might be, one must conclude that this process does not create confidence in the government's intentions with respect to this bill.

Let us look at the content of the bill itself. The Minister of State for Democratic Reform spoke to this issue briefly. A key legal issue to this is whether it is constitutional. The minister of state claims that there is a consensus that it is. The reading that I have done shows that the very serious question of constitutionality has not been resolved and unilateral action by Parliament to amend the Senate in this type of case should be referred to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The legal issue is around the upper house reference case of 1980 in which the Supreme Court of Canada decided that amendments affecting the essential characteristics or fundamental features of the Senate must have provincial involvement. Despite the amending procedures in the Constitution Act of 1982, this judgment continues to have relevance, according to many constitutional authorities.

Then the question is, does this bill affect the essential characteristics or fundamental features of the Senate. Of the two principles, one is experienced oversight, that is, both of legislation and complex societal issues, and two, independence. Let us consider how this bill might affect these essential characteristics.

I ask members to think back to eight years ago in their own lives and ask themselves whether they have mastered something to the point where they would be capable of sober, credible oversight for all Canadians on the issue. Eight years may seem like a long time, but it does not enable a person to provide the kind of input that our senators, whom I am very proud of, are able to provide. Aboriginal elders, for example, are the wisdom of their communities. Are they cut off after eight years as no longer being relevant? No.

Independence is clearly impacted by an eight-year term because in two terms a prime minister can turn over the entire membership of the Senate, which would clearly impact its independence. We could have a Senate consisting of one party or another. As Benjamin Franklin said, democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. That seems to be what Mr. Harper is aiming for in the Senate with this bill.

EthicsOral Question Period

April 30th, 2004 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

Brossard—La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, it is amazing to hear this question when this party had agreed to the code we are tabling in the House before prorogation. Are those members changing their minds? Are they flip-flopping? Or are they maybe playing political games?

We have done what we had to do. We passed Bill C-4 to implement the position of a commissioner of ethics. We have had an appointment of a commissioner of ethics. We have a code of conduct before the House to be debated and finished with. We have done everything we had to do and committed to do to make sure we are transparent before the Canadian public.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 29th, 2004 / 11:50 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, one more issue that we ought to consider is the fact that this report becomes a part of the Standing Orders and those Standing Orders can actually be amended at any time. The fact is that putting it not into a statute but into the Standing Orders provides for the kind of flexibility the hon. member has just spoken of, so that if there are errors, they can be corrected.

However, Bill C-4 becomes a statute. That is the one that provides specifically the activities of the commissioner and it is much more difficult to change. I would simply point out, probably more as a comment, although I would be interested in the member's response, that this set-up right now is pretty well written in stone. I guess our only hope can be that the newly appointed ethics commissioner will respond according to our expectations.

Although I did not hear it from the government side, the member said and I said and all of us have said that we do expect him to deal honestly, fairly and openly, all those things. Those are the expectations even though I think there is a place in the legislation, in the report we are discussing today and in the ethics code, to weasel out of it if the ethics commissioner were so inclined. But we are hopeful and are expecting that he will not.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 29th, 2004 / 11:50 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would reiterate again the concern that was expressed by the member for Saint John. She said that the ethics commissioner, in dealing with public officer holders, has a different role. It is very explicit in section 72.07 of Bill C-4:

The mandate of the Ethics Commissioner in relation to public office holders is

(a) to administer any ethical principles, rules or obligations established by the Prime Minister--

In other words, the Prime Minister establishes them. The bill provides that the Prime Minister must table that in the House so that it is accessible to everyone.

In the previous 10 years, remember that the then prime minister kept saying, “I have this code, I have this code,” but we could not get a copy of it. It took six years of cajoling until finally the thing was made public. Now the legislation requires that it be made public, but the Prime Minister is still the author of it according to the bill.

Also, it says explicitly:

(b) to provide confidential advice to the Prime Minister with respect to those ethical principles, rules or obligations and ethical issues in general; and

(c) to provide confidential advice to a public office holder with respect to the application--

There is all this private and confidential advice referred to. On the one hand I can see where it has some merit. Everything cannot be done out in the public, but how does the public know that the thing is being administered properly if there is all this confidential advice being given to the ministers and the Prime Minister? I would appreciate the member's comments on that.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 29th, 2004 / 10:40 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to this motion this morning.

A number of people in my riding admit to watching CPAC regularly. I ask them, through you, Mr. Speaker, if that is the end of the excitement in their life, what do they do in the evenings? I also ask them if they have any other medical problems. Those who are watching CPAC and listening to the debate on the motion to concur in the 25th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs must be saying to themselves that this is another report that will sit on someone's shelf and then be archived so that a 100 years from now people will be able to study it, if they are so inclined to look at the history of the country.

I submit that the motion today is one of great significance because we have an increasing loss of trust and confidence in our political process and in our Parliament. Consequently, having such a code, I believe is first and foremost rather helpful in rebuilding that trust and confidence, just as the purpose of the code says. I would like to remind members why we are here.

It was just a little under two years ago, I believe in June, that the initiative was introduced by then Prime Minister Chrétien. It was a big point plan on increasing ethics in government. We must not forget what it was that triggered that response.

Members will recall that the Auditor General presented her first report at that time on what has now become the ad scam scandal. We will recall that in January of that year, the former minister of public works and government services, Mr. Gagliano, was summarily dismissed from cabinet, dismissed from Parliament and dismissed from the country. He was sent way off to Denmark to do his penance at maybe $200,000 a year. No wonder people are outraged at this place, when they see that this is the way their taxpayer money is being abused and misused. Consequently, the government responded in what I call damage control mode by trying to do whatever it could to put a better spin on this.

Notwithstanding that this was the motivation, I am in concurrence with the report and with the code. I have worked on this. I had the privilege of working way back, about seven or eight years ago, on the Milliken-Oliver report which was an extended study. It was a great exercise. As members know, the first individual mentioned is the present Speaker of the House. The second one is the hon. Senator Oliver who I got to know and really respect and appreciate. When we on this side of the House sometimes cry for the election of senators, I know people like Mr. Oliver would certainly be re-elected because he is a very good, hard-working and a respectable person.

In that committee we dealt with the necessity for a code of conduct for parliamentarians. Now, some seven or eight years later we finally have one. I would like to take this occasion to thank all those people, including the member for Peterborough, who so ably chaired the procedure and House affairs committee as we worked through this, and all staffers who worked so hard as well in doing the research and helping us with this work. In that sense, I am pleased with this.

However, I would also like to point out that this is taking a tremendously large action to solve a problem that does not exist. The committee is recommending that we adopt the code of conduct for parliamentarians. If we adopt it, we adopt its recommendations. The first recommendation is that the conflict of interest code for members of the House of Commons be included in our Standing Orders, and after that become a guide for how we behave as parliamentarians.

However, this is a redundant exercise in a sense. In the years I have been in the House there has not been a single scandal, to my knowledge, involving an ordinary backbench member of Parliament on either the government side or in opposition. I think some have had a few difficulties. I think one or two have had charges of drunken driving, which is a criminal offence, and we need to encourage members of Parliament to not only set laws, but to obey them. That is my own personal code.

I am probably the only person in Ottawa, even walking home at midnight, who stops at walk lights. Everybody walks past me and probably thinks what a stupid man I am. I stop because of two reasons. One, I need the rest and relaxation. It is mandatory. Let us stop and look around a bit instead of always running. The second reason is that it is the law and I believe in obeying the law. That is why I do it. I have a couplet that I use as one of my personal mottos, “You can't be a lawmaker if you are going to be a lawbreaker”. I try to the best of my ability to obey all the laws of the land, even some with which I perhaps do not agree 100%. I do it and members of Parliament should do it.

However, the real issue in the country is not with ordinary members of Parliament. Therefore, I believe the results of this code will be almost non-consequential in the sense that I believe most parliamentarians right now basically are living up to this code already. All it will be is a disclosure and a declaration that indeed they are.

What really disturbs me is the fact that when it comes to ministers of the Crown, the government as they are called, this code only applies to them when they are working as members of Parliament. As we know, all the executive branch is chosen from the rank of elected members of Parliament. Yes, they were elected as members, as all of us are. When they act in a the role of cabinet minister, they become the government and, lo and behold, the bill, which gave essence to this code of conduct, is specific in excluding cabinet ministers when they act in that role.

It says in the bill that when acting as a minister of the Crown, for greater clarify the code shall not apply. I am speaking from memory, but I think the wording is that for greater clarity, the prime minister's code shall apply. There are some who will contend that the prime minister's code is more stringent, and in some areas it is. However, there are other areas in which it is not as stringent. One of those is the whole issue of the public reporting of wrongdoing.

Under the code, we are being asked to adopt, and under the legislation which governs it, if there is misconduct by a backbencher, then the result of that investigation by the ethics commissioner will be made public. It is not clear to me at all in the legislation that if a minister of the Crown does something that is untoward, that will be made public. There is an argument going on because Bill C-4 provides that the ethics commissioner will provide confidential advice to the prime minister on matters of ministers of the Crown.

We have a two tier system here. The first is for MPs who have very little say on government contracts. In fact, let us be honest, they have no say at all. They are being held to a higher standard of ethical conduct than the ministers of the Crown who control, as the public works minister does, budgets of billions of dollars. Right now we are finding that the accountability is just absent.

I would like to digress for a few seconds about the ethics commissioner himself. We heard him in committee the other day. Very frankly, Dr. Shapiro presents a good resumé. When the issue came up earlier today on whether or not the House should concur in his appointment, we did not object strenuously. We objected only on the basis of the method of choice.

I object to the fact that he was invited by the Prime Minister's Office to serve in this role. His name was put forward and then we had a debate in a Liberal dominated committee and a vote in a Liberal dominated House.

In this particular instance, as I said, I have no reason to have any lack of trust in the new person who is going to be appointed. However, it is very near sighted of us in this place to set up a process that only fits the here and now. There will come a time in the future where the choice of the person by the government will not meet the approval of all of the members on this side.

There is no mechanism which would require meaningful input from opposition parties. The government, especially if it is a majority government, can in effect choose whom it will, whether that person has the approval of members over here or not.

I trust that Dr. Shapiro will do a good and honourable job. In fact, I have told him personally that it is my expectation. We shall await eagerly to see how he does his work. Personally, I think we should give him our utmost cooperation.

As a little aside, I think that the attitude of the Liberal government in doing this, unfortunately, is exactly the antithesis of what we are trying to accomplish with this particular motion today.

I would like to point out that by jamming through, with the government's majority, its method of choice over the protestations of all of the members in opposition has actually helped to increase the distrust of Canadians. If Canadians see that they ask, “Why do they not trust all the members of Parliament? Why do they only trust themselves with their whipped votes?” That is also a very serious issue with respect to the trust that people have.

I would like to make a few comments about some of the issues in the motion. I took note of one of the things that it says in the definitions. In the definition for a common law partner in relation to the code, it states:

--with respect to a Member, means a person who is cohabiting with the Member in a conjugal relationship--

About 20 to 25 years ago then Prime Minister Trudeau said “The government has no place in the bedrooms of the nation”. I think most of us agree with that. That is very intrusive of the government. Here we are saying that if members are living at the same address with persons and not cohabiting in that sense, they are excluded. That is a fat joke.

Interestingly, this morning I got word in my office here in Ottawa that there are people who are separated, and sometimes even divorced, but because of financial necessity they must still live in the same house. Therefore, he lives in the basement and she lives upstairs. They have totally separate lives, but the income tax department is now saying that they are still spouses because they have the same address. It does not allow them to separate their income tax forms.

That came to my attention just this morning. It has nothing to do with this motion, but it shows how silly it is for us to define members who are cohabiting by including that term “conjugal relationship”. Who is ever going to tell whether they are conjugating? Members know what I mean.

The member's family is also wrapped into this and I mentioned this in a question to the parliamentary secretary earlier. It says that this includes all of the people. We really debated this in committee and we have come up with a reasonably good solution.

If members of Parliament receive personal gain through their spouse or through their underage children, that is offensive. But at the same time, many of us have children who are adults in their own right and they ought to and properly are excluded. It involves only members or common-law partners and dependent children in essence.

I would like to point out the fact that there are some useful exclusions of activities that are acceptable. One, for example, is that members of Parliament are not considered in a conflict of interest if they continue to carry on a business. We know that many members do and that would be an intrusion in their lives to require them, if they run for public office, to sell their little family business or whatever they have going.

Here is one. It states that a member shall not participate in debate on or vote on a question in which he or she has a private interest. I do not know whether the members present here recall, but not very long ago we had a motion when we had a conflict going between who was the real prime minister in this place. We had the previous prime minister, Mr. Chrétien, sitting there as the nominal prime minister and the prime minister in waiting at that time who had been or was about to be chosen by his party. They were both in control of certain aspects of government. We had a motion on when this transition should take place. I took note of the fact that in that vote the former prime minister and the former finance minister, the present Prime Minister, both voted on that.

According to this code, that would not be possible. What distresses me is that this was not permitted then, but they did it anyway, with impunity in my opinion. We need to be careful about this.

There is a whole issue on gifts; receiving, disclosure of them and travel. Those are all really good things because of the fact that this can influence members of Parliament and cabinet ministers.

I hope that on the adoption of this code and on the appointment of a new ethics commissioner that things improve around this place. I hope that we do not degenerate into partisan attacks using the commissioner now for partisan attacks, instead of as has been done in the past, using him as part of the damage control team. I can see this potential. We need to be warned about it.

One of the issues in this code is that when there is a complaint against a member, it will ultimately come to a vote right in this House. If we have a majority government, of say Conservative members over there next time, I hope that we will withhold our partisanship when voting on the outcome of such a debate. Let us be sure that as true parliamentarians we obey the rules of fairness.

In conclusion, to me personally, the whole code of conduct can be wrapped up in two short sentences. First, do not lie. Second, do not steal.

Employment Insurance ProgramThe Royal Assent

March 31st, 2004 / 4:05 p.m.
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The Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that, when the House went up to the Senate chamber, Her Excellency the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill C-26, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2004—Chapter 5.

Bill C-212, an act respecting user fees—Chapter 6.

Bill C-4, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Ethics Commissioner and Senate Ethics Officer) and other acts in consequence—Chapter 7.

Bill C-27, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2005—Chapter 8.

Bill C-260, an act to amend the Hazardous Products Act (fire-safe cigarettes)—Chapter 9.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

February 23rd, 2004 / 3 p.m.
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The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on two points of order: the first one was raised on Friday, February 13 by the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough regarding an alleged discrepancy between Bill C-34 from the second session of the 37th Parliament and its reinstated version during the current session, Bill C-4; and the second one was raised by the hon. member for St. John's West regarding the electronic PDF and the HTML versions of the bill.

The member claims that Bill C-4 is not in the same form as Bill C-34 at the time of prorogation because the English version of clause 12 of the reinstated bill contains at page 14, lines 25 and 27, the expression “the office of the Senate Ethics Officer or office of the Ethics Commissioner” whereas Bill C-34 referred to the expression “office of the Ethics Commissioner or office of the Ethics Commissioner”. Because Bill C-4 includes the words “Senate Ethics Officer” in replacement of the first occurrence of the words “Ethics Commissioner” in that subsection, it is the contention of the member that the bill is not in the same form as Bill C-34 at the time of prorogation.

The Chair has looked into the matter and consulted with the officials of the House responsible for the preparation of bills.

I would ask the House to bear with me as I explain the process whereby the change came to be made and render my decision regarding the validity of the point of order before us.

There is a longstanding practice between the law clerks of the two Houses that they will administratively correct errors in bills when they both agree that they are faced with an obvious printing error. This is an authority that they exercise with extreme care, in rare cases, and only after they are satisfied that the error is a manifest error. Let me explain the specific circumstances of this case.

I have been informed that indeed the words “Senate Ethics Officer” were added in replacement of the words “Ethics Commissioner” to the electronic version of Bill C-34 following an agreement between the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the Senate and the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House to the effect that the absence of those words in the subsection rendered the text unintelligible and constituted an error that could be fixed administratively.

On October 30, 2003, when Bill C-34 was in the Senate, the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the Senate advised the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House that Bill C-34 contained, at page 14, lines 25 to 27 of the English version, the expression “office of the Ethics Commissioner or office of the Ethics Commissioner”. After careful analysis of the surrounding text in both the English and French versions of the bill, he contended that this redundancy constituted an error that could be fixed administratively if the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House came to the same conclusion. I note here that this error appeared in the first reading version of the bill as drafted by the Department of Justice and had until that point in time remained undetected.

The Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House did indeed reach that same conclusion. His reasoning can be summarized as follows, and there are five reasons.

First, the expression “office of the Ethics Commissioner or office of the Ethics Commissioner” in the English version is a repetition that in itself is nonsensical.

Second, the English version thus refers only to the office of the Ethics Commissioner for the House of Commons whereas the French version of that same subsection refers to both the offices of the House ethics commissioner and the Senate ethics officer, that is the “bureau du conseiller sénatorial en éthique” et le “commissariat à l'éthique”.

Third, when the English and French versions are looked at as a whole, it becomes evident that the absence of the words “Senate” and “Officer” in the English version of subsection (2) renders the meaning of the English version uncertain, whereas the French version is clear and unequivocal.

Fourth, in subsections (1) and (3) of the section amended, as well as in clauses 9 to 18 of the bill, one notes the consistent use of the terms “Senate, House of Commons, Library of Parliament, office of the Senate Ethics Officer or office of the Ethics Commissioner”. Only in subsection (2), which is the one under review, are the words “Senate” and “Officer” absent.

Fifth, the insertion of the words “Senate” and “Officer” in subsection (2) reconciles the two versions of the bill, and achieves consistency of meaning within the English version itself.

In summary, then, the law clerks applied two very rigorous tests to the situation: first, they were satisfied that the error was a manifest printing error; and second, they agreed that there was only one way to correct that error. Therefore, the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House prepared a new parchment copy of page 14 where the words “Senate Ethics Officer” were inserted in replacement of the first occurrence of the words “Ethics Commissioner” in subsection (2), and forwarded it to the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the Senate.

On October 31, 2003, the electronic PDF version of Bill C-34 was also corrected to reflect the change agreed upon. This took place before the prorogation of the House on November 12, 2003. Unfortunately, because of human error, the HTML version remained erroneous.

When Bill C-34 was reinstated during the present session, the PDF electronic version of Bill C-34 served as a source document for the preparation of Bill C-4. This explains why Bill C-4 contains the expression “office of the Senate Ethics Officer”, as pointed out by the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough.

After a careful review of the facts, the Chair is satisfied that the administrative correction of this clerical error by the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House was consistent with the long-standing practice of the law clerks of both Houses relating to the correction of obvious printing or clerical errors.

Although such corrections are relatively rare, I believe that for greater clarity there should be a mechanism for informing members of these changes. Accordingly, I have directed the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House to inform the Speaker of any such changes by letter that I will then table in the House for the information of all hon. members.

By so doing, I believe we will ensure that the time of the House or its committees is not wasted on correcting manifest clerical or printing errors, while nonetheless ensuring that members are aware of any change, however minor, made to the text of proposed legislation before them.

So, to turn to the matter of the point of order, it is the opinion of the Chair that Bill C-4 is indeed in the same form as Bill C-34 in the second session. The administrative correction described above did not affect the form of the bill; it was correctly incorporated as part of the bill before prorogation of the last session and so is appropriately included in the bill as reinstated in this session.

I thank the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough and the hon. member for St. John's West for their vigilance. Their raising this important matter has given the Chair an opportunity not only to clarify the situation with regard to Bill C-4 but to set down a protocol for better dealing with such issues in the future.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

February 16th, 2004 / 3:15 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, on Friday the hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough rose on a point of order concerning differences between bills, Bill C-34 of the second session, and Bill C-4, which the government tendered as a duplicate of Bill C-34 to comply with the special order of the House allowing reinstatement of bills.

My colleague drew the attention of the Speaker to difficulties in the printed versions, particularly in clause 19(2).

I want to draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to variations with the versions of Bill C-4 on the website.

The PDF electronic version of the bill is different from the HTML version, again in clause 19(2), and I know the Speaker is quite familiar with these versions so I will not explain to him what they are.

The order of the House permitting reinstatement is very clear. The bill must be in the same form. It cannot have different language or alterations that have not been approved by the House of Commons. It is not open to tinker with the bill in any way.

The House was very specific in requiring the bill to be reintroduced as it was at prorogation.

The subject matter of this bill is ethical conduct, so I call on the government to take this opportunity to bring in a new bill reflecting the Prime Minister's views on ethics, not those of the previous Chrétien government.

I ask the Speaker to declare the proceedings of Bill C-4 to be null and void.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

February 13th, 2004 / noon
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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend you for having operated such a streamlined question period that we got two additional questions today.

In the House of Commons this week my colleague from St. John's West rose at the end of question period to bring to the House's attention a concern that he had about the reintroduction of bills.

This week in the House a number of bills were reintroduced. I will not speak to the fashion in which those bills came back. Specifically, at page 439 of Hansard the member for St. John's West rose to bring the Chair's attention to the fact that he wanted the government to be vigilant in the reintroduction of those bills. He was looking for assurances from the government House leader that the bills would be brought back in the proper form. The member was asking that they not be tampered with and that they be presented in the original form.

I refer to page 440 where the House leader responded that yes and in fact on Bill C-4, he said:

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the special order made previously, I would like to inform the House that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-34 was in the previous session at the time of prorogation.

The Speaker then responded:

The Chair is satisfied that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-34 was at the time of prorogation of the 2nd session, 37th Parliament.

It has come to our attention, upon examination of the original Bill C-34 and the current bill that was reintroduced, that at page 14 of the original bill, there is a line in section 19(2) and I am reading that entire passage for the Chair, “In addition to any method of service permitted by the law of a province, service of documents on the Senate, House of Commons, Library of Parliament, office of the Senate Ethics Officer”. That is page 14, line 25, section 19(2), and I draw your attention specifically to that line which reads “office of the Senate Ethics Officer”. I now draw the Chair's attention to Bill C-34, the new bill introduced by the government, the same passage, the same section 19(2), line 25, “the office of the Ethics Commissioner”.

The text has been altered. The text is not the same. The bill is therefore not in the same form that it was introduced in the last Parliament, after receiving the assurances of the government House leader who I know passed that information on to the Chair.

I would ask that the Chair examine this inconsistency and review the original ruling that was given by the Speaker on that day.

Parliament of Canada ActRoutine Proceedings

February 11th, 2004 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Brossard—La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-4, An act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Ethics Commissioner and Senate Ethics Officer) and other Acts in consequence.

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the special order made previously, I would like to inform the House that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-34 was in the previous session at the time of prorogation.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)