House of Commons Hansard #7 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was debt.

Topics

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

Second is the presence in our gallery of members of the South African Parliamentary Housing Portfolio Committee.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I have received notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Wild Rose.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege in regard to a very grave matter relating to information that I sought from officials at the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.

A certain official at the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, Mr. Jobin, deliberately misled me and subsequently deliberately denied me information. I will argue that the sum of these two deliberate acts constitute a contempt of Parliament.

On December 16, 1980, a Speaker made a ruling in regard to information to which a member of Parliament was entitled. The Speaker said: “It would be bold to suggest that no circumstance could ever exist for a prima facie question of privilege to be made where there was a deliberate attempt to deny answers to an hon. member”.

A Speaker in 1978 ruled a matter to be prima facie case of contempt where the RCMP were alleged to have deliberately misled a minister of the crown and the member for Northumberland—Durham resulting in “an attempt to obstruct the House by offering misleading information”.

On September 16, I was invited to a meeting with Mr. Jobin to receive a progress report on the Stony reserve in my riding. I brought along with me to the meeting citizens of the Stony reserve.

At one point in the meeting I was asked to leave by Mr. Jobin because he claimed that I was not entitled to certain information that he offered to the citizens attending. While there was unanimous written support for me to receive this information by the applicants in attendance, I was made to leave by Mr. Jobin.

The regulations from the department regarding information release, referred to by Mr. Jobin, state that information may be released if written consent is obtained from the applicant, which I had received.

The regulations also contain several circumstances where information can be released without consent. Point four on the form states one of those circumstances as “to a member of Parliament”.

I had both the authority as a member of Parliament and the written consent of the applicants to receive this information. Mr. Jobin deliberately misled and deliberately withheld the information from me.

I requested this meeting to obtain information which is directly related to the preparation of a question which I need to ask the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development on behalf of the citizens of the Stony reserve. I have given notice to the minister of my intention to ask such a question.

Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada , on page 71 states:

—the events necessarily incidental to petitions, questions, and notices of motions in Parliament—are all events which are part of the “proceedings of Parliament.”

On page 72 there is a quote from the report of the Select Committee on the Official Secrets Act of 1939 which states that “a proceeding in Parliament covers both the asking of a question and the giving written notice of such a question”.

As I mentioned earlier, I have given the minister written notice of such a question and, unfortunately, I am afraid that I may not have the information necessary to follow through with this question.

In conclusion, I would like to address the issue of ministerial responsibility. I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to a Speaker's ruling of November 9, 1978, at page 966 of Hansard . The then Speaker said:

—I do not think there is procedural significance to the doctrine of ministerial responsibility, it appears that we are now embarking on a different course in having the House, through a question of privilege, reach around the minister and examine directly the conduct of an official—it seems to me are probably not procedural matters—

The Speaker did not consider ministerial responsibility a consideration when he determined there was a prima facie question of privilege in 1979. There is no procedural significance in this case either, Mr. Speaker, and I ask that you consider my points accordingly.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you review these matters and if you find there is a prima facie question of privilege I am prepared to move the appropriate motion. It is difficult and literally impossible when you do not get the co-operation of the departments to be able to assist the constituents of your own riding, in this case the residents of the Stony reserve.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of my colleague from Wild Rose. The official named, in my view, is in contempt of Parliament for his actions.

Erskine May's 21st edition describes contempt as:

—any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as contempt, even though there is no precedent for the offence.

As members we do not always expect enthusiastic co-operation from ministers and those who serve them, but when an official deliberately misleads a member of Parliament with some bogus rule and as a result of that act deliberately withholds information, it is a clear contempt of Parliament.

It is imperative that members of Parliament have the confidence to perform their duties with accurate information which is not deliberately misleading or deliberately withheld from them.

I join with the hon. member for Wild Rose and ask that you consider this very serious matter. I look forward to your ruling.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the facts which have been brought before the House by both hon. members.

The government has no intention to participate in any way in an act which would constitute the contempt of this House.

Mr. Speaker, my suggestion to you, respectfully, would be as follows. Given that the minister is temporarily out of the House, I would suggest that she be able to examine what has been stated by the hon. member opposite and respond tomorrow in the House of Commons, or at a later time. At that point perhaps you, Mr. Speaker, would want to rule then whether or not there has been an instance of contempt, as opposed to simply a misunderstanding by someone who may or who may not have committed a mistake.

This would not unduly delay anything, given the fact that the parliamentary committee on procedure, privilege and elections has barely been constituted for 24 hours. I would suspect that it probably would not be able to hear the case for a few days and waiting until tomorrow would not unduly delay any proceeding or attempt to find out what is the truth. All of us want that to eventually come out.

Perhaps Mr. Speaker would want to accept this suggestion and, if so, render a ruling tomorrow or later. At that time we will have had an opportunity to listen to information that could be brought to this House by the minister responsible for the department in question.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intervention of the House leader.

I appreciate also that the minister will get back to us promptly. The way the House leader put it is a little open-ended, which is tomorrow or at some later date. The first opportunity, I would assume, will be in the next day or so, not on the Order Paper for the foreseeable future.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

As you can see I, too, have just been apprised of this matter. You will note that the words “to deliberately mislead” were used quite a few times and that I did not intercede because I wanted to hear the whole reason for bringing this point up.

I would like to get a little more information. If I could ask the indulgence of the hon. member for Wild Rose, I would like to hear something from the minister who is involved. Maybe there is an explanation. I do not know.

I will reserve judgment until I hear from the minister, but as the hon. whip of the Reform Party mentioned, I would encourage the government House leader to see to it that the minister is here to respond at the earliest possible moment. And that is precisely what I mean, the earliest possible moment. I do not want this dragged out.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will endeavour to do precisely that, to have the minister address this as soon as possible, hopefully within the next 24 hours or so. In any case, it will be as soon as possible, and there will not be a delay, I can assure you.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

We now have an undertaking from the leader of the Government in the House. I will reserve my decision until I and you hear what the minister would have to add to this particular case.

At that time, if it is necessary, I will make a decision.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, on June 2 Canadians were consulted. The voters clearly preferred our more responsible approach and saw through the Reform Party's irresponsible tax cut promises before the budget was balanced. In every single province except Alberta, the majority of voters rejected the cuts to programs and services.

It is irresponsible for a government to artificially determine optimal government size and taxation levels and then drop the ball in order to achieve those goals.

As we know and as we have experienced in Ontario, this leaves those less able to, to go and fend for themselves. We feel this every day in Ontario: a mission of tax cuts; smaller government; survival of the fittest; no positive role for government; knee jerk, simplistic approaches; black and white with no shades of grey.

Canadians expect us to do what we said we would do. We will put the debt to GDP ratio on a permanent downward trend. We will balance the budget by 1998-99. They expect us to demonstrate vision and values. They expect us to be innovative and to find and build partnerships. They also expect us to reinvest in a stronger society. We said we would and we will.

As said in the Speech from the Throne, it is our responsibility to ensure that no Canadian is left behind as the country moves forward. We can do this without financial risk. We can do it in a balanced way set forth in the election platform.

The government has made tremendous strides while continuing to adhere to five basic principles: controlling government spending rather than increasing taxes, fairness so that no one is left behind, enhanced economic prospects and job growth, and frugality with a commitment to decrease waste in government.

The government also made a promise to shift resources from lower priorities to higher priorities knowing there is no new money until the budget is balanced.

I wish we could do this without having to listen to inaccurate Reform rhetoric and truncated history lessons that leave out the four critical years of stunningly successful fiscal management. Members of the official opposition keep talking about shell games. I dare them to go and pick up all the shells at once. They will be disappointed. There is not a tax and spend Liberal to be found.

Canadians will be consulted, but we will consult on how we deliver our promise and not whether. We have committed 50 percent of any surplus to reinvestments in building a stronger society. Canadians are counting on us, especially those less well off. The prime minister said “It is a nice problem to contemplate this surplus. It is a proud moment for Canada, not a time for partisan jealously.

The motion must be defeated and the government congratulated, not condemned, for its practical and doable election promise.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her presentation.

I understand the hon. member is a physician. I am sure she understands as a physician that it is very important not only to treat the symptom of a decease but the actual root of the problem. Any physician would agree.

The problem we have with unemployment is that over the last many years we have devoted billions of dollars toward the problem of training people for employment and we still have abnormally high unemployment rates. Will the member acknowledge that one of the keys to dealing with the problem is to lower taxes so we have a greater demand for all the people who have been trained?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, there is no question one of the root causes of the ongoing demand for health care will be the determinants, jobs being one of them.

We need to celebrate the fact that we have improved the number of Canadians with jobs. We are not there yet.

We also have to understand that governments like Ontario that are laying off thousands of people are contributing to the net. We actually have to realize that our ultimate success is a net cost. There is some gain and some loss, and we know we are not there yet. We would love to be able to put more efforts into training. We are excited by the kinds of programs we see.

At the Industry Canada open house last week there was a national graduates registry. Graduates were being put to work, able to consult with CEOs and able to produce good resumés. They were able to get out there and go to work.

I have not seen in Ontario where any tax cut has increased the numbers of jobs. I have not even felt the extra money jingling in my jeans pocket those people continue to talk about. That does not create jobs. There is no evidence to that effect.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

An hon. member

How can we create jobs if the federal government takes them away?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

We are big picture people. We know there is a positive role for government. Arbitrary determinations of size of government and optimal tax rate will not work. We need to have a goal of putting Canadians back to work. We have to do whatever we can in partnerships and innovation to make sure that happens.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my colleague for her excellent speech, and also for having shown some compassion, something her government has forgotten.

Since she is so well disposed toward job creation, would the hon. member be prepared to meet with her Minister of Finance to explain to him that instead of keeping the contributions to the employment insurance fund at an artificially high level, a level which generates surpluses which will top $7 billion this year, reduction would in fact create employment?

Is the hon. member prepared to take such a step, since employment appears to be something she considers important?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, all of us in the Liberal caucus are consulted and are prepared to meet with ministers on everything.

We already have a tremendous example of consultation. I know the people I spoke with during the election campaign, the people who have the risk of potentially being unemployed. As much as we are creating jobs, there are other people being laid off. We need to be able to promise people who may potentially be laid off through future downsizing that they will be secure.

The underwriters feel the amount in the EI fund is appropriate. Similarly in my profession the medical protective association is being accused of having too big a surplus in its fund. We have to deal with the experts. We need to have appropriate and realistic reservoirs for the future. We cannot put Canadians at risk, in particular those who may face losing their jobs.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jim Jones Progressive Conservative Markham, ON

Madam Speaker, congratulations on your appointment. I also congratulate the hon. member for St. Paul's on her initial speech to the House.

We are the highest taxed nation in the world, especially among the G-7 countries. Eighty per cent of our trade is going to the U.S. We are especially very heavily taxed in comparison with the U.S.

Canadian families have been struggling to balance their household budgets over the last several years. Canada is expected to balance the budget shortly.

Who does the hon. member think can spend the taxpayers' money most wisely, the taxpayer or the government?

SupplyGovernment Orders

September 30th, 1997 / 3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, I wish it was that easy. It is a very good question for people of means. It is not very good question for people who do not have means.

If we continue to compare our taxation rate to that of the United States, it is a comparison of apples and oranges when 30 percent of people cannot afford to go to a doctor. Some of my patients who go south of the border have to write a cheque for $10,000 for health insurance. They do not see us as being particularly overtaxed. Those who cannot afford the $10,000 for insurance are forced to take the American approach of being western gambler pioneers and run without any health insurance and then eventually lose their homes.

It is extraordinarily important to understand that two plus two does not make five. As a group we can do much better for those who have less than they can do on their own. Some 150 years ago we said we would try to look after one another. We have to do that.

Canadians want value for their tax money. By decreasing the deficit and the debt we will be able to give them more value for their tax dollars. We will be able to make them feel more comfortable about their future, that programs will be there when they need them, particularly health care.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Reform

Werner Schmidt Reform Kelowna, BC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member. She is a very learned and well educated individual who understands her profession extremely well. She fully recognizes the implications of the cuts made by her government to the health program of Canada.

However my question focuses on another area. I believe she will agree that major contributors to her profession are scientists, researchers and people who have worked to find new ways of dealing with and preventing various diseases.

There is considerable evidence that people who cut taxes bring about an attractiveness in a country for people to come and conduct research partly because of lower taxes and strong money for infrastructure.

The history of the government has been to decrease moneys given to research and development to the tune of approximately $700,000 in the last budget.

Would the member tell us how not cutting taxes will attract researchers to this country?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, it will be imperative in the next chapter for us to reinvest in medical research, science and technology. The innovation fund is one of the most exciting things stated in the election platform and in the budget. To hear John Polanyi on Sunday night talk about the reverence with which he holds that fund was truly heartening to me as a Liberal member of Parliament.

Scientists understand that we will do the right thing. I do not think tax cuts have any relevance. In Ontario there is no evidence that tax cuts work. We know that most companies locate here because of the quality of our health care program, particularly companies in the service industries trying to pay health insurance premiums for their employees. That is bad for business. The companies with lots of employees love to go to places that have good, inexpensive health care and a good government funded health care insurance program.

It will be exciting when we start choosing where to reinvest. Obviously I will be fighting for job creation with investments in medical research, science and technology. We should be debating where to reinvest, not whether to reinvest as the member's motion states.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Resuming debate. Because of the miscue before question period, 10 minutes of debate was taken away from the Reform Party. We will correct the mistake at this point.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Reform

Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, I believe the person who will be correcting that will be the third in line in this segment.

I would like to recognize the presence in the gallery of some constituents from North Vancouver, Mr. and Mrs. McKenzie. I welcome them to the House.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.