This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #55 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nations.

Topics

HealthOral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the former minister of justice launched a gun registry that has ballooned to a billion dollar fiasco. As health minister, another pet project involved a $6 million marijuana grow-op in the depths of a mine in Flin Flon, Manitoba.

It has been two years since the pot was planted. Information suggests that there have been two crops and hundreds of pounds of pot produced. Apparently the first crop, at least, was unusable for research.

Canadians would like to know what has been done with the pot from the “rock garden” and how is this joint venture benefiting Canadians?

HealthOral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, we are working with Prairie Plant Systems to provide research grade marijuana so we can move forward with the clinical trials that we all know are important in terms of determining the medicinal benefits and possible adverse effects of using marijuana as a medicinal product.

I would think the hon. member should be applauding the government ensuring that we are doing the clinical trials to determine if there actually is medicinal--

HealthOral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Rimouski—Neigette-et-la Mitis.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to the latest figures from Human Resources Development, close to 35% of EI recipients draw all the benefits to which they are entitled. The majority of these are seasonal workers, who are at risk of having no income whatsoever for a period of up to 10 weeks a year.

When does the Minister of Human Resources Development intend to act on the Bloc Quebecois' call for a single EI eligibility level of 420 hours for all workers in seasonal industries?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Shefford Québec

Liberal

Diane St-Jacques LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the response I wish to give the hon. member is that, on the whole, the EI system is working well and helps out those for whom it is intended.

According to the 2001 Monitoring and Assessment Report, 88% of salaried workers would be eligible for EI benefits if they lost their jobs.

The program is, therefore, designed to adjust automatically to local labour market fluctuations. The eligibility criteria become more flexible as unemployment rates rise.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the labour force survey results for the month of January have now been released by Statistics Canada.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development Canada please tell the House what the latest figures mean for Canadians and for the labour force as a whole?

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Shefford Québec

Liberal

Diane St-Jacques LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, after an exceptional year in 2002, with an increase of 560,000 jobs, the Statistics Canada figures released today indicate that the rate of unemployment continues its downward trend, and was 7.4% in January.

This news is all the more positive, when we consider that, since October 1993, there have been 2.8 million jobs created, there are 365,000 fewer Canadians unemployed and the unemployment rate has dropped 3.8%.

This is reason for optimism as far as future employment prospects are concerned. This government will continue to encourage strong participation in the Canadian labour market.

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

Noon

Canadian Alliance

Philip Mayfield Canadian Alliance Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

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

The new, unproclaimed species at risk law is already throwing guide outfitters out of work in my riding. Healthy caribou herds in the Itcha Ilgachuz Mountains of western B.C. have been lumped in with the red listed herd of the Cariboo Mountains even with over 500 kilometres between the two herds and no cross migration.

The government has ruled that this western herd cannot be hunted this year even though it is healthy and growing.

Why is this healthy herd being lumped in with a weak herd so far away and why is the environment department not co-operating with British Columbia to reclassify this healthy western B.C. herd of caribou?

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

Noon

York South—Weston Ontario

Liberal

Alan Tonks LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the species at risk legislation is proactive legislation that acts in stewardship models with people who have the herds and where they have been infected, working with provincial health authorities. Where there is a deleterious impact that has been described, it will be taken into consideration. That is the approach that we use.

I would suggest to the member that he take it up further with provincial health authorities and with agricultural authorities.

Human Resources DeelopmentOral Question Period

February 7th, 2003 / noon

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, in order to prevent a shortage of specialized workers, Quebec has developed important labour training tools. However, it is still short $200 million that the federal government refuses to provide under the Canada-Quebec agreement.

Given the considerable flexibility in the Employment Insurance Act for reinvestment in labour training, does the Minister of Human Resources Development intend to begin negotiations with the Government of Quebec to transfer all of the money set aside for labour training?

Human Resources DeelopmentOral Question Period

Noon

Shefford Québec

Liberal

Diane St-Jacques LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the Government of Canada is doing everything in its power to help with training. It is acutely aware of the problem. The money has already been transferred to Quebec City and approximately $600 million per year could indeed help this problem.

TaxationOral Question Period

Noon

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, tax season is here again and the government has still done nothing to plug the outrageous tax loophole where businesses can deduct fines as a business expense.

The minister said that most of the claims were denied but she knows full well that they succeed on appeal and that is why the Supreme Court said that Parliament must change the act to deal with the issue.

Why will the government not amend the Income Tax Act to ensure that no one in the country will ever again get a tax deduction for breaking the law?

TaxationOral Question Period

Noon

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member acknowledges, this is a matter that has been dealt with by the courts in a way that reflects the fact that there may be circumstances that sometimes would result in the courts deeming that an expenditure of this nature is properly deductible. That is something that the courts have decided.

We will be looking at other issues related to the Income Tax Act. When I table the budget on February 18 the hon. member will be enlightened concerning them.

Presence in galleryOral Question Period

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

I would like to draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the ladies' gallery of this year's recipients of the Mathieu da Costa Award: Alana Poon, Hanna Crump, Chloe Hamilton, Gerard De Fancesco, Danny St. Jacques, Sarah Beaupré, Kara Chan, Kristin Blackmore and Kylene Cachelin.

Presence in galleryOral Question Period

Noon

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence in galleryOral Question Period

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

I have notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

Noon

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, for members of Parliament to do their jobs effectively we need to operate on the basis of good information. That information is often provided by the minister responsible for our critic areas, in this case the Minister of Health.

Giving the minister and her department full credit, they do provide us on a daily basis with the media clippings, reports from across the country.

The reason I bring this forward today to the floor of the House is that I think there was a deliberate attempt by the minister and her department to withhold information from individual members of Parliament, and I refer to those clippings.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, we are debating the so-called health care accord reached with the first ministers. It has been an important subject and in fact the number one topic on the minds of most Canadians.

Today, when I received these clippings they were unusually thin, fewer pages than what we normally get. In fact, on the front page of these clippings provided by the department it says “all FMM (first ministers meetings) related clips are provided in separate package with limited distribution”.

That limited distribution is restricted to the government side of the House. None of the health critics on this side of the House received that distribution of clippings, which we need to get the information required to question the minister.

Mr. Speaker, you know full well that the minister has been very much confused on how much money is going into this new package in terms of dollars for provinces and dollars for the aboriginals. She was floundering the last couple of days, so there is a deliberate attempt.

I will quickly go to Marleau and Montpetit and read to you, to the public and to this place the responsibilities of a minister:

In terms of ministerial responsibility, Ministers have both individual and collective responsibilities to Parliament.

Further on it states:

The principle of individual ministerial responsibility holds that Ministers are accountable not only for their own actions as department heads, but also for the actions of their subordinates; individual ministerial responsibility provides the basis for accountability throughout the system. Virtually all department activity is carried out in the name of the Minister who, in turn, is responsible to Parliament for those acts.

That is us, Mr. Speaker.

I contend that it was deliberate on the part of the minister's staff to withhold those clippings from us on this side of the House to effectively to our job, because there is egg all over the Prime Minister's face and the minister's face on this accord.

In addition to that, I think you will find, Mr. Speaker, on the evidence that I am providing, a prima facie case of breach of privilege of individual members.

Again I will quote from Marleau and Montpetit, on page 52, chapter 3, Privileges and Immunities. It states:

The distinctive mark of a privilege is its ancillary character. The privileges of Parliament are rights, which are “absolutely necessary for the due execution of its powers”. They are enjoyed by individual Members because the House--

And this is most important, Mr. Speaker:

--cannot perform its functions without unimpeded use of the services of its Members; and by each House for the protection of its Members and the vindication of its own authority and dignity.

This place only works when we have good opposition. Governments get sloppy and lazy when that opposition is not there. Knowledge is power. We need to have that knowledge to do our jobs. We should not be denied information on the most important issue on the minds of all Canadians, which we get on a regular basis, and this is not just me speaking as one individual member of Parliament. I have consulted with all the health critics, with the exception of one who I believe was absent today, but none of us received those clippings.

Members on that side of the House got those extra clippings. That put them at a distinct advantage over us in this place.

Mr. Speaker, I expect that you will see that there is a prima facie breach of privilege and I would request that you turn this over to the appropriate committee for an investigation.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, to pretend or to state that this is somehow privilege is overstating the facts at the best of times. Talking about the absolute rights and necessities of Parliament in order to function and to illustrate a portion of the clippings as being part of that is stretching it at the best of times.

If the member feels he has not received the complete material which he is normally getting, I have no idea of the size of the clipping file in that particular ministry. There are many people who do that around here. I know I have intervened as a Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons in the past, with my colleague House leaders of other parties, when a critic was not obtaining such information. I would definitely be prepared to do so again if necessary.

I think the hon. member would want to bring that to the attention of his House leader and I will gladly look into it, but it is not privilege. Speaking of privilege, the ringing that is going on right now is something that probably is.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that we in the NDP concur with the comments that have been made by the hon. member from the Conservative Party. I have checked with our health critic. He did not receive the full package of information.

I would make this point. It is not as though that information is not available. Clearly on the top of the document there were contained some clippings; it made reference to an additional package of information that was available to some members, government members presumably, in limited distribution and was not made available to all members of the House, particularly the health critics.

Believe me, it is hard enough to do our jobs as critics around here, to stay on top of what is going on and to be aware of the news that is emerging. To know that information has been assembled but simply is not being distributed and is being withheld from certain members of the House really does infringe upon the right of members in the House to be able to do their work in a proper, equitable and fair way. I would urge you to consider the arguments that the member has made.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Let me thank the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest for raising the matter, and of course for his intervention the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, and last but not least the member for Vancouver East.

I would deem at this time that the information being referred to of course is not government information as such. It is public information that is available to anyone through the media networks, in this case newspaper clippings, whatever the case may be. That in itself is a substantive matter to differentiate between what could be government information or what is “public” information. Certainly I know that there is a tradition, somewhat of a practice, among government departments, ministers and opposition members, particularly critics, to make these clippings available.

I am pleased to hear from the government House leader that he will look into the matter. I would hope that the matter can be resolved internally among the parties. Should it not be to the satisfaction of members raising the question on the opposition benches, certainly I would be prepared to hear the matter at a later time if necessary.

I also have a point of order from the hon. member for Laval Centre.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It is unfortunate that we only have two questions during oral question period.

In an attempt to set the record straight, following the answer from my colleague, the member for Brampton Centre, regarding the position I took yesterday with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, I have three things to say for the benefit of the House and also for the benefit of the public.

Obviously, debate, no matter what the topic, is always essential in democracy. Debate is what enriches democratic life. A debate on the identity card is certainly necessary.

The second thing I said is that, as far as I am concerned, I accept the idea of an optional identify card. However, there are some very clear things that this identity card should not contain, which I indicated to the minister, such as the place of birth, and other information. In other words, I do not want the card to contain all kinds of information. I want it to be optional. I am happy to have had the chance to clarify my views on this.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

With all due respect for the hon. member for Laval Centre, her comments do not warrant a point of order. She did get to clarify things. That is fine, but it did not turn out to be a point of order.

On another point of order, the hon. member for Portage--Lisgar.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, during question period, a particularly well crafted and pertinent question of mine was directed to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, to which he chose to respond in I think a rather thin-skinned way. In his answer, in his bombastic display of vitriol, he unfortunately put erroneous information on the record.

That might not be very relevant to him, but it certainly is to me, because of what he implied in his answer very clearly. I do not know the exact words, but I tried to get the gist of what he said written down: what he said was that if I bothered to show up from time to time for committee.

Mr. Speaker, he is referring to my absence from committee and that is not right. I pride myself on doing my job for my constituents and the people of this country and I resent it when a member refers to my absence from committee, particularly when I have been at over 90% of the meetings this session. All the minister has to do is ask any other member of committee and he would know that.

I do not believe that is fair or right and I also believe that all of us deserve to be treated with respect under the rules of the House.

What I would also say is that this kind of arrogant response is the reason that virtually every submission to our committee regarding the minister's legislation, by people from across Canada, is opposed to his legislation: because he has taken such a thin-skinned approach. He has offended virtually every person who understands and has read the legislation, which I am afraid the minister has not done.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I must reply to the hon. member for Portage--Lisgar with the greatest of respect that this does not constitute a matter of a point of order, but in fact we are prolonging the debate, if I might. If in fact we just took a moment to address the issue of the comment about one's absence, clearly with regard to the House itself we have a certain standard. I am not certain, and I stand to be corrected, but I do not believe it also extends itself to committee.

Is anything fair around here? I will let everyone else be the judge of that, but clearly at this time I must rule that it is not a point of order.

I do this with reluctance, but very briefly, I will hear the hon. member for Portage--Lisgar.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

May I ask you humbly, Mr. Speaker, you expressed in your response, Sir, that you were not totally sure if it is permissible for a member of Parliament to imply that another member was absent from committee. I do not want it left on the record. Clearly if it is against the rules of the House of Commons or not, I do not want it left on the record that I have not been doing my work for my constituents, Sir.

I ask the minister to withdraw his comment. I ask that you, Mr. Speaker, instruct him to withdraw it and that he offer an apology for that response, which put misinformation on the record. Clearly that is not correct, it is not right, it is not fair, and the minister should not be given a lease to allow him to do that.