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House of Commons Hansard #60 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was mechanics.

Topics

ShipbuildingOral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, a coalition of unionized employees of shipyards in Atlantic Canada, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia is asking for a meeting with the Minister of Industry in order to follow up on the report on shipbuilding entitled “Breaking Through”.

When will he grant this request for a meeting? Is he waiting for all Canada's shipyards to close?

ShipbuildingOral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Industry is aware of this issue and he is prepared to meet with all those in the community.

I will pass on the comment by the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière to my colleague, the Minister of Industry, and I hope that he will look into the situation.

Correctional Service CanadaOral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, a couple of weeks ago John Martin, whose many convictions include assault and weapons charges, told prison officials that if released he would not go to a halfway house.

Despite his high risk status and his own warning, Correctional Service Canada released him from Joyceville and told him to go to a halfway house. Now he is unlawfully at large and police cannot find him. They say he is on the run with no money and likely to start robbing to support himself.

Will the solicitor general explain why a serious offender who explicitly said he would not follow the terms of his parole was allowed out of prison?

Correctional Service CanadaOral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Cardigan P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay LiberalSolicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague is aware the National Parole Board is an arm's length body that evaluates whether or not an offender should be transferred to another institution. That is not the responsibility of a politician.

Correctional Service CanadaOral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, John Martin is not an isolated case. We know there are hundreds of other cases such as John Martin's.

I have a question for the government. It is bending over backward and its institutions are bending over backward to help convicted criminals that are in prison. Yet it has given no service to a war veteran. Is it because it knows which way each one of them voted?

Correctional Service CanadaOral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Cardigan P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay LiberalSolicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure how to answer a question like that. The fact of the matter is when people offend and are convicted they are evaluated and put in a penitentiary.

Yes, there is rehabilitation. There is rehabilitation and there is punishment.

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are seriously concerned about what is happening in Zimbabwe, particularly since the abduction of a Canadian aid worker and the harassment of our high commissioner to that country.

Could the Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa tell us what action the Government of Canada is taking to signal our concern over the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe?

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Edmonton Southeast Alberta

Liberal

David Kilgour LiberalSecretary of State (Latin America and Africa)

Mr. Speaker, the government is very concerned about what is happening in Zimbabwe. As a result I will announce the following measures that we will be taking.

We will suspend Zimbabwe's eligibility for the Export Development Corporation's export financing. CIDA will not undertake any new initiatives with departments of the government of Zimbabwe. CIDA will put on hold the mining titles environment project, an ongoing project at the moment.

Canada confirms its existing policy of barring all military sales to Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's participation in Canadian peacekeeping training courses will be abolished, suspended. Canada will continue to work through the Commonwealth ministers action group to try to get the government of Zimbabwe to show greater respect.

Correctional Service CanadaOral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, Keith Lawrence escaped from prison in Ontario a long time ago. Since 1972 he has lived in Ontario under an alias and was recently rearrested, but it took nearly three decades and a tip from a family member to bring it to pass.

Would the solicitor general tell the House why he is doing so little toward finding the hundreds of offenders at large in Canada?

Correctional Service CanadaOral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Cardigan P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay LiberalSolicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would hope that my hon. colleague is not fearmongering to the public. The facts are the facts.

Very rarely does a person escape from our maximum and medium institutions. In the medium institutions we have in the last eight years cut the number of escapees by 61%. The government has done a lot to improve the prison system in this country.

Correctional Service CanadaOral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, nearly a thousand convicted criminals are at large in Canada. These offenders, murderers, rapists and drug traffickers, were in the custody of Correctional Service Canada but are now outside without serving the sentences handed down by the courts. They are back on the streets putting our citizens in danger.

We can see by the incident involving Keith Lawrence that it can happen for decades. Would the solicitor general tell the House what he plans to do in order to put these offenders back where they belong?

Correctional Service CanadaOral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Cardigan P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay LiberalSolicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that my hon. colleague wishes to try to tell Canadians that a lot of offenders are escaping from maximum and medium institutions.

As I said, the facts are the facts. If a person does walk away from a medium security institution and is caught for speeding or anything else, he or she is rearrested right on the spot. It is important that Canadians know that.

The facts are also that escapes have been cut by 61%. We have done a lot to improve the system in this country and will continue to do a lot to improve it.

Port InfrastructuresOral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, the federal government is allocating a meagre $50 million for the maintenance and repair of small craft harbours, when we all know that the infrastructure network and these harbours are in very bad shape, in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada.

How does the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans reconcile so few resources and so many needs? Is he prepared to invest more and quickly?

Port InfrastructuresOral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Vancouver South—Burnaby B.C.

Liberal

Herb Dhaliwal LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, there is always quite a bit of demand for repairs of small craft harbours. We look at safety and need across the country. It is a priority to make sure that our harbours are safe and can be utilized by our fishing fleets.

It is done on a merit basis. We are repairing small craft harbours across the country. We will continue to repair them to ensure that they are safe and can be properly utilized.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

In light of the recently announced decision regarding consultations with first nations to discuss changes to the Indian Act, which could lead to economic opportunities and infrastructure development on first nation communities, would the parliamentary secretary cite a positive example of such a consultation process?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Oxford Ontario

Liberal

John Finlay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. It gives me an opportunity to remind the House that one year ago today the Nisga'a Lisims government was inaugurated in New Aiyansh in northwestern British Columbia.

The federal government gave the Nisga'a stewardship over their lands and resources. It was the result of a combination of a hundred years of negotiation. When the Nisga'a Final Agreement Act was given royal assent in the other place, the Nisga'a called home. People left their homes and started parading.

TaxationOral Question Period

May 11th, 2001 / noon

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the United States congress passed the largest tax cut in world history of $1.4 trillion.

Given that American labour productivity is already growing at three times the level of Canada and given that the huge tax cuts announced yesterday will make American tax levels permanently lower than those of Canada, what does the government propose to do to allow our productivity to compete with that of the United States?

TaxationOral Question Period

Noon

Windsor West Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray LiberalDeputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we are away ahead of the U.S. on this matter. We have already brought forward and are implementing tax cuts which are going into effect faster, wider and deeper than those of the Americans. They are just catching up with us.

In future I hope the hon. member will get his questions from Canadian sources rather than sitting in the House and reading the New York Times .

Grants And LoansOral Question Period

Noon

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources Development indicated yesterday, before the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, that she was considering the possibility of setting up a system of scholarships and learning accounts to help students pay for their training.

Why does the minister not acknowledge that the system of loans and grants in Quebec is the best in Canada, and would she not be better advised to allow Quebec to opt out with full compensation in order to avoid once again taking students hostage?

Grants And LoansOral Question Period

Noon

Laval West Québec

Liberal

Raymonde Folco LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, as the minister told the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development yesterday, the government has made a commitment to help Canadians improve their skills. This is written in the throne speech and in the red book.

In particular, we have spoken of the need to help people improve the ability to set money aside for ongoing learning. As the minister indicated yesterday, the government is working now to honour this commitment.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

Noon

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I gave notice to the Chair of a question of privilege concerning the public letter the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, George Radwanski, wrote to Information Commissioner John Reid. The letter was made public by wide dissemination through privacy commissioner facilities including the Internet and it appears on the website of the privacy commissioner.

It is important to note that the letter has received widespread distribution and is not a private piece of correspondence. Mr. Speaker, I will be sending you a copy of the letter from the website and I ask for consent of the House to table a copy at some point. The letter is a direct public attack by one officer of parliament on the work of another officer of parliament, as referred to by the Deputy Prime Minister today in the House. It seriously calls into question the impartiality of the privacy commissioner.

It will be my submission to the Chair that this public attack on an officer of parliament erodes public confidence in that officer. The fact that the attack was made by an officer of parliament erodes public confidence in this institution and is a contempt of the House and its officials. Both the privacy commissioner and the information commissioner are officers of parliament. They report to the House and operate under the authority of two statutes, the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act.

I refer the Chair to page 155 of Erskine May, 19th edition, which states:

Both Houses will treat as breaches of their privileges, not only acts directly tending to obstruct their officers in the execution of their duty, but also any conduct which may tend to deter them from doing their duty in the future.

The duties and powers of the privacy commissioner are set out in section 29. I will not quote them here as you do not have to rule on questions of law, Mr. Speaker. It is sufficient to know that the privacy commissioner is empowered to investigate complaints from individuals.

The important feature is that there must be a complaint. There was no indication in the letter that a complaint had been made and we are not aware that any such complaint was made. The closest indication as to the motivation of the privacy commissioner is his statement found at paragraph five:

My duty as Privacy Commissioner of Canada is to champion and defend the legitimate privacy rights of every Canadian, whether it be an unemployed labourer or the Prime Minister of our country.

I do not know how many unemployed labourers are the subject of this sort of treatment, but I know there is a legitimate case before the Supreme Court of Canada for judicial determination. The privacy commissioner is attempting to alter its outcome on behalf of his friend the Prime Minister.

The relationship between Mr. Radwanski and the Prime Minister was raised in the House and in the second chamber of parliament prior to his appointment. It has been the subject of media comment. The unilateral and grossly improper attempt to make the information commissioner withdraw an action authorized by law gives the public the impression that an officer of parliament is primarily an agent of the Prime Minister and acting in such a way as to interfere with the process of the courts. The matter will be adjudicated in due course.

The Privacy Act empowers the commissioner to receive and to investigate complaints. He is empowered to make findings and to report his findings to government. He is empowered to examine databanks, to make findings and to report those findings. He is required to report to parliament annually. He is empowered to make special reports:

—commenting on any matter within the scope of the powers, duties and functions of the Commissioner where, in the opinion of the Commissioner, the matter is of such urgency or importance that a report thereon should not be deferred until the time provided for transmission of the next annual report of the Commissioner.

He is not empowered to unilaterally declare himself a champion of the Prime Minister's side in a court proceeding and to attack an officer of parliament who has lawful authority to seek judicial determinations on matters lawfully brought through the information commissioner's office. It is important and critical to my argument that the Chair consider that point.

There has been an increasing trend on the part of some parliamentary officers to involve themselves, mostly through public comment, in matters outside their statutory responsibilities.

I have refrained from raising questions on the issue until now. I find it particularly troublesome when individuals, in this instance the privacy commissioner, start telling other jurisdictions their views on what the laws should be. These people are appointed to fulfil their duties under the law and their appointments do not make them judge and jury on all matters relating to those subjects. They are first and foremost officers appointed to do their duty under the law.

We do not tolerate judges taking to the public platform to participate in public debate. There needs to be similar restraint exercised on officers of parliament. They do not speak for this place. They are not self-appointed, self-generated champions of what the law should be. Nor should they act in no way as agents for the Prime Minister or portray themselves in that fashion.

The issue of the information commissioner's access to the Prime Minister's agenda is before the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court in the land, for determination. The court will do its job. The privacy commissioner seeks to subvert this lawful process and in so doing has been intemperate and accusatory. To call the lawful actions of an officer of parliament “tantamount to informational rape” is not only demeaning to the office holder. It reflects on the House of which he is an officer.

The information commissioner is a former parliamentarian empowered by the House. He is not freelancing or acting in some sort of nefarious purpose for the sole purpose of partisan exploration of the Prime Minister's agenda. He had a formal request to seek such information. He has a mandate and a responsibility to uphold that request and follow the chain of information. However the unprecedented attack by his counterpart the privacy commissioner is improper and I would submit illogical.

The privacy commissioner has concerns about the law. There is nothing in the law to establish the office of champion of the Prime Minister. We are aware of no complaint to the privacy commissioner unless it came from the PMO or the Privy Council Office. It appears he has set out to attack an officer of parliament for purposes other than his statutory framework. He is attempting to put the fix in for the Prime Minister's Office.

If the privacy commissioner has concerns about the law he has the ability to report those concerns to parliament. To my knowledge he has not done so. Instead he has, and this is important, publicly attacked the lawful activities of the information commissioner without the foundation of a complaint having been made to him.

This gives the appearance, whether true or not, that the privacy commissioner is the Prime Minister's agent, champion and client. It undermines public confidence in the independence of the privacy commissioner. He has become the champion of the Prime Minister against a fellow officer of parliament.

The ethics counsellor has cast himself in a similar role, and this is the complete opposite of what their offices should represent and are intended to do.

These actions, the unilateral and unauthorized public undermining of an officer of parliament in the execution of his lawful duties and the carrying out of a media campaign against an officer of parliament in the lawful pursuit of his duties, constitute prima facie evidence of contempt of the House.

Public confidence in all officers of parliament should be a matter of basic concern to every member of the House. The issue is sufficiently serious to merit examination by a committee, and I am prepared to move the necessary motion should you find there is a prima facie case of contempt before the House.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I will not take a long time to discuss the issue brought to the floor of the House by the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, the House leader for the Conservative Party.

The House will know that Mr. Radwanski, in responding to a media question, indicated he had not spoken to the Prime Minister about this case. Nor had anyone in the Prime Minister's Office encouraged him to speak about the issue. Let us be clear on that.

Both officials in question are officers of parliament, not only of this House but of both houses. They are officers of parliament as an institution. Just as the information commissioner responds to questions involving access to information, the privacy commissioner has a role to comment on what he believes to be privacy issues. His task in that regard is of solemn importance.

It is not for me to say which of the two tasks is more important. The fact that both officials have existed in a parallel way presumably means that the House and all of us consider both roles equally important.

The hon. member across the way said, and the blues will verify the precise words, that the privacy commissioner commented as to what the law should be. I do not believe the privacy commissioner has made remarks as to what the law governing his position should be. I do not think that is the case.

Second, the hon. member, while claiming to defend an officer of parliament, made very strong accusations about another officer of parliament. He said the officer in question had exceeded his mandate.

The hon. member has a right to state his opinion. I may or may not agree with it but that is a different proposition. However the member has said on repeated occasions, and I think there were five of them, that the officer in question was a champion of the Prime Minister. The member has no knowledge or information to support that and has produced no evidence before the House. Repeating a sentence he had said previously in the same discourse does not constitute proof.

Comments like that about an officer of parliament are inappropriate. As to whether the privacy commissioner is entitled to comment on privacy matters, I am sure that he is. Whether he commented in the proper forum is a debate which is perhaps of interest to some of us. If it is, there is nothing wrong with discussing the issue.

We could call one or both officers before the appropriate parliamentary committee under estimates, under Standing Order 108(2) or otherwise to ask them to define how they see themselves doing their jobs in that regard. That is fine. It is the privilege of the House and its committees to do so.

However, I do not believe that justifies making accusations of the kind that were made about an officer of parliament while alleging at the same time to defend the other officer of parliament. Both officers were appointed by resolutions of both Houses and carried with the vast support of this House. I do believe, Mr. Speaker, that is the issue before you to consider.

As I said, I do not want to belabour the point here. I believe I have addressed the issue. I do not believe it is my role to make a trial of one person while accusing another, nor the reverse thereof. Both of those would be inappropriate action on my part.

I would suggest that if we have questions about how these two officers discharge their functions there is an existing mechanism for us to do that.

One should also be prudent when making comments in the House about an issue that is presently before the courts. Prudent language on behalf of all of us is extremely important. The comments we make here can and have been used in the past.

The honourable and learned member across the way, who is a member of the bar, will know that the comments we make here can and have been used in the past to make points before the courts. Therefore, we should be twice as prudent. I invite the House to behave in that manner.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

12:15 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have two quick points which might assist the Chair.

I have listened to the matter raised by the hon. member. I have noted, and I hope all members have as well, that in our statutes governing access to information and privacy we have constructed a bit of a dynamic and a conflict between the two. The objectives and goals of access to information move in a certain direction and the goals and objectives of the privacy legislation operate in the opposite direction. As a result of that, there is a natural potential conflict between the goals of privacy and the goals of access to information.

In this particular case, parliament having constructed both of those mechanisms, it is natural that the dynamic of conflict would always be there. It is therefore my view that this is more a case of legitimate differences between the operation of a statute and its mandate than it is a question of privilege.

On the issue of whether or not this is a question of privilege, I personally do not grasp the difference between the information commissioner and the privacy commissioner, and our day to day privileges and operations here in the House. To be sure, it is a conflict and a very public issue, but I do not see the connection between that conflict and our day to day operations in the House as it pertains to our privileges.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

12:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair will take this matter under advisement and come back to the House in due course. I thank hon. members for their interventions on the point.

Inuvialuit Final Agreement ReportRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Oxford Ontario

Liberal

John Finlay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the 1999-2000 annual report of the implementation co-ordinating committee on the Inuvialuit final agreement.