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House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was missiles.

Topics

Regional DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Liberal Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, critical issues of economic development and infrastructure in the mid-Canada region require innovative partnerships. The Canada-Saskatchewan northern development agreement is certainly a partnership to build on.

Just this week the first projects for northern Saskatchewan were announced by the northern development board totalling $2.7 million. Can the minister explain how these projects will advance the economy of this region?

Regional DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Winnipeg North—St. Paul Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan LiberalMinister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question and for his continuing concern for this region.

Indeed the eight projects announced by my department under the Canada-Saskatchewan northern development agreement will increase for northern communities the number of jobs created, the number of skills development programs available, particularly in the hospitality and tourism sector, the number of accessible transportation routes for freight and people, as well as the number of aboriginal employment development counsellors. All of this will lead to a more sustainable economic picture in that part of this beautiful country.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, 200 seasonal workers on the North Shore demonstrated their anger yesterday by blocking highway 138. The protesting Sans-Chemise have been hit hard by the softwood lumber crisis and the seasonal nature of their employment, and no longer have access to employment insurance. They cannot understand why the government is doing nothing, when once again this year the EI fund has recorded a $3 billion surplus.

When will the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development understand that now is not the time to reduce contributions, but rather the time to improve the program?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe LiberalMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, this is obviously a cause for concern, but the EI program is dedicated to finding solutions to such problems.

The other component of my department is working on finding long term solutions. This of course means that all local, regional and provincial resources must be focussed on seeking lasting solutions, because it is obvious that economic diversification must be encouraged, if only—

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Minister for Human Resources and Skills Development, but oral question period is now over.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I wish to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Monte Kwinter, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services of Ontario.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

February 19th, 2004 / 3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, it being Thursday, I would like to ask the government House leader what the business is for today, tomorrow and of course into next week.

We also would like to make sure that the leader lets the House know in detail what legislation will be brought forward and if it is going to be in the same form as it was when it was first presented.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Brossard—La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we will continue with the debate on the opposition motion.

Tomorrow, we will consider report stage of Bill C-15, respecting international transfer of offenders, followed by a motion to refer to committee before second reading Bill C-19, respecting corrections.

On Monday, we will call report stage of Bill C-10, respecting cannabis. If this is completed, we will return to business not finished this week.

Tuesday and Thursday of next week shall be allotted days. The business on Wednesday will depend on progress that may be made in committee and I will communicate directly with my friends opposite when this becomes more clear.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Roberval on a point of order.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier, during oral question period, an extremely unfortunate event occurred: the Chair decided to prevent me from asking a question on what is, in my opinion, a government operation.

In fact, during the time remaining in question period, I verified the rights of parliamentarians to ask questions and, in House of Commons Procedure and Practice , on page 425, I found the following,

—its primary purpose must be the seeking of information from the government and calling the government to account for its actions.

Members should be given the greatest possible freedom in the putting of questions that is consistent with the other principles.

Finally, page 426 states that members must,

ask a question that is within the administrative responsibility of the government or the individual Minister addressed.

Mr. Speaker, my question was directed to the Prime Minister and dealt essentially with one thing: the audit and recovery of funds announced by the Prime Minister as part of his responsibilities as Prime Minister. This is a cleanup and audit operation with respect to a scandal that has resulted in over 450 questions in the House of Commons. This question related solely to this operation announced by the Prime Minister.

Had my question been, “Does the Prime Minister intend to widen his audit to include such and such a company?”, you would have ruled it in order, and I would have had an answer. “Does the Prime Minister intend to widen his investigation to include such and such a minister?” I would have had my answer and I would have been able to ask my question. “Does the Prime Minister intend to widen his investigation to include such and such a person?” I would have been able to ask my question and I would have had my answer. “Does the Prime Minister intend to widen his investigation to include such and such a trust?” I could have asked my question and I would have had my answer.

Mr. Speaker, when I ask, “Does the Prime Minister intend to widen his investigation to include the trusts of the Liberal Party?” and am not allowed to put my question, I think that is an outrageous decision, to say the least. Just because the word “Liberal” is in a question does not necessarily make that question unfair. It is about one of the Prime Minister's responsibilities, an announcement, government operations; this is the kind of question you have allowed in the past.

You have created a precedent, Mr. Speaker, by accepting a question earlier this week, along the lines of, “Is the audit that the Prime Minister has announced and is the recovery of money going to extend as far as the finances of the Liberal Party?” You allowed that question, Mr. Speaker, and you created the precedent. I do not know why referring to the trusts of the Liberal Party rather than the coffers of the Liberal Party disqualifies me from asking a question on the pretext that it is out of order.

Therefore, I ask you to review my right and shed some light on the biggest scandal in Canada in 50 years.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I too asked a question this afternoon but it was a bit different from the one asked by the member from the Bloc Quebecois. His question came from the angle of the sponsorship funds. Mine came from a statement made by the Chief Electoral Officer about his concern with regard to trust funds.

I would argue that this is relevant because the House passed Bill C-24 a while ago. The bill deals with the funding of election campaigns, the funding of candidate campaigns, and the funding of campaigns for members of Parliament. Trust funds have the same kind of effect in terms of funding campaigns for people who run for political office. I maintain that I was asking something that was in the competence of the Government of Canada.

Also, Revenue Canada issues tax receipts. That too was a relevant part of my question because we do not know whether or not tax receipts are going to be issued for trust funds.

The last point I want to make is very important. I asked the government House leader a similar question about trust funds this morning in the House affairs committee. The very competent and knowledgeable member for Peterborough, who is the chair of the committee, allowed the question. It seems to me that it was the responsibility of the House leader to answer the question and he did answer the question. For those reasons, I would argue that the question I asked today should have been in order.

I specifically said to you, Mr. Speaker, in my second question, in light of the fact that the House had passed Bill C-24, the bill to limit the funding of campaigns by trade unions and corporations and to set limits on national parties and local candidates; I used that in my preamble.

I therefore maintain that my question should have been in order because of those facts.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has heard the arguments of the hon. members for Roberval and Regina—Qu'Appelle. I will start with the member for Roberval.

He mentioned a question relating to an investigation of the finances of the Liberal Party. I did not hear that question. The one I did hear, which I indicated was out of order, was his first, concerning the funds made available to members locally by their party. In my opinion, that question was out of order.

He asked a second question, I am sure but there was so much noise that I did not hear a single word of his question. His colleagues were exchanging words with those across the floor, and there was really a great deal of noise during that second question. I stood up but I said nothing. No minister rose afterward. I then gave the floor to the hon. member for Winnipeg—Transcona to ask his question. In my opinion, it was too late. There was no minister to answer his question, so I continued. I did not, however, declare the question out of order because I did not hear it. I heard not a single word of it.

I will take a good look at the blues when they are available and then give my ruling on the second question. It is entirely possible that it was in order, but I do not know.

With respect to the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, I have some authorities that I want to read to the hon. member, which I hope will be of assistance to him in this regard.

The first item quoted by the hon. member for Roberval is found on page 426 of Marleau and Montpetit concerning admissible questions.

A member may, during oral question period—and I quote:

—ask a question that is within the administrative responsibility of the government or the individual Minister addressed.

I am well aware that the Chief Electoral Officer is an officer of Parliament, but there is not minister responsible for him to answer on his behalf in the House.

I have another citation from Beauchesne's sixth edition, on page 122. There was a discussion in 1986 in which the Speaker set out some guidelines for question period. He said, and I quote:

Ministers may not be questioned with respect to party responsibilities.

Both questions asked by the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle concern Liberal Party business. It is undoubtedly a matter of great interest to many people but it is inadmissible in the House because these citations require that people not question ministers about internal party affairs. The question regarding funds held by members is really a question for the party, and not the government.

In my opinion, the question is out of order. I can think of a 1986 Speaker's ruling, which said that questions may be put to ministers only in areas related to their current portfolios and not to responsibilities they may have had previously in the cabinet or in the party.

Having looked at all these authorities and having made rulings on this very matter myself in the past in respect of questions about party financing, I have little hesitation in saying to the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, as I would have said to the member for Roberval had his question been the same one, but I see he was talking about a second question, that this question is not one that is properly before the House.

The hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle is a very experienced member, more experienced than I in this House, and he knows that he can go to the procedures and House affairs committee to see if he can get these guidelines changed. It has happened before.

However it is not for the Speaker, in a ruling on a question of this sort, to make wilful changes to the practices of the House, and in ruling the hon. member's question out of order, with great regret, I am only enforcing the rules that the House expects of its humble servant, the Speaker, who does what the rules prescribe as the serviteur de la Chambre.

I know the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle appreciates the very delicate position in which the Speaker finds himself in making such a ruling in respect of a question from such a veteran of this place.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger LiberalDeputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, in your comments on the remarks by the member for Roberval, you said there might have been a second question that would have been in order, but no one would have answered it on this side of the House.

If the question that you did not hear had been in order, we would certainly have been pleased to answer it. However, we would have had to hear it as well. On this side of the House, we did not hear this second question either.

If it were asked again, I suppose we would have the pleasure, if you see it fit, to answer it.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Yes and certainly it is not necessary for a minister to answer a question. It is quite possible to say nothing. This is also one of the practices in the House.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, on page 63 of the 22nd edition of Erskine May, it states:

...it is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.

Yesterday, during question period, the hon. President of the Treasury Board said, and I quote from page 757 of Hansard , “the member for Calgary Southest”, and that would be myself, “received $115,000 from the sponsorship program”.

Following question period, when, on a point of order, I challenged the veracity of his statement, the minister corrected himself and said:

There was $115,000 given to the organization in the hon. member's riding...I said in his riding. It was given two years in a row.

That appears on page 760 of Hansard .

He was challenged by members of the opposition to table the document from which he was evidently citing. Finally, at the end of the day he returned to the House and did that, at page 784 of Hansard .

However, having tabled the document, we had an opportunity to review it. It turns out that no such grant existed, that neither myself nor my riding, nor any organization in my riding received a $115,000 grant from the sponsorship fund or any kind of grant.

Earlier today the hon. President of the Treasury Board said “It's despicable when members bring into this House false information”. I concur.

I would therefore like to provide the President of the Treasury Board with the opportunity, which Erskine May suggests he ought to take up at the earliest occasion, to correct what I am sure was a completely inadvertent error by impugning wrongly myself and my constituency.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Brossard—La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, allow me to take a little time to look at what happened, to consult and to get back to you on this issue.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Yorkton—Melville on a question of privilege.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will go through this as quickly as I can. You are familiar with the arguments that I have made previously.

On Monday, February 16, in response to my question about a CBC report on spending on the firearms program, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness said, and I am quoting now from page 613 of Hansard :

Mr. Speaker, let me be absolutely clear. We do not accept that number referred to in the report referred to by the hon. member. In fact, we have asked Radio Canada to provide us with its numbers and its calculations which to date it has refused to do.

On Tuesday officials with CBC Zone libre provided my office with the following information. I want to quote it, but I have to be careful because names are mentioned.

I was surprised to read that [the Deputy Prime Minister] did not get a response to a request for information regarding the numbers cited in our report. I have not received any request for information on Monday from her because, of course, we would respond.

This is from the officials at that program.

Yesterday these same CBC officials advised, and again I quote:

We are so surprised by [the Deputy Prime Minister]'s claim that we did refuse to speak to her since [the Deputy Prime Minister, the former solicitor general], Bill Baker, Morris Rosenberg all refused our requests for an interview to discuss the contents of our research and that our requests for visuals in Miramichi and the Edmonton site were refused.

Mr. Speaker, you have heard all of my arguments and I will not go through why misleading statements by ministers in the House should be treated as contempt. I will not use up any more of the House's time by repeating them, but suffice it to say that the Deputy Prime Minister made a statement that was factually incorrect. This error misled me and every member of the House.

In order to perform my fundamental functions in the House, I have always insisted on accurate and truthful information. That is why the making of erroneous and misleading statements in the House may be treated as contempt.

Let me summarize briefly. The Deputy Prime Minister said that she had asked Radio Canada how it had arrived at its conclusion that the $2 billion was being spent on the gun registry. We find out now that in fact this is patently false. She did not even contact Radio Canada.

Democracy cannot function if we are not told the truth. I ask you to investigate, Mr. Speaker. This is the minister who said, 17 times in the House, “We have nothing to hide” and “we will get to the bottom of this”. In light of what I have just revealed, how can we believe a word the government says?

I am prepared to move the appropriate motion should the Speaker rule that the matter is a prima facie case of privilege.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger LiberalDeputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to have a moment to review the record, but judging from the comments, the words and the quotes that the hon. member just used, the Deputy Prime Minister said that she had not yet seen that information.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

No, she said she had already contacted them.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

The member said that she had not yet seen the information. I do not think she said, and I will clarify the record, that they had refused to provide the information, which is what the member is alleging right now.

Having said that she had not seen the information is certainly something that I have not heard disputed here from what the Deputy Prime Minister said. Therefore I believe this is certainly not a prima facie question of privilege and I would encourage the Speaker to rule against it.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I think we will to have to hear from the Deputy Prime Minister in light of the allegations that have been made. I think in the circumstances we will wait to hear from her. The statement quoted from Hansard by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville appears to be accurate in terms of what was stated there.

I will have to hear from the minister in due course before the Chair is able to make a ruling on the matter.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this debate. It is obviously a very important issue which will affect not only Canada's future but that of the United States and indeed the globe.

It is rare that I get up without a very specific and definite opinion on something, but in fact I think we have had quite a bit of discussion on extreme opinions on this issue. I would like to perhaps reflect for a few minutes on some of the issues at stake and how important it is that Parliament is having this debate and that it has a role to play in the ultimate decision to be made.

We have a long tradition of working cooperatively with the United States on the defence of the North American continent. I have some personal history on that, having served in the RCAF radar reserve squadron based at Uplands Airport and having served on the Pinetree Line of radar stations in the 1950s. I have to balance that long tradition of working for our common defence against other considerations.

We also have a long tradition in Canada of opposing the proliferation of weapons, of working for the reduction of weapons around the world, of working for arms control, and of working diplomatically and multilaterally for stability in the world to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction or major weapons of any kind.

I do not know how many people in the House will remember a video called If You Love This Planet by Helen Caldicott, in which she talked about the fact that the world possesses enough atomic weapons to destroy the entire globe 14 times over. This obviously consumes a great deal of the world's resources, represents an ongoing danger to the world, and deprives us of the capacity to deal with many of the important needs of the people who are on this planet with us.

Finally, I would say that one of our long term traditions and unalterable positions is that of opposition to weapons in space. There is an issue about whether a ballistic missile defence system will work. I am grateful to the constituent who sent me a copy of an article from Physics Today , the publication of the American Institute of Physics, around the practicalities of either boost stage interception of missiles or later interception of missiles, either of which present significant technical problems and difficulties.

Nonetheless, the Americans are proceeding this October with the first phase of a missile defence system, so should Canada be involved in discussions about possible involvement in that and our relationship with the Americans around that system?

I think we need to know more. Are there costs to Canada? What are we being asked to contribute? What are our priorities? If there are costs involved, if we are expected to contribute financially, then how much and what other things will we not be able to do because we are doing that? If participation involves Canadian money, is participation more important than other things that we need to and must do for our military? Would this involve some establishments on Canadian soil?

Parliament does not know these things. The opposition does not know these things. I think before we can make a reasonable decision on this issue, we have to know these things. We will only find out some of this, first, if we are involved in discussions and, second, if Parliament is kept fully informed of those discussions.

I would like to put forward some reasons that would not be good reasons to enter into an agreement of this kind.

Pleasing the United States is not a good enough reason. This country has forged and will continue to forge its own foreign policy and, as a result of that, its own defence policy.

The argument that this presents research, technological and commercial opportunities for Canada--in other words, money--is also not a good enough reason to enter into this. Simply because it might be good for our defence companies is not a good enough reason.

I will share with the House and with the minister my concern about some of the wording in the letter he has sent to Secretary Rumsfeld, which seems to imply that the issue is not whether we are part of this but under what conditions.

I note that the minister is in the House and I appreciate that he is here to hear my comments. I am concerned about such wording as the following:

It is our intent to negotiate in the coming months a Missile Defence Framework--

It also states:

We believe that our two nations should move on an expedited basis to amend the NORAD agreement to take into account NORAD's contribution to the missile defence mission.

It is important that discussions continue and that we not dismiss out of hand an opportunity to have some influence on what the Americans are doing and will be doing. However, I have said that I think Parliament has a crucial role to play here. This government has talked about democratic reform, about giving members of Parliament more authority, and on this I think it is at least as important as the Kyoto accord. I would urge the government: before decisions are made, Parliament should be able to express its opinion in a vote.

I think, however, that it is equally important, because there have been extreme positions and information put out on both sides of this issue, that the government keep Parliament informed, both directly and through its committees, and that there be regular briefings on what the discussions are and how they are proceeding so that this Parliament can develop its own opinion and have an opportunity to express that opinion.

Finally, I will say that it is a long and fine tradition of the Liberal Party, which is the current government, that defence policy follows foreign policy and is governed by our foreign policy and our role in the world, not vice versa. As we proceed on this, we have to look to our long traditions, those traditions I mentioned at the beginning. The reduction of weapons, multilateral diplomacy, opposition to weaponization of space, and arms control have to remain our objectives in order for us to work toward a more peaceful world, not to work toward a world that continues to be based on an arms race of one kind or another.