House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pornography.

Topics

Budget SurplusOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member will know that over the last number of budgets what has been done in order to improve the situation for families is not only to introduce but then gradually and significantly to increase the amount that goes to families under the national child tax benefit. This has been good social policy. It has removed hundreds of thousands of children off the poverty line. In fact what we see is an improvement in the tax situation of families.

Canada Elections ActOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, last Friday the Leader of the Opposition directed the media to the National Citizens' Coalition on the continuation of his own court challenge against the Canada Elections Act. This court challenge has the effect of prohibiting disclosure of third party spending during an election.

Could the government House leader explain why the government has requested leave to appeal the Leader of the Opposition's court challenge?

Canada Elections ActOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, yes I did inform Canadians last Friday that the government intends to defend the transparency rules in the elections act.

We in the government believe that all political actors are accountable to the people of Canada. People who spend money in elections, whether it is to elect or to try to defeat candidates, should be transparent. Their numbers should be public.

I cannot understand why anyone, let alone a parliamentarian, would be against that.

Firearms RegistryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, on January 10 the Auditor General sent me a letter saying that the Department of Justice estimates that the gun registry will not be fully implemented for three or four years.

How much is it going to cost to fully implement the gun registry and how much is it going to cost to maintain it each year after that?

Firearms RegistryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is hard to believe that a member has come back with a question that I answered before Christmas.

We have said that we accept the recommendations of the Auditor General's report. As well, there are two reports that we expect to be tabled shortly. As soon as we get those two reports with their recommendations, we will come forward with a plan of action, but making sure that we will keep proceeding with gun control because it is about public safety.

Firearms RegistryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, any competent minister would know what his department is spending on each of its programs.

On December 12 the minister said this about the funding of the firearms program, “I will report back to the House with an accounting of how we manage any shortfalls. I will be open. I will be transparent”.

He has had six more weeks since I asked him the question which I just asked again. Is the minister ready to be transparent with Parliament? How much is the gun registry going to cost to fully implement and how much will it cost to maintain?

Firearms RegistryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, gun control is a very important program for Canadian society. We will keep proceeding with gun control, with the stages of licensing and registration as well.

Before Christmas we were very transparent. We said that we were proceeding on a cash management basis within the department in order to keep the system up and running. We expect the two reports to be tabled shortly.

I will report back to the Canadian population. By the way, the Canadian population supports gun control in this country.

Softwood LumberOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, QC

Mr. Speaker, in such resource regions as Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, the softwood lumber crisis has hit very hard and many families have been driven into poverty by the loss of income caused by this trade war with the United States.

Ought not the Government of Canada, instead of falling into step with the Americans' position on war against Iraq, to be putting in place some concrete measures to assist the families in our regions who are the victims of this trade war being waged upon us by the United States?

Softwood LumberOral Question Period

January 27th, 2003 / 3 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, obviously the softwood lumber issue remains the top trade priority for our government. Again this past week I had an opportunity to discuss it with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Don Evans, who is the one responsible for this matter.

Next week I will be in Washington to again discuss this extremely important matter with Ambassador Zoellick and Mr. Evans. We have an excellent case before the courts. We will win out in the end, but we are open to dialogue with the Americans in order to find a long term solution for this matter, which is of great importance to our country.

Firearms RegistryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, on December 5 the Minister of Justice told the House that major funding for his billion dollar gun registry had been frozen after the government withdrew a request for $72 million in funding.

Would the minister now tell the House how much it has cost to keep the gun registry running for the last two months and, more important, where did he get the money?

Firearms RegistryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, in accordance with the rules of the Treasury Board, I said before Christmas that with regard to the functioning of the program, we were proceeding on a cash management system within the department, which is normal based on Treasury Board rules.

With regard to the future of the program, we expect the reports to be tabled shortly. I will get back to the Canadian population, and we will keep proceeding with gun control in two stages because it is about public safety. We believe in gun control on this side of the House.

Dairy ProductionOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Gaudet Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, the WTO decision on Canadian dairy exports is depriving dairy producers of market opportunities for their products. In the meantime, the government is letting dairy products into Canada that were specifically designed to get around current regulations.

Does the Minister for International Trade intend to fulfill his responsibilities and prevent multinational corporations from circumventing regulations, and thus hurting our dairy farmers?

Dairy ProductionOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, we are working very closely with dairy producers. We have been doing so for several years. We have worked closely with UPA representatives for several years. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and I struck a committee together, where we are reviewing all of these issues.

I can tell the member that the cooperation that we have received from dairy producers has been very constructive and very much to their benefit. They are very appreciative of the system that we are defending and promoting in all international forums, despite everything the Bloc Quebecois is constantly saying here in the House.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Honourable Jim Sutton, Minister for Trade Negotiations and Minister of Agriculture of New Zealand.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I also draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Honourable Dennis Furlong, Minister of Education and Minister responsible for the Culture and Sport Secretariat of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, due to the fact that all the opposition members are back in great numbers and are ready to go to work and offer positive suggestions for the government to some of the legislation it may have, could the government House leader advise the opposition what is on the program for the rest of this week going into next week?

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, while being totally happy about the continuing support we will be getting from the opposition for our legislation, let me indicate to the House the legislative program for the following days.

This afternoon we will continue the consideration of Bill C-20, the child protection legislation. If and when this is completed, we will then turn to Bill C-19, the first nations' fiscal bill in the name of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Tomorrow we will commence report stage of Bill C-13, the reproductive technologies legislation. On Wednesday we will call report stage of Bill C-6, the specific claims bill. On Thursday we will resume consideration of legislation not completed and add to the agenda Bill C-22, the family law bill. On Friday, my present plans are to call Bill C-3 respecting the Canada pension plan.

Consultations have taken place between the parties. I believe that you will find unanimous consent for the following motion that I would now like to move for a take note debate.

I move:

That, Wednesday, January 29, 2003, a debate pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 shall take place concerning the situation in Iraq and, that after 9:00 p.m. on the said day, the Chair shall not receive any dilatory motions or quorum calls.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons have unanimous consent of the House to present the motion?

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of order regarding a number of Order Paper questions. I have alerted the table of my interest in raising this issue today.

On November 20 and 21, 2002, Questions Nos. 59 to 71 and Question No. 77 were placed on the Order Paper requesting from the government a list of grants, loans, contributions and contracts awarded in certain constituencies, including names, addresses, dates, amounts and other such information since 1993-94. Government was defined in those motions to mean all departments and agencies, including what was referred to as crown corporations and another term referred to as quasi non-governmental agencies funded by the government. Remember the word non-governmental which is in there.

Clarifications were required prior to assigning these questions. These clarifications include the matter of which organizations are so-called quasi non-governmental agencies because the government does not have access to information of non-governmental agencies. Frankly, if they are questions of the government and someone is asking about something being non-governmental in the giving of a contract, how would the government possibly know?

Additional clarifications were sought on the types of contracts. The processing of these clarifications took a total of two days out of 45 allowed before the government received from members the necessary information to assign the questions.

In addition, I raise the following concerns about whether these questions are reasonable or in order.

First, there is an enormous amount of information sought covering eight years of material to be gathered and put in readable form, checked for accuracy and signed off by respective officials, including ministers, within 45 days.

Second, all information collected has to be translated under Standing Order 32(4) which requires that any document distributed or laid before the House shall be in both official languages, which of course is reasonable and appropriate.

Third, government departments are not required to keep records on a constituency basis for their programs. I am sure that members would appreciate that there are many reasons why this should not be the case. To respond to the question for search would require postal codes and a manual search of files which would be extremely costly to the taxpayers of Canada, something that some of us care about.

Fourth, there is a matter of the retention period for government files. Under the multi-institutional disposition authority, MIDA, of the National Archives of Canada, general administrative records are kept between two and five years and financial records, six years. Each department determines its needs. This makes requests for information that is not normally used in the conduct of government business with a date over six years old time consuming and extremely costly to complete. I remind members of the House that it is the taxpayers who must pay for this.

In short, because the information requested covers so many different matters, it cannot in any way be produced and translated within 45 days.

In addition the following issue is one I would hope to bring to the particular attention of the Chair. The electoral map of constituencies was realigned in 1996-97 which makes it impossible to respond accurately to questions. Ironically, some members are asking the questions on the Order Paper. I will use the example of the member for Blackstrap because one of the questions is in her name. There was no such riding as Blackstrap prior to 1997. In other words, we are being asked questions about ridings by members of ridings who themselves did not exist at the time for which the information is being sought. Therefore the information on a so-called riding by riding basis prior to the electoral redistribution in my opinion at least should be ruled out of order by the Chair.

Under Standing Order 39(6) these questions cannot be transferred to Motions for the Production of Papers because they do not seek documents. In this regard I would refer to the Speaker's Ruling of June 14, 1989, pages 3025 and 3026, which I am sure are very familiar to all members of the House.

Some members suggested, in a point of order raised on May 30, 1989, that Standing Order 39(6) was obsolete. I would suggest that given the issues I have raised today, it should probably be amended to provide the government with an avenue to request from the Speaker grounds to counter these types of requests for information within 45 days.

Mr. Speaker, I would also ask that you consider whether the clerk has authority to reject questions for information within 45 days as unreasonable, particularly given the exceptional kind of things that I have just brought to the attention of the House.

Under Standing Order 39(2) the clerk has responsibility, and by the Clerk I am referring to the institution, the clerk and his staff, to review questions before they are placed on the Order Paper. It seems to me that questions that are so poorly prepared, and unfortunately some are, that they require multiple clarifications should be rejected.

Similarly, questions that are unanswerable should be rejected. I would submit that questions which are excessively costly and time consuming should be rejected or the government should be able to transfer them for debate.

Finally, questions that are asked of agencies that are not governmental at all should be ruled out of order in the very first instance.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the government House leader protests a little too much. We have a rule in the House that when questions are asked they are answered in 45 days, and the government agrees to that.

We are talking here about grants, loans and contracts. The biggest scandals we have had from the government over the last few months have been about grants, loans and contracts. We all know, those of us who have been in more than one election, that the party in power, when it goes into the election, has a list ready for its members with all the grants, loans and contracts that have gone to their riding.

We also know that the government is not short of computers. I cannot believe and I do not think there is a Canadian who believes that the government cannot give us a list of the grants, loans and contracts, no matter whether it was last year, two years ago or five years ago. It is scandalous what the government is trying to hide. It is shameful that it would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to get involved in something that is a totally partisan issue.

The government House leader says that the government is not required to keep records by constituents. All of us in the House at some time or another have received from different departments lists of grants and whatever in our ridings. We ask for them and we get them by constituency. If the government does not do it, it should do it. It does it for its own members come election time.

I say again, what does the government have to hide? I hope, Mr. Speaker, you will look behind what it is trying to hide so we can get to the bottom of this. The the taxpayers of Canada have a right to know every grant, loan and contract in every constituency in the country.

We are not talking about a lot of money here. Every government department has more computers than they need. Did they not have a couple of hundred million computers stored somewhere that were never used? Maybe the government could put them to use in getting this information.

I would say that when it comes to grants, loans and contracts we are willing to work with the government House leader. Maybe he needs a few more days than 45 because everybody had a six week break. Let us find a date to get answers to those questions. We will not let them go and we will not let the government hide behind some phoney rule that it thinks it has made up somewhere.