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House of Commons Hansard #81 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

Immigration Review BoardOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Deputy Prime Minister.

Immigration Review BoardOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Windsor West Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray LiberalDeputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, will the hon. member admit that when Jack Frazer, a former Reform member, was appointed to the Veterans' Appeal and Review Board it was on the basis of competence? That is the case with the former Liberal member who the hon. member unworthily attempted to slur.

Dredging Of St. LawrenceOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment.

The federal government is preparing to give its approval, without public hearings, for the St. Lawrence River to be dredged in order to meet Port of Montreal requirements.

Before giving the go-ahead, does the federal government intend to follow up on the request from the Government of Quebec and environmental groups that public hearings be held on this proposal in accordance with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act?

Dredging Of St. LawrenceOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, the dredging of the St. Lawrence to which the hon. member makes reference was proposed. An exhaustive environmental hearing took place in which the provincial government of the province of Quebec took part.

Recently it sent a communication which appears to be in some respects not entirely on all fours with its previous position. I will look at that closely and we will re-examine this question in the light of their presentation.

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health should understand that it is precisely because we do not want to pit one group of hepatitis C victims against another that we are asking these questions.

Could the parliamentary secretary assure Canadians that the government will show leadership and compassion to all those affected with hepatitis C, will adopt Justice Krever's recommendations and will implement a compensation package that includes everyone who contracted hepatitis C through the blood system?

Hepatitis COral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, this question is no different from any other. I am glad the hon. member opposite recognizes that the initiatives of the Minister of Health and the Government of Canada, in trying to come up with a compensation package, demonstrate precisely the type of concern and compassion she attributes to all members of the House but in particular in this instance, if I might say so, to the Government of Canada.

Millennium Scholarship FundOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Finance said that if the auditor general would like to have access to the millennium fund books it would be arranged. Yet the Budget Implementation Act does not give the auditor general any right of access to the books of the foundation. In fact the legislation calls for the millennium fund to have its own auditor.

Based on the minister's commitment yesterday, will he amend the legislation to ensure access for the auditor general and eliminate the provision for a separate auditor?

Millennium Scholarship FundOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Willowdale Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson LiberalSecretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, we have created a foundation that will be independent and at arm's length from government. As such it will have its own auditor but its books will be deposited before parliament. They will be open to public scrutiny including the scrutiny of the auditor general.

I suggest that we cannot have it both ways. Either we have a foundation which is independent and at arm's length from government or we have one that is run like government is with all the regulations, et cetera. That is not what we have chosen to do.

ImmigrationOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

If recent reports are any indication there appears to be a crackdown on Canadians entering the United States. In British Columbia we have a very important gateway between Canada and the U.S., one that is very important to the B.C. economy.

What efforts are being made to ensure that Canadians continue to enjoy a friendly reception at the U.S. border?

ImmigrationOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

ImmigrationOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I think many of us are having difficulty hearing the questions and the answers. I appeal to members to listen to the questions and answers.

ImmigrationOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Ted McWhinney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the government is seeking an amendment to section 110 of the U.S. Immigration Act. We are asking for a complete exemption of Canadians from the proposed draconian border controls.

I personally have been in touch with all the U.S. senators and congressmen from Washington and Oregon states and asked for their co-operation. The chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Immigration, Senator Abraham, has assured us of his full support. A bill to that effect will be debated by the U.S. Congress in the next few weeks.

FisheriesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, since the government has been in power, west coast salmon species have become extinct, west coast communities have become extinct, DFO scientific research has been swept under the carpet and scientists gagged. What has been the minister's response? “Let us study the situation”.

British Columbians want to know what this minister will do to prevent an east coast disaster on the west coast.

FisheriesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, first, we have to start with accurate information. The member states that the west coast salmon species are extinct. This is not so. Last year was a better than average year for the commercial fishing fleet in British Columbia in terms of the number of fish.

We have some serious problems with coho, steelhead and chinook stocks. These are stocks we are doing our very best to protect, but the first thing to do is to get accurate information so we can make decisions thereafter to protect them. The approach that will not work—

Postal OutletsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for Canada Post Corporation.

The vicious policy of closing post offices ended with the moratorium. Rural municipalities who lost their post office, however, are gradually seeing their retail postal outlets shut down. By capping the guaranteed revenue at $4,200, Canada Post Corporation may well end up closing them all.

Will the minister responsible for Canada Post intercede with the corporation in order to prevent the closing of these postal outlets?

Postal OutletsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question, which will give me an opportunity to say in the House to all Canadians that, in 1994, the government decided not to shut down any rural post offices. Naturally, we are also going to keep retail postal outlets open.

I know that some villages are having problems, but discussions are now under way with local authorities in order to find ways of keeping postal outlets open. A way must also be found to increase revenue. We are holding discussions now. I know that colleagues are aware of this, because we have a particular case in—

Postal OutletsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. minister. The hon. member for Churchill.

EducationOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, despite Canada's high unemployment rate we are experiencing shortages of qualified computer professionals and medical personnel. We have a shortage of experienced truck drivers. We do not have enough qualified marine inspectors to meet our present and future needs. We turn to other countries to fill these jobs.

The government is failing Canadians by not providing affordable access to education and training. When will the government provide better training opportunities for Canadians so companies are not forced to recruit from abroad?

EducationOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, this gives me an opportunity to remind the hon. member that just this last year and a half we have signed 11 labour market agreements with the provinces of Canada.

In those agreements provinces were given the flexibility, because they are closer to the people, to put in training and education programs that will meet the needs of their regions.

I suggest very strongly that the member talk to the Manitoba government and make sure that it puts in the kind of training that she would like.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of Mr. Lorne Taylor, Minister of Science, Research and Information Technology for the Government of Alberta.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

March 26th, 1998 / 3 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is not often that a minister from Alberta likes to come and listen to all this across the way.

My questions for Thursday is to the government House leader. We would like to know the nature of the business for the remainder of this week and for all of next week leading up to the break in the House of Commons.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the minister from Alberta must have been tired of listening to the heckling from across.

Today we will hopefully complete the CHST bill, Bill C-28, to increase the transfers to the provinces. The backup items are Bill S-4, the marine liabilities legislation; Bill C-12, the RCMP superannuation amendments; and Bill S-3, the pension benefit standards bill.

Tomorrow we shall consider second reading of Bill C-26, the Canadian grain legislation.

On Monday we hope to complete second reading of Bill C-25, the defence legislation. This would be followed by Bill C-37, the Judges Act amendment.

On Tuesday we will complete second reading of Bill C-36, the budget implementation bill. Next Wednesday we shall call legislation not completed previously, to which I have just referred, followed by Bill C-31, the surveyors legislation, Bill C-30, the Mi'kmaq education legislation, and other bills that may be reported from committee.

In order to assist members interested, I wish now to designate Monday, April 20 as a day for consideration of the standing orders as provided in Standing Order 51. That is the debate on amending the standing orders of the House of Commons. I thought I would give an opportunity for all parties to prepare for that debate.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I know very well that the committees are the masters of their rules, but this freedom in Parliament does not permit committees to circumvent the rules of the House and all precedents, all past forms of parliamentary usage.

This is what I wish to bring to your attention for a ruling from the Chair.

Today I attended the deliberations of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which is examining the cases of members who spoke against the Chair before a ruling was made in the flag matter. The committee chair, without any sort of a motion, and in contravention of Standing Order 116 and Standing Order 1, decided to limit the appearances of witnesses to 20 minutes—5 minutes for a statement by the witness and 15 minutes for questions.

There was no motion before the committee at that time. That is the first thing that happened.

Second, the allotted time, unilaterally decreed by the Chair, picked up later by the government party in a motion, is 15 minutes. Before deciding to set a time for a mandate as exceptional and specific in nature as this, where the statements of persons who have, according to some “offended” or “pressured” the Chair, it seems to me that it would have to be the judgment of a good parliamentarian to establish a sufficiently long period of time for questions and discussion. All parties were accorded a total of 15 minutes for questions, which means that our party will have about 5 minutes to question the witness who will appear.

The only precedent we have from the previous Parliament is the Jacob case, where one of our MPs appeared before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to respond to accusations made by another MP. I have checked this out. In the Jacob case, the committee, quite by chance, in its great wisdom and with the support of the Bloc moreover, agreed that Mr. Jacob, the former member for Charlesbourg, would have five to six hours to answer questions from House members. We felt this would be sufficient to clarify his behaviour.

The committee worked on the case for three months. During that period, it questioned a large number of people regarding the issue, and our former Bloc Quebecois colleague spent five to six hours answering respectfully the questions asked by his fellow parliamentarians.

Today, how could we justify, based on any precedent, limiting the questioning to 15 minutes in the case of the Liberal and Reform Party members who are before the committee to be judged?

Mr. Speaker, I am asking you whether the committee chairman grossly overstepped his mandate by deciding on his own, without any motion, that these members would appear for 20 minutes. I am asking you whether the committee had the right, given what is at stake, to overlook in such cavalier fashion the existing precedent, and to go from an appearance of five hours in the case of a Bloc Quebecois member, to five minutes in the case of a Liberal or Reform Party member. I am asking you whether the committee, in acting like this, respects the spirit of the mandate it was given by us, which is to review the very serious matter of a member whose comments may have offended, threatened or pressured the Chair.

With five minutes for questioning, is our party—which condemned the situation and wants to get to the bottom of the matter—in a position to even begin the work that it was asked to do by the House? I call upon your judgment and your sense of fairness in comparing the treatment of a Bloc Quebecois member, who answered the questions of his peers for five to six hours, and the treatment of the Liberal and Reform Party members, who will spend five minutes answering questions from the Bloc Quebecois.

The issue is not any less serious. On the contrary, these are people who may have threatened the Chair. Had we accepted the decision made, which unquestionably defies any logic, it would have meant that, in the future, anyone in this House—including me—could have threatened the Chair and made statements such as “If the Speaker does not rule this way, the Bloc Quebecois will do this or that”.

The result of all this is that one would have five, six or perhaps ten minutes to answer questions from the other parties and yet be able to evade questions or to stall for time, knowing that the ordeal will be over after ten minutes.

This is not right. For the sake of justice and considering the mandate given by the House to the committee, for the sake of parliamentary intelligence and given the only existing precedent in the recent past, I am asking you, Mr. Speaker, to make a ruling, to review the issue and tell us whether Bloc Quebecois members are being unreasonable by demanding that these members spend more than five minutes before the committee.

Considering that the former member for Charlesbourg, Mr. Jacob, spent five or six hours, is it too much to ask that 30, 35 or even 60 minutes be provided for questioning the members involved in this matter?

Again, I call upon your good judgment. I am asking you, Mr. Speaker, to look at the issue with all the wisdom that parliamentary law gives you under such circumstances.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am the chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I think it might be useful if I described the process the committee is undertaking because the inquiry is still ongoing.

We received the reference by motion from the House of Commons. As soon as possible thereafter we convened a meeting where we heard and were able to question an expert on general matters concerning privilege and contempt in the House of Commons. Based on that meeting our steering committee met and decided that first of all we should invite in our colleagues who were cited in the article which was part of the reference to us from the House of Commons.

We decided at that meeting that they would be invited to a meeting today, that they would be asked to make a statement of up to five minutes and that would be followed by a question and answer period.

At the meeting today there was a discussion on the nature of the questioning. It has been agreed the members would appear one at a time. There was a general agreement in the committee that for the first round we would confine the questioning and the statement to a total of about 20 minutes. It was made clear at the beginning and the end of each witness presentation that he might be invited back either later in today's meeting or at future meetings of the committee.

The intent of this approximate time period the committee provided and for which there was a formal agreement which the record will show was not to cut off questioning. The intent was to show fairness and equality to each of our colleagues who would be appearing before us.

It was made clear that this was not some sort of gag, gag order that is. The purpose of it was so that each member as the hearings unfolded would be faced at first with the same period of time for questioning.

On the matter of the motion and the unilateralness of the decisions as chair, I believe I was following the clearly expressed wishes of the committee. The 20 minutes was not a time limit in the sense of questions. Questions can be put at later hearings, no doubt. It was intended to show fairness to the members concerned.

This plan was developed properly through the steering committee at which all members were represented. As in other meetings, as chair I have two purposes. The first is to show fairness to our colleagues. I think that is very important. The second is to deal with the reference that the House of Commons has given to us and keep to that discussion.

Mr. Speaker will find that the record will show all parties had equal time. All members where they asked to speak had equal time within the limits set by the committee. I stress the guiding principle of our meeting was fairness to our witnesses.

As I have mentioned, this is not a question of pressure on any party or individual on the committee. The next meeting of the committee is next Tuesday when we will continue these hearings. Thereafter, once we have considered the evidence we have received, we may well call members back or proceed in some other fashion.

This is an ongoing set of hearings. There was absolutely no intent to limit questioning of one party compared with the questioning by another.