Bill C-32 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Pierre Pettigrew Liberal
Not active, as of Dec. 7, 2004
(This bill did not become law.)
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment amends the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and other Acts as a consequence of the establishment of the Department of International Trade.
January 30th, 2007 / 5:05 p.m.
Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that this is the first time that I stand in this House as the opposition justice critic and I am very pleased to do so.
It gives me great pleasure to speak to Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
As I just said in French, this is my first speech as the official opposition's justice critic. I look forward to working with my colleagues, be they in my party or in other parties, to provide intelligent, smart solutions to all justice issues that come before this House.
In considering Bill C-32, we must look at its history in order to understand it. The history of Bill C-32 goes back quite a few years, in fact to May 1999 when the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights released a report entitled “Toward Eliminating Impaired Driving”.
The committee then recognized that drugs were a contributing factor to some fatal motor vehicle accidents. It also emphasized the need to develop better measures to detect drug impaired driving and to obtain the proper evidence allowing for the successful prosecution of individuals who drove while under the influence of drugs.
A further study on this issue was the Senate special committee on illegal drugs report entitled “Cannabis: Our Position for a Canadian Public Policy”. One of its important findings was that there was no reliable, non-intrusive, rapid roadside test for drugs. In the case of cannabis, the best way to test is through blood samples. This then obviously represents a challenge that needs to be met in order to address the problem of drug impaired driving.
In response to the 1999 report, the Department of Justice and its working group on impaired driving consulted extensively with the provinces and territories. The results of these consultations was the October 2003 release of the report entitled “Drug-Impaired Driving: Consultation Document”. This document pointed out that many drug impaired drivers were not voluntarily participating in testing. It does stress the need to develop measures that would allow police to demand that drivers suspected of being impaired by drug use would submit to testing.
The report highlighted two options. The first option was to set a legal limit on the presence of drugs on the body. The second option was to propose legislation that would improve the ability of our law enforcement, our police officers, to demand drug tests. A certified officer could demand a physical sobriety test or take a saliva or sweat sample at the roadside based on the reasonable suspicion of drug impairment. Failure on such a test would then represent reasonable grounds to conduct a more detailed evaluation and, obviously, more intrusive evaluation at a police station. The bill that is before us, Bill C-32, follows in the steps of this second option.
The House of Commons special committee report on the non-medical use of drugs released in the fall of 2003 called for Parliament to develop a strategy addressing the question of drug impaired driving. In April 2004, our then Liberal government, and it is quite coincidental I am sure that the present government bill carries the same number, reintroduced Bill C-32. That bill would have dealt with the drug impaired driving in the fashion described above. Unfortunately, the bill died on the order paper in May 2004 when an election was called.
The Liberals were re-elected, albeit as a minority government, and in November 2004 reintroduced that same bill but as Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. That bill made its way to committee and was reported back to the House with some amendments. Unfortunately, that piece of legislation also died on the order paper when the election was called in November 2005.
Thus, the current minority Conservative government's Bill C-32 has followed in the footsteps taken by the previous Liberal government. The Conservatives, however, have chosen to reintroduce it with a few changes, namely, by incorporating stronger penalties than the Liberals' two previous bills had envisioned.
On the same topic, I noted that Canadian Press reported on the introduction of Bill C-2 with the following words. I am quoting from the November 22 wire which reads:
The federal Conservatives have brought in legislation to crack down on drug-impaired drivers--by resurrecting a plan first advanced by the Liberals, adding heavier fines and jail terms, and calling the result a Tory initiative.
I think that this description is accurate, and I can only commend the Tories for recognizing a great idea even when it was developed and first presented by another party, the Liberal Party when it was the government.
Now that we have discussed the background for the bill before us, we must examine the amendments it will make to the Criminal Code. The summary for Bill C-32 reads as follows:
This enactment amends the Criminal Code
(a) to create an offence of operating a motor vehicle while in possession of a controlled substance as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act;
(b) to authorize specially trained peace officers to conduct tests to determine whether a person is impaired by a drug or a combination of alcohol and a drug;
(c) to authorize the taking of bodily fluids to test for the presence of alcohol or a drug;
(d) to create an offence of operating a motor vehicle with a concentration of alcohol in the blood that exceeds 80 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood and causing bodily harm or death to another person;
(e) to clarify what evidence a person accused of driving with a concentration of alcohol in the blood that exceeds 80 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood can introduce to raise a doubt that they were not committing the offence;
(f) to create an offence of refusing to provide a breath sample when the accused knows or ought to know that the accused’s operation of a motor vehicle caused an accident resulting in bodily harm to another person or death; and
(g) to increase the penalties for impaired driving.
The enactment also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.
As the Liberal justice critic, I want to say that my party takes very seriously problems of impaired driving caused by alcohol and/or other drugs. In my opinion, the proof of this is that, when we formed the government, we twice introduced a bill amending the Criminal Code to deal with this problem.
I believe the proof is there. We take this issue very seriously and we also take very seriously measures that are smart and effective and that have a good chance and even an excellent chance of achieving the intended objectives. Moreover, we support initiatives to provide services responsible for maintaining public order with concrete and effective tools to implement legislation aimed at cracking down on impaired driving caused by alcohol or other drugs.
We are therefore prepared to support Bill C-32 so that it can make its way to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The committee could examine the bill in greater detail and summon witnesses and experts to give their own particular perspective. In addition, the committee could propose any amendments it deems necessary. However, I would like to say that we still have reservations about some aspects of this bill. We hope that the government will work constructively with all the opposition parties to address these reservations and that the most useful and most effective legislation will be adopted.
What concerns or reservations do we have about this bill?
Some hon. members have already voiced them.
The Canada Safety Council has already voiced some objections to roadside drug testing. It asks which type of drugs police would test for. Would it simply be illicit, illegal drugs, or would it also be drugs that are legal, in the sense that they are prescription drugs. The person could be in legal possession of those prescription drugs, but the effects of those drugs may cause impairment and it is clearly indicated, for instance, as part of the protocol for taking that drug.
How many of us have not come down with a bad cold or a bad infection, have been prescribed medication by our doctor and when we receive it at the pharmacy it clearly says on the label not to operate machinery or a moving vehicle while taking that medication.
The Canada Safety Council has concerns about what are the drugs that are going to be tested for and whether there will be the possibility of distinguishing between prescription drugs and illegal drugs. As well, how would we deal with the fact that there are certain drugs, like marijuana, which may linger in the body well after the initial high is over and well after the effects of impairment of one's abilities have completely dissipated but traces of the drug still remain?
The Canada Safety Council is asking these questions. How is this bill going to deal with these issues? These are questions that hopefully will be answered if this bill goes to committee.
As I said, as the Liberal critic I will be recommending to my colleagues to vote in favour to send it on to committee so that we can attempt to get answers to these questions and, if it is possible, to amend the bill. If we are given solid answers by experts who say that yes, we could do that and we could amend the legislation in such a way to ensure that it happened, then we would hope that we would get government cooperation in order to do so.
I had another question which was not answered by the parliamentary secretary during questions and comments. I asked whether or not studies had been done to determine in what percentage of cases where there has been death or injury caused by a motor vehicle and there is evidence of impairment--and let us just consider alcohol impairment--the Crown actually brought forth manslaughter charges, which includes the section of the Criminal Code that exists right now that deals with manslaughter and also includes death and injury caused by a vehicle, including impaired driving and provides for a maximum sentence of life.
I would like to know what scientific studies have been done to determine why it is that those provisions have not been used obviously sufficiently from what the parliamentary secretary said. He talked about people who are impaired causing carnage with their vehicles et cetera and that they are getting away with it because they are refusing to take the testing. Where are the problems? We have provisions right now but they appear not to be used. Why is that? What is the evidence that would show why they are not being used?
Finally, we know the government has announced that it will be placing $2 million to the benefit of our law enforcement in order to get the training and to do these roadside sobriety tests. How much money, if any, is the government planning to use to do a public education campaign?
History has shown that Canada-wide public education campaigns about impaired driving have been very well received by the public.
That is why today people have a designated driver when they spend an evening with friends or go to a party in a hall or restaurant where alcohol is served. Today, the vast majority of people resign themselves to drinking nothing. But if they do decide to drink, they have a designated driver.
Does the government plan to put money and people behind the idea of an education campaign on driving while under the influence not only of alcohol, but also drugs, for example? I would like to know. Perhaps the answers will come out during the committee hearings, if the House decides to refer this bill to committee.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to my colleagues in this House who are taking part in this debate. As I have already said, I recommend that my colleagues from all parties refer this bill to committee so that we can try to answer these questions and, if necessary, improve the bill.
October 21st, 2005 / 12:10 p.m.
Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB
Mr. Speaker, for two days in a row I have had the pleasure to reflect on Bill C-65 and now Bill C-64. The government claims these bills to be representative of what Mr. Cadman, the former hon. member for Surrey, was trying to accomplish during his tour here.
As I said yesterday with respect to Bill C-65, Bill C-64 has been altered with a few words that reflect the mushy, soft on crime Liberal attitude. The bill probably will be supported by my friends to the left, the softy Bloc. The Liberals have watered down both bills because they appear to be too harsh for their souls to comprehend.
Many years ago Mr. Cadman recognized how serious auto theft had become. It is a major problem in many cities all across Canada. Close to 200,000 vehicles are stolen every year. This bill is supposed to make it an offence to alter, or remove, or obliterate vehicle identification numbers, or VIN, on motor vehicles. That was the purpose of Chuck Cadman's private member's bill, which he presented quite some time ago in the House. However, in the opinion of the Liberal government and other softies in here who support being soft on crime, the bill was too harsh.
The government has taken Chuck's bill and added a few words. Section 377.1 states, “everyone commits an offence who wholly or partially alters, removes, or obliterates a vehicle identification number on a motor vehicle without lawful excuse”. Chuck Cadman's bill would have made the onus on the person indicted. It would not be up to the Crown to try to justify the altering of the VIN in any way, shape or form.
The government added, “and under circumstances that give rise to reasonable inference that the person did so to conceal the identity of a motor vehicle”. That sentence destroys the entire purpose of Chuck Cadman's private member's bill. It has changed his bill completely, even to the point that a number of people who were very supportive of his initial bill are not supportive of this one.
Members of Chuck's family and his campaign team back in Surrey are livid with Bill C-64. I understand that letters have been written by the campaign chairman of his committee to editors of various newspapers. Those people are livid that the government would dare change these things, water down the bills and say that Bill C-64 is in memory of Chuck Cadman. By making these alterations, the government has strongly dishonoured his memory by saying that this is Chuck Cadman's bill when in fact it is not.
It is pretty clear in people's minds that Bill C-64 will put the onus on the Crown to prove someone caught with an altered VIN intended to conceal the identity of a motor vehicle rather than to explain themselves, which was Mr. Cadman's original intention. That is a very strong point.
I was here during Mr. Cadman's tenure. Over the years Chuck fought so hard for these kinds of bills and amendments. The government consistently rejected any form of mandatory licence prohibitions similar to the type that Chuck constantly proposed.
The government ignored the recommendations related to VINs. It ignored the recommendations related to street racing. It continued to soft pedal on all of these efforts to confront crime. Mr. Cadman was definitely committed to seeing that crime fighting efforts were made law in this great country to bring more emphasis to the value of victims rather than constantly seeing perpetrators receive a lot more attention.
Today in question period even the answer that I received regarding the constant idea that the rights of perpetrators seemed to override the rights of victims in all cases indicated that there was an imbalance and that there were efforts to do something about it. When a bill on some very stringent issues regarding Chuck Cadman's ideas is watered down, that is just the opposite. Once again the focus is on the predator and not the victim. The government needs to wake up and realize that is the case.
What is even more disturbing is if this bill were amended, if it passed and became law, where would it go next?. I am really disgusted when I look at some of the things that have happened in regard to decisions that are made in the House of Commons. Let me provide some short examples.
Last week, while visiting my constituents in my riding, I ran across three people who were suffering from hepatitis C. One of them does not have very long to live. I believe some time around April the House concurred in a motion put forward by our health critic, the member for Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia, that would implement the recommendation in the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Health that called for compensation to all victims of hepatitis C. It was passed in the House and all victims of hepatitis C were to receive compensation.
When these three people asked me when they would get their money, I was shocked. I knew it had been approved long ago by this place. What is going on? The House of Commons made a decision that all hepatitis C victims would be compensated, yet to this date they have not been. In other words, the government of the day is refusing to take any action. It is ignoring the decision of the House.
Let me talk further about that to illustrate my worry about these kinds of bills that may pass, and even if they are amended, but do not go anywhere.
Bill C-2, the child exploitation act, has been approved by the House of Commons. It has gone where it is supposed to go. It is supposed to be implemented and become law. This is about child exploitation. Where is it? It is my understanding it is still sitting on the Prime Minister's desk and is not going anywhere. The House of Commons passed that law and it is supposed to happen. Why has it not?
We need answers to these kinds of questions. The decision on hepatitis C was unanimous. Nobody voted against it. Everybody in this place was in favour of giving the victims of hepatitis C a cheque. Today they still have not received them, and I would like to know why. After eight months, the government cannot achieve that? Are the Liberals waiting for everybody to die and then they will not have to bother with it? That is extremely disturbing.
On November 30, 2004, the House approved another motion by the leader of our party which called upon the government to take appropriate measures to sell 11,000 acres of arable land back to the families and farmers whose lands were expropriated to build the Mirabel airport. Guess what? The government has refused to comply with the wishes of the House. It has not done that.
On April 5 the House adopted a motion by the member for Red Deer, concurring in a committee report disqualifying Glen Murray's appointment as chairman of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. Today, Mr. Murray still continues to chair the round table. Once again, the government completely ignored the decision of the House of Commons.
On February 15, Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 were defeated in the House of Commons. The trade minister shrugged off the defeat of these two bills that would create a new international trade department separate from the Department of Foreign Affairs. He said that the two branches of government would continue to operate independently, even though Parliament did not give its blessing to do so. Even though they were defeated, the two bills were implemented. I find this amazing. Bills that are defeated are implemented and bills that are passed are not, because they do not suit the attitude on that side of the House.
Bill C-2 on child exploitation was approved and is laying dormant. Will the Liberals get on with it? Is it too harsh? It might be.
I was at committee on Tuesday and one of the witnesses was from the justice department. Guess what one of his statements was when the department objected to a private member's bill, which had been brought forward by my colleague, regarding the penalties for the use of a gun in the commission of a crime? What did the official of the justice department say loud and clear? The bill was opposed because it was cruel and undue punishment. The punishment was too severe for people who would dare break the law in the commission of a crime using a gun. Yet the victims of these crimes never get to cry out about the harsh impacts on their lives from the actions of these perpetrators.
There is way too much of that going on, and it is no wonder. Every time a bill is brought in like Bill C-64, the outfit over there has to water it down because it is too harsh on the perpetrator. Never mind the guys who lose their cars to theft. Let us not get too harsh on those who steal them. How nonsensical can they get? Common sense does not prevail anywhere in the House of Commons. Decisions do not prevail in the House of Commons. It does not matter whether a motion passes, it does not get done.
I do not know if members would like more examples, but I have a ton of them, examples where the Liberals refuse to accept the decisions of the House. I do not know contemptible they can get.
Our health critic also had a motion in regard to the funding required to fight cancer and a few of the other serious diseases we are facing. He introduced a motion calling on the government to fully fund and implement a Canadian strategy for cancer control in collaboration with the provinces and all stakeholders. That was approved by the House, but there has been no action. Nothing is happening. The government refuses to give any effect to the motion. Why?
I am glad to see two or three Liberals here. I hope they are listening closely. Do they know of all the decisions that they took part in making but are not being done? Do they not care about the fact that hepatitis C victims are not being compensated, even though those people over there had a voice in that and voted yes to having it done? Does it not bother those members a little bit that people living in their ridings who have hepatitis C are not being compensated? Are they not bothered that the House is being ignored by whatever little group of individuals who do not care about decisions made here and that they will do it anyway?
Does it not bother those members that two bills designed to split a department were defeated and yet the government went ahead and created the two departments? Does it not bother those members the slightest little bit that these undemocratic, dictatorial decisions are going on right under their noses? Does it not make them squirm in their seats just a wee bit? If it does not, then it ought to make it really hot to sit in those seats. It is absolutely shameful.
And to hear the answer to my question today, that the government realizes there is an imbalance in our law and order and fighting of crime. That was the government's own admission in the answer. Why are we not doing something about it? We have an opportunity to get tough on crime. When we have a chance to get tough on street racing as Mr. Cadman wished, on the stealing of automobiles and the removing of VINs, why do we not do it?
When the Liberals make a statement that there is an imbalance, why does more favour always go toward the predators rather than the victims? This is constantly happening. When they make those statements, why do they allow it? Why do they want to amend those bills to make that happen again?
Why do the Liberals not fess up and look to the people in their ridings? How many people in their ridings are happy that we have a law in the land which says that adult men can have sex with 14-year-old girls? How many people in their ridings are happy about that? About 99% of the people in my riding are not happy about that at all, but that is the law and there is not the courage to change it because somebody over there does not want it to happen. Some soft, mushy idealist over there says that it would be too harsh, that we could not do it because it would make it difficult for those adult men who like to prey on young women who are kids. Like it or not, 14 year olds and 15 year olds are still kids. They are young girls just coming to the point of life where they can enjoy things, yet we dare allow the possibility of endangering them.
I know that questions are going to come up after this speech but boy, I would like some answers to come out of the mouths of those people over there before they ask the questions. I would like them to explain to me why they do not honour democracy, that when a decision is made in the House it is done. If they doubt it, I will give them a copy of the 14 things I know about that have been decided on but which have not been accomplished. They could take it up in the Liberal caucus if they wanted to, but it would not make any difference because they are puppets of a regime that refuses to honour the decisions of the House. That is what has to stop.
Then above all things, the most absolutely ridiculous, the most undemocratic decision I have ever heard of was to stifle the opposition by coming back in the fall and saying that there will be no opposition days. What a shameful, undemocratic disgrace the government brings to the House of Commons.
The Liberals ought to be apologizing to their constituents on a daily basis for their inaction on decisions made here and for their unwillingness to come down hard on criminals and help victims to a larger degree than they ever imagined. That is what a Conservative government would do and I would love to be part of that.
Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Act
March 23rd, 2005 / 5 p.m.
Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the address by my colleague, the hon. member for Peterborough. He listed an enormous number of things that the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development of Canada presumably will be able to undertake, if this legislation is passed. That is what we kept hearing. I guess, if that is true, it speaks to how many wonderful things the department has not been doing so far. I say that somewhat tongue in cheek because the department has been doing most of those things thus far.
We have already seen the division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade under Bill C-31 and Bill C-32, similar to what we have with the legislation in front of us, which the government undertook a year and a half ago, and it was of absolutely no consequence whatsoever with the government. When it was finally implemented by the counterpart legislation for foreign affairs, it was defeated, yet the government forged ahead with the division in any event. It did not make any difference.
Are we not wasting our time today debating this, since it seems to have little consequence to what the government actually does?
Presence in Gallery
March 23rd, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on February 17 by the hon. opposition House leader concerning remarks made by the Hon. Minister of International Trade in relation to the defeat of the motions for second reading of Bill C-31 and Bill C-32, the bills that proposed to create a Department of International Trade separate from the Department of Foreign Affairs. The hon. opposition House leader contends that these remarks represent a contempt of Parliament.
I would like to thank the hon. opposition House leader for raising this matter, as well as the hon. member for Vancouver East, the hon. member for Calgary Southeast and the hon. government House leader for their contributions when the issue was raised. I also want to thank the hon. parliamentary secretary to the Government House leader for his intervention on March 8 and the hon. member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, the hon. member for Halifax and the hon. opposition House leader for the responses to his comments.
The hon. opposition House leader in his original statement objected to comments made by the Minister for International Trade on the day following the defeat at second reading of Bill C-31 and Bill C-32. He pointed to articles in the Globe and Mail and the Ottawa Citizen which quoted the minister as saying that the two departments would continue to work independently even though Parliament had voted against the bills that proposed to split the two entities, the former Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
The hon. opposition House leader alleges that the minister's words suggest that the passage or defeat of legislation was inconsequential to the separation of the departments and, in so doing, showed disregard for the role of the House of Commons. He argues that this shows such disrespect as to constitute, in his opinion, a contempt of the House.
There are two issues in the presentation made by the hon. opposition House leader. The first issue is the current status of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade given that on February 15 the bills containing the proposal that it be split into two departments were defeated at second reading in the House. The second issue is whether actions taken or statements made by the minister in the wake of the defeat of Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 constitute a contempt of the House of Commons.
Let us consider the first issue, the status of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
On December 12, 2003, a number of orders in council were made under the authority of several statutes, including the Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act, the Public Service Employment Act, the Financial Administration Act and the Ministries and Ministers of State Act.
I draw the attention of the House, for example, to order in council numbered 2003-2052 designating the Department of International Trade as a department. Other orders in council in this series address ancillary issues related to that designation, while the existence of the positions of Minister of Foreign Affairs and a Minister of International Trade both existed pursuant to the Salaries Act prior to that day.
The Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act provides that the government, by order in council, may reorganize existing functions of government for which Parliament has voted funds. In short, existing statutes grant the government considerable leeway in proceeding with any reorganization it chooses to pursue. The Canadian custom has been to complete or confirm such rearrangements by way of legislation.
The House will note that these are some of the very points which were emphasized by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the government House leader when he spoke to this issue on March 8, saying, in part:
In reorganizing or organizing a cabinet and making use of the Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act, the government does not create new statutory authorities or powers. Rather, the government rearranges pre-existing authorities that have already been created by Parliament and does so in accordance with a legislative mechanism that has also been created by Parliament.
It would appear to the Chair that in general the power of the government to reorganize, and specifically this latest reorganization, is not very well understood. The House will recall that as far back as March 2004 questions related to the reorganization were surfacing in the House.
For example, I remind hon. members of the question of privilege raised on March 10, 2004 by the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl with regard to the form of the main estimates for 2004-05. I refer hon. members to the debates for that day at pages 1310 and 1311.
I also refer hon. members to the text, Organizing to Govern, Volume One, by the Hon. Gordon F. Osbaldeston, former Clerk of the Privy Council, who explains at page 24:
For a variety of reasons--ministerial preference, better organization fit, and other reasons...--governments may decide to rearrange their organizations. The chief legislative tool for accomplishing this type of organizational change is the Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act. Orders in council pursuant to this act are used principally for two purposes:
transfer of organizational subunits...from one organization to another...
transfer of responsibility for acts or parts of acts from one minister to another...
On page 25 he goes on to confirm:
Strictly speaking, these tools are meant only to reorganize existing functions of government for which Parliament has voted funds--any new activities must be authorized by Parliament.
So, too, in the case now before us, whether or not the House is convinced of the case for reorganization, the government nonetheless has at hand the tools to execute those plans; legislative measures like Bill C-31 and C-32 merely complement them.
I trust that the background I have just presented will assist the House in better appreciating the current situation. Here, existing functions, notably international trade, are being reconfigured and those rearrangements have been carried out by orders in council. I should say that this is what distinguishes the current situation from the one cited by the hon. opposition House leader on which Speaker Fraser ruled in 1989. In that case, a new tax, the GST, was being proposed by the government of the day, but enacting legislation had not yet been adopted in the House.
In the opinion of the Chair, the authority to begin the process of separating the departments rests on the series of orders in council adopted December 12, 2003 pursuant to existing statutory authorities granted to the government by Parliament. That authority is set out in the law and it is not for me to judge whether it is sufficient in this case.
Following a search of our precedents, I am unable to find a case where any Speaker has ruled that the government, in the exercise of regulatory power conferred upon it by statute, has been found to have breached the privileges of the House. Indeed, the hon. member is not arguing that. He seems to be suggesting that the minister's comments amounted to a breach of privilege, but if the minister was stating the legal position, it could hardly constitute a breach.
To recap then, since I promised the hon. member for Halifax that all would be made clear in this ruling, statutory authority, namely the Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act, already exists to proceed with the changes that were originally made in December by orders in council pursuant to that act. When the government introduced legislation, specifically Bill C-31 and Bill C-32, since, as explained the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, it was as a complement in keeping with “...Canadian practice...to confirm major changes in government organization through legislation”. We can think of these bills as similar to the miscellaneous statutes amendments bills that come before Parliament from time to time.
From a reading of the bills, it appears to me that they enshrine in statute the new names of the departments and ministers and spell out the mandate of international trade, not in the cryptic language of the order in council but in the more Cartesian vocabulary of legislative drafting. Furthermore, Bill C-31 appears to create a new post of associate deputy minister of international trade.
Thus, as the House well knows, on December 7, 2004, Bill C-31, an act to establish the Department of International Trade and to make related amendments to certain acts, and Bill C-32, an act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, were introduced and read a first time. These bills were debated at second reading in early February, each coming to a vote on second reading, that is to say a vote on approval in principle of each bill, on February 15. Both bills were defeated at second reading.
Where does that leave matters?
The legal consequence is not for me to address. The Chair is unable to determine what future legislative measures the government may bring forward to complete or confirm the division of the two departments. That is for the government to determine.
As my predecessors and I have pointed out in many previous rulings, where legal interpretation is at issue, it is not within the Speaker’s authority to rule or decide points of law. This principle is explained on pages 219 and 220 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice :
—while Speakers must take the Constitution and statutes into account when preparing a ruling, numerous Speakers have explained that it is not up to the Speaker to rule on the “constitutionality” or “legality” of measures before the House.
If the Chair cannot pronounce on the legality of government action, it is up to the Speaker to examine the situation and to weigh the arguments of the hon. opposition House leader to determine from a purely procedural perspective whether the privileges of the House have been breached.
I can only assume that the minister, in stating his intention to continue with the establishment of the Department of International Trade, is planning to proceed for the moment under existing authorities.
In a similar vein, the Chair has noted and draws the attention of the House to the form of the main estimates for 2005-06. Those documents present separate budgets for foreign affairs and for international trade, though the formal name Foreign Affairs and International Trade is still invoked.
Is there cause for concern, however, that the privileges of the House are breached where the government continues with its departmental reorganization by orders in council after confirmation of these initiatives was not approved by the House? Am I to find here a prima facie breach of privileges of the House?
It seems to me that in making the statement outside the House, which gave rise to the point of privilege of the hon. opposition House leader, the minister might only have meant to indicate that the reorganization by orders in council continue to have legal effect. If that was the intent of the minister's remark and the actions taken are legally valid, which I must assume is the case, it is difficult to find this comment offensive to the dignity of the House and therefore a prima facie breach of privileges.
That is not to say that the comments, if reported accurately, do not concern me. I can fully appreciate the frustration of the House and the confusion of hon. members, let alone those who follow parliamentary affairs from outside this chamber. The scrutiny of legislation is arguably the central role of Parliament.
The decision of the House at each stage of a government bill determines whether or not the proposal can go forward. How can the decisions of the House on these bills be without practical consequence?
We appear to have come upon a paradox in Canadian practice. Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 aimed to confirm executive action, action already taken pursuant to statutes by non-legislative means, and the House of Commons has refused to give that confirmation. It leaves the government and the House in a most unfortunate conflict on the matter but, on the information I have, I cannot find that this constitutes a prima facie breach of the privileges of the House.
At the end of all this, it seems to me that what we have here is an unfortunate incident that has impacted upon the working relationship between the House and the government. The hon. government House leader has said that the government is reviewing its parliamentary options. The Chair would encourage the government, during the course of that review, to have further consultations with all parties in the House to clarify events and restore the central working relationship to its usual good form.
Oral Question Period
March 8th, 2005 / 3:20 p.m.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, while my question of privilege does hinge on a couple of the other points that have been raised, I think it throws new light on this particular issue that I am about to address. My question of privilege will charge the Prime Minister with contempt for discounting a commitment that he made to the House regarding the issue of Canada's participation in ballistic missile defence.
Page 67 of Marleau and Montpetit states that the House can claim the right to punish for certain affronts against the dignity and authority of Parliament. I will argue that this is one of those cases.
When the Prime Minister reneged on his obligation from the amendment to the throne speech to allow members an opportunity to consider all public information pertaining to the missile defence agreement and to vote prior to a government decision, he acted in contempt of the House. The promise he made to Parliament was the first weave of the tangled missile defence web. More weaving was evident with respect to statements made outside and inside the House regarding when the decision was made to keep Canada out of the missile defence agreement.
On October 18, 2004, the House unanimously adopted the amendment to the Speech from the Throne. One of the sections of that amendment read:
With respect to an agreement on ballistic missile defence, the assurance that Parliament will have an opportunity to consider all public information pertaining to the agreement and to vote prior to a government decision;
Subsequently, the House adopted the Speech from the Throne as amended.
On February 24, during his speech on the budget, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said in the House:
After careful consideration of the issue of missile defence, we have decided that Canada will not participate in the U.S. ballistic missile defence system at this time.
A decision had been announced in the House and there was no opportunity for Parliament to consider all public information pertaining to the agreement and no vote prior to this decision. I believe that this is a clear contempt of Parliament.
As late as February 22, the Minister of National Defence indicated to the House:
We will take a decision on deploying a missile defence shield odnce we have all ha a chance to discuss it with our colleagues in this House. That way all Canadians will understand the nature of our solution.
That statement is from Hansard of February 22.
What happened between February 22 and February 24?
The motion regarding the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne is no ordinary motion, and given the condition upon which it was adopted, I would argue that it adds more weight to this charge of contempt.
The throne speech is like a promissory note to Parliament. This House secured the survival of the government based on the commitments articulated in the amendment to the Speech from the Throne. However it has now become obvious that as soon as the government passed the critical point of its survival, its pledges were forgotten.
On November 21, 2001, the Speaker at that time delivered a ruling in regards to a complaint by the member for Surrey Central where he cited 16 examples where the government failed to comply with requirements concerning the tabling of certain information in Parliament. In all of the 16 cases raised on November 21, a reporting deadline was absent and as a result the Speaker could not find a prima facie question of privilege.
However the Speaker said in his ruling in Hansard :
Were there to be a deadline for tabling included in the legislation, I would not hesitate to find that a prima facie case of contempt does exist and I would invite the hon. member to move the usual motion.
The amendment to the throne speech clearly stated that Parliament would have the opportunity to consider all public information pertaining to the agreement and to vote prior, and I stress prior, to a decision. The amendment contained a conditional deadline that was tied into a decision of the government. The government ignored this time commitment and went ahead and made its decision without providing Parliament with information pertaining to the proposed missile defence agreement as required in the amendment adopted on October 18, 2004.
The Prime Minister forgets that all of the power he exercises outside of this House, including making the decision regarding Canada's participation in missile defence, are small matters compared to the commitments he made to this House because it is only with the confidence of the House that he can exercise power outside of the House. No one can be Prime Minister without confidence and no one can have confidence without integrity. It is not a lot to ask for this House to expect both from its Prime Minister.
A few weeks ago I was on my feet making the same charge against two of the Prime Minister's ministers with respect to the defeat of Bill C-31 and Bill C-32. One of those ministers, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is again at the centre of today's question of privilege.
We have noted that you have yet to rule on the Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 question of privilege but, as you will recall, I summarized a list of contemptuous acts the Liberal government had committed that related to the government's dismissive view of the role of Parliament.
In the Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 case, the trade minister shrugged off a defeat of the two bills that would have created a new international trade department separate from the Department of Foreign Affairs saying that the two branches of government would continue to operate independently without Parliament's blessing.
Instead of re-arguing the points I made during the Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 question of privilege, Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you apply them to the argument that I am making today in considering your rulings on both these matters.
If you rule this is indeed a prima facie case of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.
Oral Question Period
March 8th, 2005 / 3:15 p.m.
Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS
Mr. Speaker, on the very same point, I would have to say it is a rare occasion in which I agree so wholeheartedly with the position expressed by the Conservative caucus. There is a certain sense of relief that I am able to do that on one or two occasions.
I have to say that the response given by the government member simply adds confusion to an already confusing situation. It may well be, Mr. Speaker, and I am not trying to anticipate your ruling, that there may not in the strictest sense be a contempt of Parliament here in the ham-fisted way that the government has handled Bill C-31 and Bill C-32, but it certainly is a case of colossal arrogance and colossal incompetence at the same time.
One has a very difficult time, particularly in a minority government when I think we all share a sense of responsibility to try to make this place work, make Parliament and its committees work, to have a situation where the government has introduced two bills after the fact. Yes, there is legislative authority that allows for the rearranging of transfer of duties prior to there being legislation brought in. Having described the necessity of doing that as an urgent matter, the government then bypassed a spring session of Parliament where the appropriate legislation could have been brought in, and bypassed a fall session of Parliament when the legislation could have been brought in. Then when the government finally brought in the legislation, after it was voted down by Parliament the government decided that it did not really need to do it anyway. I guess the bottom line, although this was not said quite so explicitly, would be that the government's intention is to go ahead and ignore the fact that there is no such legislation.
At the very least this shows no respect for the time of Parliament. Why would we spend time being charged with legislation that the government says it does not need and that if we vote against it the government will do it anyway? Also, in a minority Parliament, surely there is an onus on all of us to try to come to some sensible agreement about what is a priority for us to deal with and at the very least, Liberals should not be wasting our time with this.
Mr. Speaker, I do hope that we will get some direction from you in regard to this practice of bringing in legislation, actually two sittings of the House after it could have been brought in if it was any kind of an urgent matter in the first place, and then when it is voted down by a majority of members of the House to have the government say that it is going to do it anyway. If it is not contempt, it certainly is arrogance of the worst kind and extreme incompetence to have wasted the time of Parliament in the manner that the government has.
Oral Question Period
March 8th, 2005 / 3:15 p.m.
Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB
Mr. Speaker, it seems to me there is a tremendous contradiction by the member who just tried to defend that what the Liberals are doing is contrary to the vote of this Parliament. If in fact what he said is true, then it would have been totally redundant to have brought Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 to the House. If the government could do it without parliamentary approval, then it should not have brought in the bills.
The government did bring in the bills. Parliament debated. We contemplated the issues. It was clearly a decision of Parliament that the process the government was embarking on was ill advised. Parliament, in its collective wisdom among all the members, decided that this was not to be passed because it was not the right decision to make. So Parliament, being asked by the government to make the decision, did make it and now the Liberals are basically thumbing their noses at Parliament. They are saying that notwithstanding what Parliament decided, they are going to do it anyway.
I think what you heard, Mr. Speaker, was a really weak presentation by the government, like a little child caught with his or her hand in the cookie jar, trying to explain why it is that he or she is doing what he or she wants to do anyway.
I would urge you, Mr. Speaker, to uphold the dignity and the authority of Parliament by making sure that the vote of this Parliament is upheld by the government of the day.
Financial Administration Act
February 25th, 2005 / 12:40 p.m.
Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat stymied by this third reading of Bill C-8.
During the debates held in the House at second reading, we discussed Bill C-8 extensively. At the time, we raised a number of questions that have yet to be answered by the government, but that are very valid questions regarding the purpose of this legislation and the objectives of the government. Since the bill is now at third reading, we can assume that, indeed, these considerations and questions have been left unanswered.
Bill C-8 illustrates once again the scenario that we had with other bills proposed in this House. Indeed, with Bill C-31 and Bill C-32, we saw that the government had implemented administrative changes without consulting those who are most affected by these changes, and without putting in place a plan to develop those administrative changes.
As regards Bill C-31 and Bill C-32, since there were no plan or justification with respect to these changes, the House rejected these motions. In the case of Bill C-8, even though we said at second reading that we had some concerns and fundamental questions regarding this legislation, we still reviewed, in the hope, of course, that these questions would be answered, and that some objectives as well as a plan would be defined.
Unfortunately, as I said, our questions were not answered. I should point out that this is an issue of particular interest to the NDP. Indeed, we have always believed it is important that the government maintain good relations with public servants. Unfortunately, over the past several years, we have seen that those who spend their lives in the service of their country, Canada, to ensure that we have an effective public service and to maintain and even increase services provided to the public, we have seen that all these public servants who do so much to support programs, services and Canadians, were not consulted when the government decided to make the latest changes. Here, one week. There, the next.
We saw this recently during the surprise announcement of the single window for government services. So documents and information were leaked. We learned a few days ago that the government was planning to make some major changes, once again without consulting the public and the workers, the people devoting their lives to maintain and increase services for Canadians. There are no consultations. An announcement is made. We know that major changes are coming, once again, in the form of a single window, in the absence of planning and the implementation of all administrative procedures.
Unfortunately, I suspect that, once again, the Liberal government is deciding to make all kinds of promises of job offers here and there, without any plan to ensure the provision of services throughout the country. British Columbia, where I come from, is under-represented in the public service.
It is extremely important to people in British Columbia to be able to say that access to the public service corresponds to our demographic weight in Canada.
However, putting something like that in place requires a plan. There really have to be consultations with Canadians and public servants so we can a plan in place that will work. We know that this government has a tendency to make plans similar to those of the official opposition—sketched on table napkins—plans strung together with bailing wire that are not properly or sufficiently thought out, and ultimately, we end up with something that does not work.
We saw this with the Kyoto protocol; the government had in fact promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It was supposed to reduce them by 20% by 2010. It is now 2005 and in actual fact greenhouse gases have gone up, not down, by 20%.
We have also seen other plans, including an anti-poverty plan. The NDP member for Ottawa Centre introduced a motion in the House in 1989. With the agreement of all members of this House, we adopted a plan whereby child poverty would be reduced by the year 2000 with a view to its total elimination.
Now here we are in 2005, and, tragically, there has been an increase in the number of children living in poverty in this country. They now number over one million. Among aboriginal children, 40% are poor or living in poor families, and liable to end up homeless. We know that 30% of families with disabled children are in the same situation.
This 12 year Liberal idea of a plan has once again resulted in failure. There has been a failure as far as the environment is concerned. A failure as far as housing for the homeless is concerned. The surprise announcement of a few days ago leaves us once again with a plan that has been cobbled together without consultation, without any clear objectives. This one will have a considerable effect on the Canadian public service, and that is most regrettable.
Now, if we look at Bill C-8, we see once again that it dates back to a year ago, after the decisions had been reached, without any connection between the two or any consideration of the impacts.
It must be pointed out that the hon. member for Ottawa Centre works tirelessly both in this House and outside to protect the public service and to ensure that its members are taken into consideration when the government plans to do something. I would like to congratulate him on the work he does. He is a new member like myself, but one with a long history in this place. He is new only in that his riding, Ottawa Centre, is a new one for him, but he is already hard at work, not only representing that riding, but also defending the interests of those who make such a great contribution to the running of our Canadian governmental services and the federal government's outreach in this country. The member for Ottawa Centre is making a remarkable contribution.
Let me point out the problem. We have Bill C-8. We have had questions raised in the House. Those questions have stayed there without a definitive response from the government. We know that morale is very low in the public service. We know of the surprise plan that was thrown out there, a one stop shop thrown out on the backs of the public servants who have contributed so much to this country.
Again we see a government proceeding without a plan, going from photo op to photo op, without considering the implications of each decision that is made. We saw with Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 how little forethought had actually been given to these decisions that the government was throwing forth to the House. At second reading we asked those questions and did not get the answers we wanted to hear.
We see very clearly that there has not been a consultation process with the people who are most concerned about this: the public sector workers who have contributed so much and yet receive so little consideration from the government. Last summer, after a real decrease in public sector wages of 10% and a salary gap in many sectors of 20%, as we saw with table 2, we saw the government, rather than engaging in meaningful negotiations, basically push through a settlement that of course public sector workers had to ratify after that.
What we see is a lack of respect for the public service. We do not see a change in attitude toward public sector workers. We do not see a change in responsibility. We do not see this government working with public sector workers and trying to engage in meaningful consultation, not relying on the strength of public sector workers who contribute in every community of this country, small or large, giving their hearts and souls, giving their efforts and their labour to make sure that we have the best possible services at all levels.
The responsibility for any concerns people have about public service and the state of public service in this country remains with the government, this government that does not consult, that refuses to recognize public sector workers as the assets they are for our country, that shows the same lack of respect for public sector workers we have seen it show to students with this recent budget. Students are not taken into consideration, nor are farmers. We see the same lack of consideration for people with disabilities and for poor Canadians. As well, in my area of greater Vancouver we have seen a threefold increase in the number of homeless. This is due to a lack of a housing strategy or policy.
We have seen, as I mentioned, an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. We have seen an increase in smog and toxic pollutants across this country, yet we saw the government last week actually vote against the NDP motion that would have set mandatory emission standards in this country and thus actually address the issue of increasing smog and pollution and the deaths caused by that.
We saw the Liberal government and the Conservative Party voting against that simple measure. Now we see the Liberal government and the Conservative Party voting for a budget that does not address housing and homelessness issues. It does not address the issues around the poor.
It does not address the crisis that we are facing in post-secondary education. As my colleague, the hon. member for Halifax, has said so often and so effectively, we need to address the crisis in post-secondary education. There is nothing in the budget for students.
There is also nothing in the budget for people with disabilities, even though we know that four million Canadians live in the poorest conditions and with perhaps the lowest quality of life of all Canadians.
There is nothing in the budget to address aboriginal issues.
There is nothing in this budget that addresses those important issues, except the lack of respect for Canadians generally. The Liberal government and the Conservative Party in opposition are still going to support this budget, so who does get the respect if public sector workers do not get it, if students do not get it, if seniors do not get it with that tiny buck a day increase?
We know who gets the respect. It is the big corporations, with a $4.6 billion tax break. It is the wealthiest of Canadians, who actually see the cap on RRSP contributions lifted for those who earn more than $100,000 a year. They get respect. It is wealthy people, big corporations and the banks. We heard them lobbying to have the foreign content limit, that cap of 30%, lifted. That lobbying paid off for them.
Banks, big corporations and the wealthy are the ones that get respect from this government, not public servants. That is why I again raise concerns about Bill C-8 and the fact that the government is not showing proper respect for public sector workers. The government has shown this pattern consistently over the months that I have been in Parliament and certainly in the years before I came to Parliament. We have seen a consistent pattern of a lack of respect and a lack of consultation.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak on the bill. The concerns remain.
Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC
Mr. Speaker, we see the old Liberal arrogance coming back. It is as if the government did not understand the message of June 28, 2004. What we saw that with the introduction of Bill C-31 and Bill C-32. There was no plan or consultation.
The Auditor General has clearly indicated that we need to have this oversight provision to ensure we see value for money, for Canadian public funds, on foundations. However, the government simply seems to refuse to allow that to happen. To compound the refusal, a few months ago the government withheld funding for the Office of the Auditor General. It took intervention from the other three corners of the House, led by the New Democratic Party caucus I should add, to push the Liberal government back and to ensure the Auditor General's Office was adequately funded.
We again see the old Liberal arrogance creeping up. I believe it will be up to the other three corners of the House to ensure that we put the government on the right road, which includes no more hide-and-go-seek with public funds, no more refusal to have adequate vetting of public expenditures and no more secret buddy-buddy agreements with Liberal appointees. We saw a repetition of the sort of serial nature of these agreements where Liberal appointees would have bottomless expenditure accounts that supposedly met Treasury Board guidelines. We saw that with Canada Post and the privacy commissioner, high-flying Liberal nominees and appointees not subject to prudent and appropriate use of public funds.
Unless we in the three corners push the Liberals in the right direction, we will see what we have seen over the last 10 years, which is the quality of life of most Canadians going down while the Liberals seem to be engaged in a feeding frenzy to ensure their friends get public funds, and that would be a shame.
Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB
Mr. Speaker, my colleague mentioned the situation with Bill C-31 and Bill C-32. We voted in the House and rejected that plan. Once again, the government wanted to move forward to split two departments, spend taxpayer dollars and have Parliament rubber stamp it. I know the opposition parties got together and voted against that.
The member drew the similarity with what has taken place with these foundations. Could the member expand a bit further on that?
Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC
Mr. Speaker, the member for Ottawa Centre has been extremely impassioned to ensure that the public service does not become another victim of the old Liberal arrogance coming back.
In this corner of the House we are appalled by the fact that there has been no consultation for this plan, a plan that was thrown out or leaked a few days ago, and apparently may be in the budget tomorrow. Again, there has been no consultation with the public service or with people, who have in mind the best interests of the country, to ensure we provide adequate services. It is the same situation we saw with Bill C-31 and Bill C-32. Things were tossed into the middle of this Parliament without appropriate consultation or without appropriate development of a plan.
If it comes out tomorrow in the budget, we will oppose that portion of the budget in the same way we will fight for the interests of Canadians to ensure the budget is a budget for Main Street and not another budget for Bay Street.
Oral Question Period
February 17th, 2005 / 3:15 p.m.
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I am sure my hon. colleague, the House leader for the official opposition, was in question period when I said that the government was presently considering other parliamentary options to present to the House. Presently, both departments are working under the parliamentary sanction of the appropriations act.
More specific, I would draw to the hon. member's attention that in the 2004-05 main estimates, again the estimates voted by Parliament, there is specific moneys earmarked for the specific function of the two ministers and those two departments. The moneys were voted specifically for their function.
I would just draw the member's attention both on the general summary, item 10, for foreign affairs and international trade; foreign affairs, which is money appropriated for that purpose. Item 17 in the general summary, again, international trade, dollars were voted for by this Parliament specifically for the continued operation of those two departments.
I clearly stated in question period that we were presently looking at other parliamentary options to bring back to this House. In the interim both departments are operating based on moneys appropriated by this Parliament and voted by this Parliament so both of those departments can continue to operate at this time.
Oral Question Period
February 17th, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege to charge the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of Foreign Affairs with contempt for misrepresenting and dismissing the role of this House.
As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday, February 15, the House defeated Bill C-31, an act to establish the Department of International Trade and to make related amendments to certain acts. The House also defeated Bill C-32, an act the amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
Bill C-31 proposed to establish the Department of International Trade and Bill C-32 proposed to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and other acts as a consequence of the proposal from Bill C-31 to establish the Department of International Trade. I use the word “proposed” because, as we know, until Parliament establishes or amends an act, the act is not established or amended.
The government or the two responsible ministers have dismissed the legislative process. The trade minister is quoted in the Globe and Mail as saying:
I was disappointed [the Conservatives] went against what they said they were going to do, but having said that, we are continuing to work head on.
The article also goes on to report:
Trade Minister...yesterday shrugged off the defeat of a bill that would create a new international trade department separate from the Department of Foreign Affairs, saying the two branches of government will continue to operate independently without Parliament's blessing.
The Ottawa Citizen reported the minister as saying:
We're not going to undo all the work we have done to become a functioning department.
The minister's comments show total disregard and disrespect for the role of the House. If the House is to function with authority and dignity, then it must be respected, especially by its own members, and particularly by the cabinet which is responsible to it.
While such disrespect is not new, the severity of this case is. Speakers have warned the government in the past for its dismissive view of Parliament.
I am very certain that the government will rise, be unapologetic and claim that it has the authority to do what it is doing. However, that is not the point. Why would the government introduce legislation pretending that it matters when it does not? Then, when the outcome is not favourable to it, the government ignores the outcome. The government is making a mockery of Parliament. What is the public to think? The passage or defeat of bills does not matter. Parliament does not matter. Members of this House are irrelevant.
Is all that matters, what decisions are made in the PMO? What happened to the Prime Minister who wanted to end the practice of getting things done based on who one knew in the PMO? What happened to the Prime Minister who wanted to slay the democratic deficit? His ministers have just bankrupted democracy.
I would like to submit a ruling from October 10, 1989, on a similar matter. While it was a similar matter in comparison to the case I am presenting today, it was less offensive, I conclude. Notwithstanding, Speaker Fraser took it very seriously. The issue was regarding an advertisement put out by the government which made it appear, and I stress the word “appear”, that the GST was approved by Parliament before Parliament actually approved it.
In the case of Bill C-31 and Bill C-32, there is no appearance. The government has already implemented the measures in Bill C-31 and Bill C-32. The bills have been defeated, and that outcome has been ignored.
Getting back to Speaker Fraser's ruling, the Speaker quoted the former member for Windsor West, the Right Hon. Herb Gray. Mr. Gray said:
When this advertisement--says in effect there will be a new tax on January 1, 1991,--the advertisement is intended to convey the idea that Parliament has acted on it because that is, I am sure, the ordinary understanding of Canadians about how a tax like this is finally adopted and comes into effect. That being the case, it is clearly a contempt of Parliament because it amounts to a misrepresentation of the role of this House.
As I mentioned, the case I am presenting to the Speaker today goes beyond appearance. If that is not offensive enough, the attitude of the Minister of International Trade and his intentions and the intentions of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to forge ahead are grounds enough for contempt. Where is the respect for the institution of Parliament? How can a minister of the Crown, who is responsible to the House, show such disregard and disrespect?
While the Speaker in 1989 did not rule a prima facie question of privilege, he did say this:
I want the House to understand very clearly that if your Speaker ever has to consider a situation like this again, the Chair will not be as generous.
I would argue that the situation I am presenting today is very much like the situation from 1989. The obvious difference is that it is far worse.
I do not understand why this sort of situation has not been addressed in the past. This government has a sordid past in these matters, and because the House has never dealt adequately with it, the government continues to make a mockery of Parliament. It has now gone to new heights and has taken it to a point where it can no longer be ignored.
To illustrate this point let me review some of the past disrespectful acts of the Liberal government.
On March 30, 1998, the minister of international trade sent out a press release announcing the establishment of a Canada-China interparliamentary group. At that time there was no Canada-China interparliamentary group.
The government named the head of the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation before there was even legislation to set up the foundation.
There was another case presented to the Speaker on October 28, 1997, relating to the actions of the Department of Finance.
On February 3, 1998, I raised a question of privilege condemning the government for its dismissive views of Parliament on a matter regarding the Canadian Wheat Board.
These complaints resulted in many warnings from the Chair, Mr. Speaker. One of the warnings came from Speaker Parent on November 6, 1997. It was as strong as Speaker Fraser's warning and it went like this:
--the Chair acknowledges that this is a matter of potential importance since it touches the role of members as legislators, a role which should not be trivialized. It is from this perspective that the actions of the Department of Finance are of some concern....This dismissive view of the legislative process, repeated often enough, makes a mockery of our parliamentary conventions and practices....I trust that today's decision at this early stage of the 36th Parliament will not be forgotten by the minister and his officials and that the departments and agencies will be guided by it.
If a warning from the Speaker is to mean something, then the Speaker must be prepared to follow through with it. The Speaker's job is to ensure the House is given the opportunity to protect its authority and dignity.
I ask that you, Mr. Speaker, rule this matter to be a prima facie question of privilege at which time I will be prepared to move the appropriate motion.
Oral Question Period
February 17th, 2005 / 2:35 p.m.
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, it was very clear that Parliament did reject the parliamentary approach presented in the form of Bill C-31 and Bill C-32. The government is presently considering its parliamentary options and in due course will be presenting that parliamentary approach to Parliament.
Department of Foreign Affairs Act
February 15th, 2005 / 6:05 p.m.