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House of Commons Hansard #176 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was auto.

Topics

Human ResourcesOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Judi Longfield Liberal Whitby—Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Secretary of State for International Financial Institutions.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business reports that Canadian owners of small and medium sized businesses are experiencing persistent labour shortages. About 265,000 jobs are vacant in the small business sector and about 185,000 jobs have been unfilled for at least four months.

In a recent survey of its 102,000 members, the federation discovered that 26% reported that they had at least one job that was unfilled because the business was unable to find persons with skills.

What is the government doing to address the situation?

Human ResourcesOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalSecretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Whitby--Ajax for her excellent question.

On the one hand, developing skills and education for workers who are needed by employers lies at the core of our innovation and learning strategy. On the other hand, labour shortages are better than the opposite, which is not enough jobs and too much unemployment. Part of the reason for these labour shortages is that Canada has been the most powerful job creating machine of all the G-7 countries.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of Dr. Solomon Isaac Passy, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast B.C.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian AllianceLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, could the government House Leader tell us what the business will be for the rest of this week and next week?

As he knows, 70% of members of the House want private members' business to be votable. Will the government House leader instruct his members on the committee to go to the meeting next Tuesday, discuss the issue and vote on it immediately so we can solve the problem as quickly as we can?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

April 25th, 2002 / 3 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will continue debate on third reading of Bill C-50, the WTO legislation. When that is concluded we will take up report stage and third reading of Bill C-47 dealing with excise.

On Monday and Tuesday of next week we expect to return to Bill C-5 which deals with species at risk. I would then hope that on Wednesday we could commence debate on the new public safety legislation which I expect to be introduced on Monday.

In response to the Leader of the Opposition on the matter of private members' business, I commend the hon. member for Peterborough who is the chair of the committee on procedure and House affairs. He has taken the initiative to organize under the auspices of the committee a roundtable discussion among members about better alternatives for dealing with private members' business.

As all House leaders know, finding the right way to manage private members' business, particularly the question of votability, is a topic that has bedeviled not just this parliament but previous parliaments. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested everything be votable. That is the rule that applies to government business. If we could come to a consensus about the time that applies to private members' business perhaps we could apply some of the same rules we apply to government business.

As I said during question period, we need creative thinking on the issue. We need a solid co-operative approach. I am perfectly happy to set aside the rhetoric and find ways that will work for all members of parliament.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I could not be in the House this morning for routine proceedings and could not table the ninth, tenth, and eleventh reports of the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages. I request the unanimous consent of the House in order to table these reports now.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to revert to tabling of committee reports?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, the ninth, tenth, and eleventh reports of the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages.

The ninth report deals with consideration of vote 35.

In its tenth report, the committee expresses the hope that the budget of the official languages commissioner be increased by $4 million.

In its eleventh report, it expresses the hope that the official languages commissioner will launch a public awareness campaign throughout Canada to help Canadians better understand the Official Languages Act.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Mississauga South.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Mississauga South Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, as you know my request relates to two questions of privilege. If I may, I will deal with one at a time.

The first question of privilege relates to a matter of obstructing or impeding a member of parliament from conducting his business. Mr. Speaker, I would refer you to Marleau and Montpetit, chapter 3, Privileges and Immunities, the section on “Freedom from obstruction, interference, intimidation and molestation” on page 83.

The matter relates to an item of which I cannot deal in much specificity because I cannot address the absence of a member in the House. However I believe that dealing with the generic case would provide a remedy to my concern.

As a parliamentary secretary, when called upon, I am obligated to represent the minister in the House of Commons with regard to adjournment proceedings, that is, questions from a previous question period which members would like to deal with in a more fulsome fashion.

It appears that either a member, or the table, or the vacuum of guidelines within the standing orders, has led to a situation not only on the particular occasion in question but on similar occasions where parliamentary secretaries are required to be here in the House to discharge their responsibilities but a member does not show for that proceeding.

It appears to me that the standing orders are silent on the matter of what constitutes due notice in these matters. It also appears to me that the standing orders are silent on what constitutes a valid reason for a cancellation at a very late period of time, what period of notice and what the consequences are if there is no notice or if there is no valid reason for a member not to appear for the adjournment proceedings.

In the particular case, I had other business to attend to but my first responsibilities were to be here in the House to respond at the adjournment proceedings. I was impeded and obstructed from doing my other business in the House simply because the member did not appear for some reason, or the table did not inform me, or that the standing orders of the House did not provide the guidelines in this regard.

I raise this, Mr. Speaker, as a question of privilege. Marleau and Montpetit states on page 84:

Over the years, Members have brought to the attention of the House instances which they believed were attempts to obstruct, impede, interfere, intimidate or molest them.... In a technical sense, such actions are considered to be contempts of the House and not breaches of privilege. Since these matters relate so closely to the right of the House to the services of its Members, they are often considered to be breaches of privilege.

Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, I have risen today on a question of privilege as is sometimes the custom of this place to seek remedy from the House with regard to circumstances where members do not appear, or where notice or cancellation notice, or reasons are not given. I hope that the standing orders will be clarified and that specific instance which involved me will be looked into and resolved to the satisfaction of the House.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I think this question of privilege is very easily dealt with. All hon. members have an obligation to be here for the House when it is sitting, including the hon. member, including the hon. member who apparently did not show up.

The sad thing about the hon. member's question of privilege is that parliamentary secretaries or ministers who choose to be here to respond to questions raised on the late show, as we call it, are here to respond. They cannot say anything unless the person who raised the question is here first.

While I know we try to arrange these things to accommodate all hon. members so that some who may choose to absent themselves from the House, and I know that members hate being away, will be able to in fact slip away and do something else.

In this case there was a breakdown in communication. The member was not here. The hon. member feels he was inconvenienced but I know he was glad to be in the House. In that sense I can only say the burdens of office are heavy upon him. As a parliamentary secretary he has to be here and take a chance. He took a chance and it did not work.

If he has a real grievance, I suggest he raise it with the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs which may want to look at the rules in this regard to see if they can be changed.

However I am afraid I cannot agree with him that this non-attendance by another hon. member and the cancellation of this proceeding somehow damaged, affected or impeded his ability to carry out his duties because of course his first duty was to be here in the House. The Chair can only go that far.

The hon. member has a second question of privilege and I know he will want to get on with that.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Mississauga South Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, my second question of privilege is a little more serious. The matter of privilege relates to an incident which occurred this morning, in which I believe I was intimidated by another member of parliament with regard to House matters.

If I may give some background, in the debate on Tuesday, April 23 the member for Vancouver Island North sought the unanimous consent of the House to table over 8,000 documents. I was in the House and indicated that I did not give my consent. The next speaker, the member for Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke, identified me for refusing to give unanimous consent and indicated that I was silencing Canadians. That is the background.

This morning I was in the House on other business and had to leave the House to go to committee. I left the House and while I was waiting for the bus outside, a car drove up in front of me. The member for Kelowna got out of the car, approached me, put his finger to my nose and told me that he had a problem with me. He repeated the language the member for Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke had used, indicating that I had silenced Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, I believe you will find that this is intimidation, that the member's intent was to make sure I would think twice before I would exercise my right not to give unanimous consent. Marleau and Montpetit, page 373 with regard to tabling of documents states:

There has been a long-standing practice in the House that private Members may not table documents, official or otherwise, even with the unanimous consent of the House.

I believe that I have worked hard to earn respectful relationships with all hon. members of the House. If I am accused of silencing Canadians and intimidated because I decided to exercise my right to deny unanimous consent on a matter, which I am aware was not permitted by the House in the normal course unless there were extraordinary circumstances which had the consent of all parties of the House in advance of such a request to table, that member was trying to intimidate and influence me into reconsidering my particular actions in the House on a subsequent occasion.

As I indicated in the first question of privilege, normally such items are considered to be matters of contempt of the House, but the House considers them as questions of privilege. I raise them here today simply because I believe that regarding the issue of requesting unanimous consent to table documents which are not in accordance with the rules of the House except in some rare circumstances, it is not for another member to suggest to me that I should not be making up rules as I go along, it is the Speaker. Those were the allegations of the member, that I was somehow making up rules, but when I get a finger in my face to suggest that he has a problem with me, I take that with the aggression which accompanied those words and that action, that I was being intimidated.

I raise this matter with the hon. Speaker for his consideration.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

We will hear first from the hon. member for Vancouver Island North, as he was making the speech and made the request.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, if you will recall the events of Tuesday, I brought in the things I wanted to table. I had 8,681 letters. I was summoned to speak to you by the clerk. I told you my intention. You clearly told me that the piles were too high and I reduced the size of the piles. You were aware that I intended to ask for unanimous consent to table those documents and the advice I received from my leader's office was that it was perfectly in order. I thought that you had indicated to me that as long as I received unanimous consent from the House, it would be appropriate.

I missed some of the intervention by the member for Mississauga South. If he is suggesting that I was in any way trying to intimidate him, I am not sure how that is. I have not spoken to the member since that incident. I did recognize that he was the member who had denied unanimous consent and I said so in a subsequent press release. That is the only action I have taken since that time.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I just want to clarify if the hon. member across the way is talking about the member for Kelowna who is not in the House, in which case it makes it difficult for him to defend himself. I was wondering whether we are talking about my hon. colleague who just stood up or the member for Kelowna.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I think there were two members that were mentioned, the member for Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke and the member for Kelowna who the hon. member for Mississauga South says somehow intimidated him in the performance of his duties.

I think what is clear is that what happened here is a perfectly normal practice. The hon. member for Vancouver Island North asked consent to table documents. The consent was refused as sometimes happens but not always. Somebody pointed out who made the refusal and did so in a way that apparently caused some offence to the hon. member for Mississauga South.

As the Speaker, I am not in a position to control what goes on outside the House. What went on in the House in this case was perfectly normal. It is not uncommon for this to happen.

I am sorry that the hon. member for Mississauga South feels that somehow he has been maligned by the statements of the other hon. members, but it is normal for consent to be requested and it even happens that consent is refused sometimes. It happened in this case. It has happened in many cases in my experience here over a number of years and sometimes people point out who said it. There is not a lot I can do about that.

In the circumstances, I have trouble with the hon. member suggesting that somehow he has been intimidated. If something happened outside the House that involved the member for Kelowna coming up to him and putting his finger on his nose, that could be an assault but I do not know how I can deal with it here in the House. This is my concern because I do not think it has breached his privileges to any extent.

Had there been perhaps a more serious assault, I would be inclined to regard it as something more serious in that regard, but then if it happened outside the House I am not sure what jurisdiction your poor Speaker would have in respect of such an incident.

I will hear the hon. member very briefly, but I think we have pretty well exhausted this point.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, again I cite Marleau and Montpetit under “Freedom from obstruction, interference, intimidation and molestation”. On page 83 it mentions whether it happens in the House or while coming or going to or from the House on account of parliamentary proceedings. I was on my way to the transport committee.

I have sought legal advice on the matter. The action of approaching a member quickly and with a finger pointing in the face in fact constitutes assault under the legal definition. The member repeated the language that I was silencing Canadians and was trying to influence my actions in the future, or any member who is trying to exercise his or her right to deny unanimous consent.

The rules say clearly that in the majority of cases unanimous consent to table documents by private members is not permitted. It is my contention that I was assaulted by the member for Kelowna this morning and that he was trying to intimidate me in my actions as a member of parliament.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member may have a point. What we will do is put the matter over and perhaps when the hon. member for Kelowna is back he can shed some further light on this matter.

I have one other question. Could the hon. member inform the House if this happen outside the building?

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Waiting for the bus, Mr. Speaker.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Thank you for that clarification. We will leave it and see if there are further submissions on the point at a later date.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dale Johnston Canadian Alliance Wetaskiwin, AB

I just want to inform you, Mr. Speaker, that the member for Kelowna, the Canadian Alliance critic for seniors, is on his way to the House. I am sure he would like an opportunity to answer these charges; while we are waiting for the bus. I am sure the bus is on its way and it will no doubt bring the member for Kelowna, who I hope finds his way here without undue assault.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Canadian Alliance Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, after you gave your ruling, I felt that there was disrespect toward me in the House because the member for Mississauga South was smirking and smiling. He is trying to put across a serious incident, but by his smiling and smirking in the House he obviously does not think it is serious.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

We cannot control the facial expressions of all hon. members.