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House of Commons Hansard #130 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was representation.

Topics

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is another day and another scandal. It is becoming clear now that the Liberal government has no idea how many millions it is wasting. Supposedly to save money, it wants to claw back extra sea pay from our sailors who are overseas and it intends to privatize our coastal border patrols. Yet now we learn of a “serious billing irregularities” surrounding a $76.5 million computer contract at DND.

After all its previous billion dollar boondoggles, why has the government not put safeguards in place to protect Canadian taxpayers?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member were informed, he would know there is absolutely zero clawback from any sailor. That was made clear some days ago.

On his other question, the department takes extremely seriously questions of financial management. We have taken the following actions. The routine auditing system in this case worked and identified the problem. The department initiated its own internal audit and also sought external auditing assistance. The department requested that the RCMP review this matter and an employee has been terminated.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the truth is that action was not taken until the media threatened to expose this.

This latest scandal comes at a time when the defence minister makes the outrageous proposal to privatize our coastal border patrols because our military simply does not have enough airplanes.

If the minister cannot properly oversee contracts at DND right here in Ottawa, how in heaven's name will he supervise private contractors conducting air patrols over our borders?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, once again the hon. member has his facts wrong. The department took this action in terms of auditing well before the media became aware of the story. That action was taken a long time ago. The case was referred to the RCMP some time ago, before the story broke.

The department has behaved responsibly. The department takes this matter extremely seriously. The auditing is ongoing. The case has been referred to the RCMP and an employee has been dismissed.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Given that the energy bill is currently under review in Washington, I want to ensure that the government is still committed to protecting the Arctic national wildlife refuge from drilling for the protection of the Gwich'in people of the north.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for both his question and his interest in preserving the rights of the Gwich'in people and the communities of the north.

The government remains absolutely committed to making representations to the senate, to the house committees, to all concerned and to the administration about drilling in the Arctic wildlife preserve. We consider this to be detrimental to the interest of the Arctic communities themselves and very threatening to the fragile Arctic environment.

We will continue to press our case with the American authorities.

TaxationOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, federal and provincial Liberals have been cutting deals ahead of the Ontario election. This hidden agenda is never good for Canadian taxpayers.

Has the government made plans with the provincial Liberals to harmonize the GST and the PST within Ontario?

TaxationOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

No, Mr. Speaker. I know the Alliance has been doing its best to help the re-election of Premier Eves in Ontario. I can say that its success is just about equivalent to its success in marrying up with its friends down the aisle.

TaxationOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will put that assurance of the no to harmonization in the same place as the promise of the Liberals to scrap the GST.

The cost of harmonization is borne directly by an added tax burden to the Ontario taxpayer. The additional taxation costs to Ontarians will be in the range of $1 billion.

Is the government--

TaxationOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. It is almost impossible to hear the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, who has the floor. Somebody will have to reply and how anybody will hear, I do not know; I cannot. The hon. member has the floor. We want to hear her question.

TaxationOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the previous member already has.

Is the government prepared to add another $1 billion to the burden of Ontario taxpayers through the integration of the GST and the PST?

TaxationOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I will certainly make note of the hon. member's doubts about whether harmonization would be a good idea.

In the meantime I see that she has joined the former leader of the Ontario Conservative Party, Mike Harris, in presuming that Mr. McGuinty will win the election this week, which is right.

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Gaspesians, the people of the Acadian Peninsula, artists, the Maritime Fishermen's Union, the UPA Federation, the Regroupement des mariculteurs du Québec, the Southern Gaspe Professional Fishermen Group, all these people are asking the department to enforce section 35 of the Fisheries Act with respect to the assessment of the Belledune project

Will the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans wait until the name of every resident of the Gaspé is on the list before finally taking action?

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

3 p.m.

West Nova Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, once again, I am somewhat startled by the hon. member's request that I misuse federal legislation to encroach on provincial jurisdictions. This would mean that New Brunswick is not able to decide what is good for its people. As long as federal environmental standards are respected, it is totally within its right, and we respect its rights.

Veterans AffairsOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Wood Liberal Nipissing, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we approach November 11, MPs such as myself start planning for the various Remembrance Day activities in our ridings. This year veterans affairs will be sending one complimentary commemorative wreath to each MP instead of each branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.

Does this mean MPs have to pay for additional commemorative wreaths?

Veterans AffairsOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Winnipeg North—St. Paul Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan LiberalMinister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Science

Mr. Speaker, laying wreaths at Remembrance Day is indeed a beautiful Canadian tradition. It shows our continuing respect and tribute to veterans and their comrades for their service to our country.

Indeed, the policy has been changed, but let me assure members that should they wish additional wreaths, they should please send in their requests. There will be no charge for any number of wreaths that they request.

FisheriesOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, the fisheries minister is stubbornly refusing to end the race based fishery on the west coast. In fact the government is appealing two court rulings which state that the Indian only fishery regulations are offensive and illegal. Both judges characterized the regulations as discriminatory and the government's own polling shows that Canadians do not support special race based privileges for Indians.

Why is the minister refusing to scrap the racist Indian only fishing scheme?

FisheriesOral Question Period

3 p.m.

West Nova Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I assume the member is an expert on racism because he speaks to it often.

I want to assure him that once we heard from the court, we ended the pilot sales agreement. The decisions are now under appeal and therefore I will not discuss them. However we have been able to negotiate a selective fishing agreement with one native community.

We always look for ways to incorporate the native communities in the commercial fishery in a way that respects their culture and their rights.

FisheriesOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The Chair has notice of a question of privilege. The hon. member for Laval Centre.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

September 30th, 2003 / 3 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, during oral question period, the Prime Minister did me the great honour of quoting a few lines from a speech 20 lines long.

Most certainly, that quote will have struck a sour note for both those here in Parliament and those listening to us.

I would therefore ask for permission to read in its entirety the twenty or so lines from which the Prime Minister took his words.

Mr. Speaker, before discussing this appointment, I would like, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, to acknowledge the work of Bruce Phillips who, in spite of often extremely difficult circumstances, did a professional job. Mr. Phillips can only be praised for the impartiality and common sense that he displayed

At this point, I think that the Parliament of Canada and all Canadians and Quebecers want the Privacy Commissioner to be someone with good judgment and with the ability to objectively evaluate the facts before him

We congratulate Bruce Phillips and we wish him a new career that will allow him to use his skills for the benefit of society.

As for the appointment of Mr. Radwanski, anyone taking the time to read his resumé can only agree that this man has a very extensive knowledge of Canadian politics. He is most certainly a brilliant person, a person with a superior intellect.

We all know, however, that these qualities are important but do not necessarily provide all the rigour required to hold an office that must be totally exempt from any partisan behaviour. The Bloc Quebecois will not approve this appointment for the simple reason that Parliament must be allowed to ask questions to a candidate to the position of Privacy Commissioner.

This is another appointment made by the executive branch of government and it could be perceived as a political appointment. I believe the government—the one that is still in office—would definitely not want to give that impression. I humbly suggest that the government order that this candidate be called by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to answer the questions of members of Parliament. In my view, this is the least we can ask in a parliament that claims to be the most democratic and the best one in the world

PrivilegeOral 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, members can endlessly read excepts from Hansard in the House, the fact remains that an option is available to members who a not satisfied with a minister's answer, and this includes the Prime Minister. This option is not to dream up a question of privilege, but to move the question to adjournment proceedings and, at that time, to read whatever they want in support of their position. That is the procedure to follow, and these are rules we have all unanimously approved in this House.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

No doubt, all hon. members, including the minister of state, appreciate the clarification made by the hon. member for Laval Centre. However, as the minister of state indicated, this is more of a question of privilege of a personal nature. The hon. member gave clarifications, putting an end to the debate for the time being. All hon. members always appreciate clarifications.

We have another question of privilege by the hon. member for Delta—South Richmond.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John M. Cummins Canadian Alliance Delta—South Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my compelling case I would like to bring to your attention a couple of passages from Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada , in particular pages 226 and 227, where he notes:

--contempt of the House has no limits. When new ways are found to interfere with our proceedings, so too will the House, in appropriate cases, be able to find that a contempt of the House has occurred.

At page 235, he states:

What constitutes an improper means of interfering with Members' parliamentary work is always a question depending on the facts of each case.

According to a Speaker's ruling from March 21, 1978, at page 3975 of Hansard , it states:

If the Speaker feels any doubt on the question, he should...leave it to the House.

The member is entitled to receive the benefit of the doubt.

That being said, over the past couple of years there has been increasing concern about the ability of the Coast Guard to perform its functions. Much of the information that outlines the impact that these cuts have had have come from concerned members of the Coast Guard.

Now in an effort to stem the flow of information to parliamentarians, the commissioner of the Coast Guard has ordered all staff members who talk with a member of Parliament to report their conversations within 24 hours. This effort at intimidation is intended to shut down the flow of information to myself and other concerned parliamentarians.

The directive that went to employees immediately raised concerns. Let me quote a September 2 memo from one Coast Guard manager. He said “I am getting inquiries about this form. It appears they are being denied access to their elected member of Parliament and feel this is violating their rights. Please provide me with more clarification on what is the intent of this form and when it should be used”

I think the reality here is that the rights of members of Parliament are being impeded, so to speak, by this order by the commissioner of the Coast Guard.

Surely, as I indicated, many of the issues and concerns that have been raised over the past year about the inadequacies of the Coast Guard and its inability to perform its functions have come from members of the Coast Guard themselves who are concerned about the public's safety.

There is no whistleblower protection, no protection for these members if they come to us as members and seek our assistance and try to assist us.

The commissioner of the Coast Guard is attempting to intimidate Coast Guard staff and, in effect, is preventing myself and other members of Parliament from carrying out our duties.

Mr. Speaker, if you find that there is a prima facie case of privilege I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to respond to this question of privilege that the hon. member has raised.

It seems to me that if in fact the Coast Guard might have told its employees not to speak to members of Parliament and that if they did they would be penalized, then my hon. colleague might have the basis for a complaint in this regard.

However the fact that a department or agency has asked its employees to inform their superiors if they want to raise an issue with a member of Parliament about the operations of the department, I do not find that nearly so striking or alarming and I do not think it raises a question of privilege.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I believe the member from the Alliance Party, who raised the issue, does have a very serious concern that could easily be a breach of members' privileges.

As members of Parliament we deal with public servants everyday. We depend on them and certainly we can say that in most cases we get tremendous support and response from them. However, when instructions are given from above, from management circles, from directors or from ministers, where they are basically told “If you are contacted“--and this was the gist of the form as I have seen it--“by a member of Parliament, please note it and the topic and advise us immediately”, then it would certainly create awareness in some person working within the lower levels of any department, the frontline personnel who deal with many of our concerns.

I really think there is intimidation there. I believe our privileges are being interfered with and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider it seriously.