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 #117 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

FisheriesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

FisheriesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Order please. The hon. member for Saskatoon--Humboldt has the floor.

FisheriesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, two parliamentary committees have recommended that the racist regulations be scrapped and the B.C. court will soon rule on the matter.

By tabling Bill C-43, the government is undercutting Parliament, the courts and the livelihood of non-Indian fishermen. Why is the fisheries minister entrenching an Indian only, race based fishery scheme?

FisheriesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

West Nova Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, most of the Canadian population, certainly all of the members on this side of the House, want us to give aboriginals, the first people of this country, a fair economic chance and opportunity and we will do that.

AgricultureOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture knows that cattlemen indicated very clearly last week that interest-free loans simply will not cut it, yet a story that has just moved on the Canadian Press wire says that the federal government is set to present a mad cow aid package to beef farmers: interest-free loans to beef farmers, feedlot operators and renderers.

Could the Minister of Agriculture please confirm that this is the case and would he tell us what else is being planned by the federal department of agriculture to assist people in the beef industry?

AgricultureOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, as I said in the House yesterday, we are looking at a number of things. Certainly we are working very diligently to get the border open, which is our first choice, but we also know that we need to do a combination of other things using existing programs, and yes, maybe looking at helping the industry through some sort of a loan program to help with cash flow through this situation that they are in as well. But we are looking at a number of issues, not just one specific one.

AgricultureOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the BSE scare has led to an American ban on all ruminants, not just beef but also sheep and lambs. This is no small issue. In 2002 alone, 148,000 head of sheep were exported to the U.S.A., but with this market shut down, prices are in steep decline.

During his press conference on June 4 and again in the emergency Commons debate, the agriculture minister failed to mention sheep even once. It is as if this industry does not exist in the minister's mind, so here is my question. When can we expect to see sheep and lambs included in the plan for piecemeal resumption of trade?

AgricultureOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows full well that sheep are ruminants. The case of BSE was found in a cow, which is also a ruminant. In the rules and regulations if we change feed practices and getting our borders open to beef certainly includes any action that any country would take against any ruminant, and that is certainly the case from this side.

Government AppointmentsOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has refused to tell us who misled the Queen of Denmark about the departure of Ambassador Alfonso Gagliano from Denmark.

I would therefore ask him to have some respect for his department and for all the career public servants working there, who regret the way Canadian diplomacy is becoming a laughing stock.

I would ask him to rise to the level of his position and to tell us today who informed the Queen of Denmark that Ambassador Gagliano was leaving. He must answer that here in this House.

Government AppointmentsOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as I have already said in this House, Mr. Gagliano is our ambassador to Denmark and he remains our ambassador to Denmark.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

June 12th, 2003 / 3 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of the hon. members to the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Dileita Mohamed Dileita, Prime Minister of the Public of Djibouti.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Canadian Alliance Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, it being Thursday, we would like to find out from the government what we have on our plate for the rest of the day, for tomorrow, of course, and what it has up its sleeve for next week. Will we see a comprehensive aid plan for mad cow disease before we leave this place for the summer?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3 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 usually answer about the legislative program in the House and that is what I will do now.

This afternoon we will continue with the business of supply, with votes scheduled for 8 p.m., pursuant to the arrangement made earlier.

The business that the government will put forward before the House tomorrow, pursuant to another agreement which I will be submitting to the House a little later this afternoon, will be Bill C-42, the Antarctic agreement, Bill C-44, respecting compensation for certain military personnel, and then Bill C-35, the military judges bill. If there is any time left, we will then consider Bill C-34.

The program for next week would be Bill C-7, first nations governance, Bill C-17, public safety, and Bill C-13 respecting reproductive technologies, as well as other legislation which has returned from committee, for instance, legislation such as the sex offender registry and bills like that.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, in response to a question from the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, the government House leader indicated incorrectly that the members of the New Democratic Party had voted against Bill C-24, the election financing act. In fact, the government House leader will know that all NDP members present last night voted for it, unlike the Liberals across the way of which 10 abstained. I just want to point that out and invite the government House leader to correct the record on this point.

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, the hon. member is quite right. I mistakenly, as a result of seating changes, assumed in regard to the hon. member; therefore that would have made him a Tory member, and I certainly do apologize for that.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, yesterday, when I asked the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development about the Amo Ososwan school in Winneway, Témiscamingue, the minister claimed he was not aware of this file.

Consequently, I ask for the unanimous consent of the House to table the abundant correspondence between the minister, the department and Chief Mathias of Winneway about the school, the last letter of which was signed by the minister himself a few days ago. This proves that the minister misled the House and the public.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent for the hon. member to table these documents?

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on June 5, 2003, by the hon. member for St. Albert concerning multi-year funding of the heating fuel rebate. I would like to thank the hon. member for St. Albert for having raised this matter. I would also like to thank the hon. Minister of National Revenue for the information she provided to assist the Chair on June 11.

In raising this matter, the hon. member for St. Albert pointed out that the government paid out more than $1.4 billion in heating fuel rebates during January 2001. As this is a somewhat complicated case, it will be helpful to provide the House with a fairly detailed chronology of the events that have led to the raising of the procedural point before us.

The government's intention to make rebate payments was first announced in the budget speech made in the House on October 18, 2000. As a result of the general election held during November 2000, the government initially funded these rebates by the use of Governor General's special warrants. These special warrants are used exclusively to fund government operations on an urgent basis when Parliament is dissolved. During periods of dissolution, it is impossible for the government to apply to Parliament for the approval of funding, and Governor General's special warrants provide a temporary means of overcoming this difficulty.

Members will find a more detailed account of the use of special warrants in the House of Commons Procedure and Practice , pages 747-48.

Once Parliament meets following a general election, any special warrants that have been issued must be submitted to Parliament for approval. The special warrants in the present case were tabled in the House on February 12, 2001. It is not necessary to enter into every detail of the procedures concerning the use of Governor General special warrants, but I would draw the attention of hon. members to two points in particular. First, any funds obtained by the government through the use of such warrants must subsequently be approved by the House as part of the normal estimates process. The funds authorized by the special warrants on December 13, 2000 and January 9 and 23, 2001, were included in the Appropriation Act approved by the House on March 20, 2001.

Second, and this point was underlined by the hon. member for St. Albert, the funds approved in this way apply only to the fiscal year for which they are granted. The fact that funds are provided by a special warrant does not exempt them from the key principle of our financial procedure that funds are allocated on an annual basis and may not be expended after the end of the fiscal year for which they are approved.

Although the initial funds were approved for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2001, the hon. member for St. Albert pointed out that in 2001-02, $42.2 million were disbursed for heating fuel rebates and a further $13 million during 2002-03.

At their meeting of May 12, 2003, an official of the Treasury Board indicated to the public accounts committee that further payments would be made during 2003-04. The hon. member for St. Albert noted that no legislative authority exists for the heating fuel rebate program and that the House has not been asked to approve any appropriation for that purpose since supply was passed for the fiscal year 2000-01.

An appropriation act gives authority only for a single year and is therefore not appropriate for expenditure that is meant to continue for a longer period or indefinitely. Ongoing programs must be established by particular legislative measures. Once Parliament has approved a program in this way, it then may be asked to appropriate funds on an annual basis.

At this point I would like to point out that an exception to this rule exists in the case of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. Section 60(1) of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency Act reads:

Subject to subsection (4), the balance of money appropriated by Parliament for the use of the Agency that remains unexpended at the end of the fiscal year, after the adjustments referred to in section 37 of the Financial Administration Act are made, lapses at the end of the following fiscal year.

Accordingly, with respect to the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, subject to the reservations in the act, appropriations are for two years rather than one as is usually the case. The hon. member for St. Albert drew to the Chair's attention to the fact that $42.2 million was paid out in heating fuel rebates during 2001-02. Given the carry-forward provision just cited, there seems to be no reason to question the agency's authority to make these payments using funds originally appropriated for 2000-01.

However, the hon. member also pointed out that in testimony before the public accounts committee it was revealed that a further $13 million in rebates were made during 2002-03. Clearly, no authority existed for the carry-forward of funds from the moneys provided by the special warrants. Any unused funds from that appropriation lapsed on March 31, 2002. It was also indicated to the public accounts committee that further payments relating to heating fuel are expected during the current fiscal year.

The hon. Minister of National Revenue indicated to the House in her statement on this issue that all of the payments made relative to heating fuel rebates were made as ex gratia payments. The Public Accounts, 2002, Vol. II, Part II at page 10.14 describe an ex gratia payment as “a discretionary payment, made as an act of benevolence in the public interest, free of any legal obligation, whether or not any value or service has been received”.

As the hon. minister indicated, payments of this type do not require specific parliamentary authority. That is to say, they are not made as part of a legislated program, nor are they the object of a specific funding request made to Parliament. At the same time, it is quite clear that even with respect to ex gratia payments, the funds used must be properly authorized by Parliament. In the present case, the minister has told the House that the heating fuel rebates were paid using funds authorized as part of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency Vote 1--Operating Expenditures.

The Chair concluded that in both 2001-02 and 2002-03, the rebates were simply paid out of the Vote 1 funds, all of which had been properly authorized. No other authorization is required for payments of this type. It seems reasonable to conclude that any further payments issued during 2003-04 or subsequent years will be made on the same basis. I am therefore satisfied that the point of order of the hon. member for St. Albert is not well founded.

However the Chair is troubled by the current case which is an example of a persistent problem that I have had occasion to comment on before, that is, the adequacy of information provided to Parliament regarding estimates. Committees have always been dependent on being provided with complete and accurate information concerning proposed public spending. In light of the size and complexity of modern government, this is all the more true.

The reports on plans and priorities and the performance reports that are now tabled annually were meant to provide such information. Yet difficulties persist and, some might argue, have grown even more acute. In this case, for example, to determine the source of the funds being used for the heating fuel rebate, members had to rely on the documents tabled before Parliament. If that documentation is inadequate, then members seeking clarification have no recourse except, as the hon. member for St. Albert did, to raise a point of order in the House.

The hon. minister's statement has clarified the situation but I believe all members would agree with the Chair that it would be preferable if members had available to them the opportunity to obtain this information without being obliged to take up the time of the House.

It may well be that those House committees that have special responsibility for the estimates process will want to have a closer look at the nature of the information provided to members by the estimates documents. It is, after all, hon. members who must take a large share of the responsibility for seeing to it that they receive the information they require.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, during question period I made a remark which may have been unparliamentary and for which I sincerely apologize.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Canadian Alliance Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Earlier today we had a unanimous consent to move on to orders of the day. At that point we lost presentation of petitions.

I would seek unanimous consent to return to routine proceedings specifically for the petitions segment.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it agreed that we return to presentation of petitions?