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House of Commons Hansard #146 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was code.

Topics

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter LiberalSolicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member had been listening to some of the answers to questions earlier, one of the complaints from one of the other opposition parties was that CSIS was in fact doing its job as the agency protecting national security in terms of having facilities abroad and having people overseas. As the director of CSIS already indicated, they are doing some of what the hon. member wants them to do and they are doing a very good job at it.

AgricultureOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Quebec agriculture minister stated this morning that $20 million was available from Ottawa for producers who own cull cattle. There are still technical details that need to be worked out.

Does the Minister of Agriculture realize that this is an urgent problem, that time is of the essence and that he must commit this funding immediately? This is urgent, Mr. Minister.

AgricultureOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, we have been working with the provinces, with all of the ministers and with the cattle industry, both the beef and the dairy industries, across the country for the last number of days in order to put together a program to help in this situation of older animals. This shows very clearly the urgency the government recognizes in the situation with the older animals.

When that program is completed, it will apply to Quebec dairy farmers and beef cattle farmers in the very same way it will apply to dairy farmers and beef farmers in every other province in Canada.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Public Works purchases $11 billion of goods and services annually. The task force on women entrepreneurs report that women owned small businesses have been disproportionately unsuccessful in selling their goods and services to the federal government.

Given the unique barriers these businesses face, will the government commit to establishing a diversity procurement policy that would level the playing field to improve access for women entrepreneurs?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Parkdale—High Park and other colleagues, including the member for Vancouver Centre, for their very hard work on the needs of women entrepreneurs and the report of the recent task force. The advice that they have had to offer is extremely valuable.

For my part, and on behalf of the Department of Public Works and Government Services, I can assure the members of the task force that we intend to take their recommendations and put them to work.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has received notice of a question of privilege from the hon. Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

West Nova Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I reluctantly rise on a question of privilege.

I consider the member for St. John's West to be a fair and honourable man. I am sure he made an error earlier when, in the preamble to one of his questions, he referred to my visit at the Irving lodge as being a vacation. He knows well, and he has been quoted in the media as saying so, that I was there on official business.

I accommodated the Irvings within a business trip I was doing to New Brunswick in my capacity in a former portfolio. For it to be portrayed as being a vacation I think is unfair to me and unfair to my colleagues. I know that the member will want to make a correction.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. It does not appear that is the case at the moment.

Does the hon. Minister of the Environment have a question of privilege also?

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, at the outset of question period, the very first words uttered by the Leader of the Opposition were that I was in contravention of the ethics guidelines.

This is totally incorrect. A totally false statement has been made about me. I ask that the hon. member, at this time, apologize to the House for failing to tell the truth about the situation, with respect to myself and the ethics counsellor's guidelines.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, in response to a question by a member from the Bloc Quebecois, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs used the word fraud in reference to the 1995 referendum. Given that I personally participated in the referendum process in 1995, as did the Government of Quebec, the federal government and 93% of the population of Quebec, I demand that the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs apologize and withdraw his remark.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The questions of privilege are all very interesting.

However, the hon. members concerned are obviously not interested in responding at this time.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia concerning whether Bill S-7, the heritage lighthouses preservation bill, violates the financial prerogative of the Crown and the precedence of the House of Commons with respect to financial legislation.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia for having raised this important matter. I would like also to thank the hon. government House leader for his remarks on the issue.

I would remind hon. members that the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia indicated at the beginning of his intervention that he is a supporter of this bill. The question that has been raised is of a procedural nature only and does not deal with the desirability of the bill as public policy.

The hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia pointed out that the Constitution Act, 1867 requires that a bill requiring the expenditure of funds be introduced first in the House of Commons and that it be accompanied by a royal recommendation. Bill S-7, as its number indicates, originated in the Senate.

He also cited the following passage from page 711 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice :

--private Members' bills involving the spending of public money have been allowed to be introduced and to proceed through the legislative process on the assumption that a royal recommendation would be submitted by a Minister of the Crown before the bill was read a third time and passed.

The hon. member also drew the attention of the House to clause 17 of the bill which reads:

The owner of a heritage lighthouse shall maintain it in a reasonable state of repair and in a manner that is in keeping with its heritage character.

He went on to indicate that, while the bill contains no provision directly requiring that money be spent, it seemed unreasonable in his view that the maintenance of lighthouses would be possible without the expenditure of funds.

The hon. government House leader in his intervention underlined the fact that the bill does not expend any public money. He also pointed out that this House has previously approved similar legislation, the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act, adopted in 1988. He noted that the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act, which operates in a way similar to that proposed in Bill S-7, had not required a royal recommendation.

I will remind the House at the outset that it is outside the responsibilities of the Speaker to pronounce on questions of constitutional law. However, the requirement that bills expending public funds be accompanied by a royal recommendation is also found in Standing Order 79, which states:

This House shall not adopt or pass any vote, resolution, address or bill for the appropriation of any part of the public revenue, or any tax or impost, to any purpose that has not been first recommended to the House by a message from the Governor General in the session in which such vote, resolution, address or bill is proposed.

As Speaker, it is my obligation to ensure that the provisions of the Standing Orders are followed. It is important to remember, however, that the requirement for a royal recommendation relates to the expenditure of public funds and not simply to the fact that someone, somehow or other, may be required to make an expenditure as a result of a provision in the bill.

In the present case the question is, I think, straightforward. Both the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia and the government House leader are in agreement that the bill does not immediately require the expenditure of public funds. Any funds that may be required to comply with clause 17 of the bill will be required of the owners of lighthouses only once those lighthouses have been designated as heritage lighthouses.

After examining the bill, I can find no obligation for the spending of public funds either by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board or by the Minister of Canadian Heritage. As there is no obligation for public expenditure created by the passage of Bill S-7, there is no need for a royal recommendation.

I would also like to take this opportunity to correct a possible misapprehension that hon. members may have concerning the royal recommendation and private members’ bills.

The passage cited by the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia from page 711 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice indicates that a royal recommendation must be forthcoming before a private member's bill, which requires the expenditure of public funds, can be given third reading. This provision only applies to private members' bills in the narrow sense, that is, bills which originate with private members in the House of Commons.

While Bill S-7 is being dealt with under the provisions of private members' business, it is a bill originating in the Senate. Standing Order 80(1) states:

All aids and supplies granted to the Sovereign by the Parliament of Canada are the sole gift of the House of Commons, and all bills for granting such aids and supplies ought to begin with the House, as it is the undoubted right of the House to direct, limit, and appoint in all such bills, the ends, purposes, considerations, conditions, limitations and qualifications of such grants, which are not alterable by the Senate.

Although in the present case there are no grounds for invoking this standing order, hon. members should be mindful of the fact that our rules do not permit Senate bills which require the expenditure of public funds. Items of private members' business which require a royal recommendation must originate in the House of Commons.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia for having raised this issue. The precedence of the House of Commons in financial matters and the need to safeguard the financial prerogative of the Crown are fundamental elements of our system of parliamentary government. As Speaker, I share the concern of all members that our financial rules be strictly respected.

Genome CanadaRoutine Proceedings

October 29th, 2003 / 3:15 p.m.

Beauharnois—Salaberry Québec

Liberal

Serge Marcil LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Industry, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, Genome Canada's first report for the 2002-03 fiscal year.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present on behalf of the government, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), in both official languages, the government's response to four petitions.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 50th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the provision standing orders governing private members' business.

If the House gives it consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 50th report later this day.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Pursuant to its order of reference of Tuesday, April 8, 2003, your committee has considered Bill C-23, an act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders, to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, and agreed to report it with amendment.

I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Pursuant to its order of reference of Wednesday, October 8, 2003, your committee has considered Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (capital markets fraud and evidence-gathering), and has agreed to report it without amendment.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Fontana Liberal London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, on the order in council appointment of Michel C. Simard to the position of senior citizenship judge. We respectfully submit this to the House of Commons.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 50th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House earlier this day, be concurred in.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it agreed?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise and move concurrence in the sixth report of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs presented on Friday, October 10.

This is a terrific report, one which came about with unanimous support from committee members, and I am also proud to have this motion seconded by the member for Perth—Middlesex who, like other members of the House, and not only members who were on that committee, very much supports the principle behind the report.

Similarly, my colleague from St. John's West raised this issue in the House of Commons and asked for concurrence in this report. The government at that time moved very quickly to shut down the debate, of course, and put the matter off the parliamentary agenda.

On October 9, the committee agreed to call on the government to amend the regulations affecting the distribution of benefits under the veterans independence program. I would suggest that it was a very long overdue and well-intentioned move at that time.

The government apparently has changed its position given its speed last week in shutting down the debate on this very subject. What is happening as a result of the current situation is that we are creating two classes of veterans' widows. That is to say, if we proceed in this fashion, a very reprehensible situation will evolve.

It will extend the coverage of the veterans independence program, known as the VIP, only, and I stress only, to those widows whose husbands died after May 12, 2003. To be very clear, if a war veteran died on May 11, 2003, his widow would receive the benefits of the VIP for only one year as opposed to the rest of her natural life. That being said, if that poor soul had lived one more day, that same widow would receive the VIP for the rest of her life.

Therefore, any suggestion that this is fair and equitable is absolutely untrue. I oppose and members of this House should also oppose a program that distinguishes between veterans' widows based on the time of death of a spouse. The program would be fairly distributed or should be fairly distributed to widows based on need and not on the time of death of a spouse. That is the compassionate and human approach, I would suggest.

I know that the Minister of Veterans Affairs has said time and time again on this very issue that his heart is in the right place. Nobody doubts that. I know in my heart of hearts that the Minister of Veterans Affairs, had he the money in his department, would make the move. He would make the necessary resources available to widows and the benefit in fact would be extended to all widows who were eligible.

There is a need to correct this anomaly that makes some veterans' widows eligible and others not eligible because of the time of death.

In all of this the real question that remains is this one: Where is the heart of the finance minister when examining this issue? Why will the minister not exhibit the political will and the foresight to make this happen? Why will he not answer questions? Why will the Minister of Finance not answer simple questions posed on this subject matter before the House? Why does he keep passing the buck instead of passing the bucks to those in need?

By most estimates, to put it into context, there are roughly 23,000 widows currently in Canada who will be affected by this double standard. On average, the benefit is worth between $1,000 and $2,000 a year per widow. This means that if the program is to proceed in its current fashion, without the amendment to include all the widows, we are talking about a gap in funding of between $23 million and $46 million. That is the difference.

Basically we are talking about doubling the amount of money available for the program, which is less, I am quick to add, than 5% of what the government spent on the gun registry, to put this in the context of how much money it is. It is less than 5% of what the government wasted in the HRDC scandal, in which money was unaccounted for, in which there was no way to trace where that money went. It is less than 10% of what it cost the taxpayers of this country for the cancellation of the EH-101 helicopter program 10 years ago, and we are still waiting for that replacement and the procurement.

Let us add that small amount for these widows to the budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is a literal drop in the bucket compared to the obscene amounts of money wasted on other government spending.

The government has spent billions of dollars on several mistakes, covering up those mistakes and trying to remedy them and cover its tracks. Yet it is not willing to spend this money to prevent an obvious mistake and an obvious injustice.

Decisions like this seem so out of whack with reality, so inconsistent with the priorities of Canadians. It makes a great case for why there is such cynicism in the country today about politics, about government, about our process and about Parliament itself. This is really a very basic issue of simply doing the right thing.

What group of individuals, I ask rhetorically, can we envision more deserving of support at this time than widows of Canadian war heroes? It is absolutely mind boggling, it is staggering to think that the government would be so mean-spirited as to prevent widows of war heroes being given adequate and I would suggest a very small amount to help sustain them in their aging years in their homes.

It is very often an issue of compassion. My colleague from New Brunswick reminds me of this constantly. The government has an obligation to help persons in need, to help regions in need. This is an instance where the government should come forward with the necessary funds to fully fund the VIP program.

This is simply about taking care of these individuals, helping them with basic costs related to their health care needs, their needs in such times as snow storms with snow removal and hiring an individual to clean their homes or do their yard work. These are very basic amenities with which this money will help to assist.

Not only does this policy in its current form pose an injustice on these widows and on the war heroes by extension, it very much dishonours their memory and mistreats the loved ones who went overseas and who gave their very lives in defence of Canada. There will be an offensive smell around the government's position if it does not choose to make the proper corrections.

More important, the vast majority of these brave women are war heroes in their own right. They were supporting the cause. They were at home tending to their children, helping those veterans who were overseas, doing what was right for the cause of freedom. This is absolute motherhood, yet the government is holding back in a mean-spirited way, keeping this money from the department and in the meantime making catastrophic decisions that are wasteful and out of sync with where Canadians want to see that money spent.

Those women were the backbone of this country during some of Canada's darkest days. They helped in many cases to build military arsenals. They worked in factories and around the country doing jobs that in many cases would have been done by the veterans themselves. They were the ones who cared for their husbands when they returned. Many of those individuals had no support mechanisms when they came back. There was no counselling, no mental health programs, no employment, none of the social structures that exist today.

Those women were the ones who received those veterans back into their homes, tried to help them reintegrate and put behind them the horrors of war. Many of those individuals who returned were severely injured, physically and mentally, by their efforts overseas.

To reiterate, this can be addressed in a fair, compassionate way by a mere addition of $23 million to the VIP program. I say a mere $23 million, but this is a subject that is so fundamental. Many members on all sides of the House of Commons share our concern. The member for Saint John has spoken passionately about this issue and in defence of merchant marines as have other members here in the House because it is important that we demonstrate our understanding, our respect and our compassion for these women.

I would also be neglectful if I did not report to the House that there are other examples where we clearly could do more. There are examples where we could do more for our current veterans who have returned, many of whom are suffering from illnesses and the effect of having been overseas in the gulf war.

However, here is a specific example of a program that is in place, that is in need of funding, a very small amount of money compared to the budgets of other departments, that we can make a substantial difference in the very quality of life of these widows.

The truth is the government has been on many instances forced into making the proper decisions, dragged kicking and screaming to the conclusion that it was the right thing to do, the right thing to help these honourable citizens to fight for the benefits that they earned. This is not something where they are asking for a handout. This is something to which they clearly are entitled. There are numerous examples, and all members of Parliament have encountered it in their constituency offices, where individuals are denied benefits. Veterans come back and they are looking for help. They are looking for the government to simply make it right.

I mentioned before the cause of merchant navy veterans who had to come here on a hunger strike, on the front lawn of the Parliament of Canada, and again were aided very much in their cause by the member for Saint John. That type of spectacle should not occur in a free and democratic country like our own and heaven forbid that this Parliament ever sees the day that we have the wives of veterans coming to this House, this people's place, on bended knee looking for the government to fund their program, to help in their very subsistence, their very ability to get by. We are talking about simply helping these women get by with a very meagre income.

I am reminded of one individual in particular, Mr. Authorson, who had to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to make his case for money that he was being deprived of, in his words, cheated of. He is still waiting for that payment. It is that time and delay that is even more offensive given the age of these individuals and the years they may have left to enjoy. Some of them are in their 80's, even 90's, and so the clock ticks and while that time is passing, they are getting by with virtually nothing knowing that they should be entitled to these funds.

This is a very basic issue for the House to consider. The report, I reiterate, was unanimous. It was one where all members of the committee supported the increase, the change that would not put this dividing line in place between an arbitrary date, which seems to have been pulled out of the thin blue air, that makes no sense whatsoever, that cuts off the time in which widows would be eligible.

There are other cases that are determined on the same type of arbitrariness. Brave soldiers were used in Canada to test mustard gas and chemical weapons at a time when our country was at war. They were used as human guinea pigs. The scientists who at that time were doing so said that they were doing it for a greater cause, to help the war effort. Yet these veterans are also being denied proper compensation.

I am reminded of the veterans who sit in long term health care facilities, health care facilities that are deteriorating, that are not up to code, and the countless others who are still on wait lists to get into those very same facilities. Veterans hospitals should be monuments to sacrifices in every way. There should be every effort made to see that the state of the art, best equipment, best treatment and best facilities are made available to those Canadian heroes.

There are those who were cheated out of the money by the government who should be paid back funds, who were denied pensions that they should have been receiving for years. Again, this has to be a priority for any government and I would suggest that the incoming prime minister immediately turn his attention to this if he has any semblance of responsibility to the citizens of the country.

Those who were subjected to tests, those who served overseas, those who are currently ailing and in need of attention are waiting anxiously for a decision on this issue.

I am extremely proud, as a member of the House of Commons, that the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs made such a forceful case. I also want to commend in particular the member for Souris—Moose Mountain, a very honourable member of the House, who made this case strenuously time and again in support of the veterans. I salute him in that effort. I also mentioned, prior to this, the member for Saint John.

The committee members put politics aside when it came to this issue. This is not a partisan issue. This is not an issue that should require shaming the government into action. It is an issue that should simply appeal to people's sensibilities, to the realization that there is something tangible that can be done immediately to fix it.

I have heard the Prime Minister and other members of the government suggest that they want to address the issue. I know you yourself, Madam Speaker, are a person of large heart and conscience who wants to see the right thing done on behalf of veterans and ailing veterans.

The question then becomes, when will it happen?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Right now.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

It should happen right now as the member for Provencher says, and I agree. It should happen immediately because each moment that passes, each moment in time each day is a day that these widows of veteran are being deprived of what is justly theirs, the support and what it represents to them.

Imagine, as they sit at home and listen to this issue being discussed, their sense of frustration that their government is withholding this type of financial aid and resource that is so fundamental to the things they do in their day to day lives, such as the ability to get groceries, or to have house cleaners, or to get proper medication, all these fundamental things that await us in our daily lives. Those veteran widows are waiting anxiously for the government to display the type of action that will bring about the necessary change.

Why do we not do something immediately? Why do we not end their suffering, their anxiety and impatience? Why do we not just adopt the report today and give the department the political will, backing and support of the House to make it happen? Why would we leave them guessing about their futures and their uncertain health?

The minister himself, I suggest, wants concurrence. His government has made public statements to that end. Why would we not immediately act? I suggest all members of the House would leap from their seats in support of that initiative.

For many widows and their families, receiving or not receiving their benefits will be a deciding factor whether in some cases they can remain in their homes or whether they can remain in a facility where they are comforted, where they have people around them who care for them.

These are such trying and fundamental issues that I believe we have more than a duty and an obligation; we have a moral commitment to fulfill in this instance. The government knows that, every member of the House certainly knows that, and they know it is wrong, just as we know that time is running out.

We have a rare instance where I suggest there would be complete unanimity if we were to adopt this report and make it happen today. It would be a demonstration of solidarity in a cause that is no higher, a cause in helping ailing citizens in our country who are looking to this place for legitimacy and help in a time of need. I think you would find, Madam Speaker, that there is incredible and unanimous support for this to happen.

I hope the debate will continue. More important than that, I hope, for the sake of these widows, we will make the necessary change to give them the entitlement, to give them the access to those resources to live out their years in comfort in a type of support and respect in which we all hold them. This instance is there for us to take and we should simply do the right thing.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough is asking for the House to concur in the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Defence and Veterans Affairs. I am confident that he is serious about this.

I ask for unanimous consent to deem his motion adopted, without further debate.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?