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Evidence of meeting #50 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was chair.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

William V. Baker  Deputy Minister, Department of Public Safety
Doug Nevison  Director, Fiscal Policy Division, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Ned Franks  Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Studies, Queen's University, As an Individual

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Sure, I'll take another point of order.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

It's a clarification as much as a point of order, but my understanding is that in the motion first presented by Mr. Brison, there was no mention of the F-35s.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

I don't find it in what's been brought to this committee either. It's not in our order of reference.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Except, Mr. Chair, it's in the opposition day motion to which the Speaker referred substantively.

I have a single question for the ministers, if I could, through you, Mr. Chair.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

I think I made a statement.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Given all of this litany of conduct, the question is simple. Why shouldn't Canadians find your government in contempt?

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Mr. Nicholson.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Chairman, I completely disagree with the premise upon which that question is based. If we accept what the committee is asking for, that you're genuinely interested in the cost of our crime bills, to say that the public servants who head up each of those departments are wasting their time appearing before a parliamentary committee...I want you to know, I completely disagree with that.

If it's only about procedures that you're talking about, I guess the Liberals could make that point. But if you're sincerely interested in what it costs the federal government in terms of its crime prevention and the crime bills, then I think it is entirely appropriate that public servants, who have an in-depth knowledge of each of these areas, get the time to respond.

This is the second time that I've been asked about the F-35s. Again, I'm not the defence minister, but anything that equips our men and women in uniform and gives them the very best equipment in the world has my complete support. I completely agree with my colleague, the Minister of National Defence. So inasmuch as this is the second time that this has been raised with me, I want you to know, Mr. Chair, that I completely support having first-class equipment for the men and women in uniform in our Canadian armed forces. I want to make that clear, since it's been raised twice with me.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you, Minister, but it is beyond the order that's been referred to us.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

To be fair, Mr. Chair, I've been asked twice now about this, so I just wanted to make that clear. I didn't want anybody to think, by reason of my silence, that I'm not an enthusiastic supporter of having outstanding, first-class, world-class equipment for the Canadian armed forces. I want to make that very clear.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you, Minister.

We'll go to Mr. Reid for five minutes, please.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to our witnesses for being here.

Before I ask any questions, I thought of raising a point of order, but I just want to point out in response to Mr. McGuinty that I'm mystified by his constant references to contempt. The motion moved by Mr. Brison, and seconded by Mr. McGuinty himself, which was taken to the Speaker reads, “That, given your finding that a prima facie breach of the privileges of Parliament...”. There is nothing about contempt in there; it is about breach of privileges. I note that in House of Commons Procedure and Practice, more commonly known as O'Brien and Bosc, on page 82 you'll find the statement, “It is important to distinguish between a 'breach of privilege' and 'contempt of Parliament'”.

I also note that contempt of Parliament is very different from the Oxford English Dictionary definition of the word “contempt”. It's a specialized technical thing, and one ought to be careful to distinguish in order to carry on proper parliamentary procedure.

I turn now to the ministers to ask some questions. First of all, Ministers, you got notice very late yesterday asking you to come here. I appreciate your being here. Am I correct that you were both at the airport on the way to other destinations when you were called back?

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

If I could answer that, I wasn't on the plane, but I did have an announcement today north of Winnipeg. As you know, we have a very serious potential flooding situation, and I've been working very closely--

March 17th, 2011 / 10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

A point of order.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

—with the provincial government in respect of the flooding issue, Mr. Chair.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Excuse me, Minister, we'll stop it there.

Go ahead, Mr. Proulx.

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Chair, I do not think that the minister's remarks have anything to do with the question put by my colleague, Mr. Reid.

I'd like to know, what's the relevancy of this subject within this particular committee?

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Well, I'm going to tell you that today the chair would have a rough time figuring out the relevance of a lot of people's questions, but I'll let the minister finish his answer.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

In any event—

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Chair, if I could interrupt, on the same point of order, there are two things.

One, I don't want Mr. Proulx's intervention or my response taken out of the five minutes I've been given.

Two, I'm raising this because the technical definition of “contempt of Parliament”, which has been raised by Mr. McGuinty, and it's clear that Mr. McGuinty and Mr. Brison are heading in the direction of asserting that the ministers have been in contempt of Parliament, or indeed that the entire government is in contempt of Parliament.... That has been an assertion they've made. Having said that, it's important to go to—

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

I'll rule that that's not a point of order. Let's move on to the question.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

No, but the thing is this. Seeing as they're going in that direction, deliberately refusing to provide testimony is part of contempt of Parliament. I'm trying to demonstrate that in fact—

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Mr. Reid.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

—these ministers have made a real effort to be here.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Mr. Reid, when I make a ruling or suggest we move on, I'd like us to do so.