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House of Commons Hansard #24 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

AlcanOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, QC

Mr. Speaker, when she visited Alcan workers in the Saguenay--Lac-Saint-Jean region, the Minister of Industry was asked to invite the president of Alcan to come and explain his company's decision to prematurely close the potrooms at the Jonquière plant.

Could the Minister of Industry tell us if she has already taken steps in that regard and, if not, what is she waiting for to follow up on the request of Alcan workers?

AlcanOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalMinister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, last week, during my visit to Saguenay--Lac-Saint-Jean with the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, we met officials from various unions, including Alcan, who are going through difficult times.

Indeed, I pledged to meet with the president of Alcan, first to find out about the planned closure of the potrooms and, second, to urge him to invest more in aluminum processing in that region, as the Government of Canada is already doing.

Western Economic DiversificationOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, Western Economic Diversification Canada makes investments in innovation. In addition to support for university research, has the department ever supported colleges in the west?

Western Economic DiversificationOral Question Period

March 11th, 2004 / 3 p.m.

Winnipeg North—St. Paul Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan LiberalMinister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, indeed my department has supported colleges for innovation. Today my department announced $550,000 in support for the Olds College Centre for Innovation in central Alberta. This college provides support, both technological and scientific, to small and medium sized businesses in the agrifood sector. As well, this college certainly will develop newer technologies. A stronger food sector industry is good for all Canadians. This is about building a 21st century economy.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister.

Earlier in this question period, the Minister of Public Works declined to answer a question by noting that technically the government took office only on December 12, 2003. Is it the government's position that no one in the House is responsible for actions taken by the Liberal government in which the Minister of Public Works, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and 13 other current ministers served?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, in fact the Prime Minister and this government have been very clear. We have put in place a comprehensive response to the Auditor General's report. We want to get to the bottom of this. We are taking responsibility. That is what we did. We took responsibility when we put a public inquiry in place, when we convened the public accounts committee early, when we in fact indicated there would be whistleblower legislation, when we in fact acted in relation to certain of those in relation to crown corporations. We in fact have taken responsibility. We have acted responsibly. We will continue to do so.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

l would like to draw to the attention of all hon. members the presence in the gallery of the laureates of the Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts: in the category of artistic achievement, Iain Baxter, Eric Cameron, Istvan Kantor, Garry Neill Kennedy, John Oswald and Ian Wallace, and in the category of exceptional contribution, Tom Hill.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I invite all hon. members to meet the laureates at a reception at 3:15 p.m. in Room 216-N.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the government House leader what business he plans for the rest of today, tomorrow, and for the start of the week when we come back following the break week.

While he is at it, to prepare us all he might want to tell us when the election is so that we can all get a head start.

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, the election date will be on the date that the Prime Minister chooses to declare it.

In the meantime, this afternoon we will continue with the debate on the opposition motion.

Tomorrow, if we reach an agreement, we will begin consideration of Bill C-21, an act to amend the Customs Tariff, and of the Parliament of Canada Act. This will be followed by Bill C-12, the protection of children legislation, Bill C-15, on the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences, and Bill C-10, the marijuana legislation.

I am also announcing that I will try to get as soon as possible the consent of members from all parties to reduce the scheduled 72 hour waiting period, so that we can deal with report stage, second reading and third reading of Bill C-3 as early as tomorrow.

Next week, hon. members will be in their constituencies.

Monday, March 22, shall be an allotted day. On Tuesday, March 23, we will resume consideration of tomorrow's bills, this until 4 p.m., at which time the Minister of Finance will deliver his budget speech. The debate on the budget will continue on March 24 and 25.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 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, I rise on a point of order. You will recall that the hon. member for Calgary Centre addressed a point of order yesterday, accusing me of having erased from Hansard certain words I had spoken in this House.

Not only did he make that allegation, but in addition he took it upon himself to send me a letter, a letter I am prepared to table, in which he writes the following:

“You may learn more caution as, and if, you continue in your sensitive duties”. He carries on, saying, “You...have an unusual obligation to treat your colleagues courteously, and to speak with care”.

These are expressions I do not accept.

The text that I delivered in the House which was at the origin of the complaint, simply, was delivered in French. I reviewed the tapes. I have never pronounced the words that my colleague attributed to me. The tape was very clear in the English version, which was a translation of my text. Therefore, instead of patronizing me, I would suggest to my hon. colleague to indeed do the same thing I have done, which is to seriously look at the file before making such statements which are totally--again--ridiculous and ludicrous.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, certainly if I were at fault in the matter I would admit that to the House and withdraw any statements that are not borne out by the facts.

We have also reviewed the tapes. There is no question in our review of the tapes that in the English version the interpreter used the words “administrative error” and the voice of the government House leader was heard in the background as he said, en français, “erreur administrative”.

This, Sir, should not be a dispute between the two of us. I believe the Chair has undertaken to look at the televised version of the tape and come to a conclusion himself.

I would, however, repeat and stand beside my very friendly advice to the government House leader that if he wants to make this House of Commons work, which is his duty, he should be careful to show courtesy to other members of this place.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank both hon. members for their additional contributions on the point of order which I am in the midst of investigating, as suggested by the right hon. member for Calgary Centre. I will be returning to the House in due course with a decision in respect of this matter.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

John O'Reilly Liberal Haliburton—Victoria—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a serious question of privilege. It affects all members of Parliament. This question of privilege arises from a meeting in Room 253-D on March 3, 2004. My position as chair of central Ontario caucus is to report to Ontario caucus and in turn to the Prime Minister at national caucus.

Sun Media received a tape from the broadcast service, by whatever means, which remains to me a mystery for sure. I want to know how it was made, why it was made, and how did the media receive it? I believe Parliament, and all members of Parliament, should have an answer to this.

I have no argument with the media. Of course, to quote Churchill, never make enemies of people who buy paper by the ton and ink by the barrel. My problem is, who made the tape and how was it obtained? The damage it caused me is incidental. Politicians love to have publicity; the only thing worse than bad publicity is no publicity. The damage to the manufacturers that I represent in my riding is reprehensible.

An auto parts manufacturer had to defend my statement in the Sun Media, and I am sure everyone here believes everything they read in the Sun Media. He had to explain the statement and that pitted them against their only customer. The damage is the basis of my intervention. I believe my rights of privacy in this precinct of Parliament have been violated.

I would like opposition members to think about it. If this incident happened to any opposition party, would they feel their right to privacy was violated? Would, for instance, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, speaking to his caucus, feel aggrieved if in fact it had been taped and broadcast?

Section 193 of the Criminal Code of Canada clearly favours my point, and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consult it.

Who does a member of Parliament of this House of Commons turn to for justice in this matter? Do we go to the Sergeant-at-Arms, which I did? Do we go to you, Mr. Speaker, which I am doing? Do we go to the RCMP, who have no authority in this particular incident? Do we go to the House of Commons security? Do we go to the Senate security? Do we go to the six or seven security agencies that operate within this precinct? Do we go to the Ottawa police? Or do I go to a local crown prosecutor, which would be in fact in the Ottawa court system, which does not cover the House of Commons?

Mr. Speaker, there is damage. I want to be able to know that I can speak out in private on behalf of my constituents without the fear of their right to privacy being invaded, or my right to privacy.

These same facilities that I used are used by ministers of the crown at all levels. They are used for government briefings. They are used for opposition party members' meetings. Do they now feel secure that their meetings can be taped and sold to the press or obtained by the press? Do the opposition worry that they are being recorded in their private meetings?

Mr. Speaker, when we look for your guidance as the person with overall authority not only for the employees of Parliament Hill but with the responsibility for a secure environment for members of the House of Commons to carry out their parliamentary duties with confidence that their rights are not violated by criminal activity, we ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider the rights of every member of the House of Commons. I would like you to consider their rights to privacy under section 193 of the Criminal Code. Was that violated?

I am sure other members would like to comment on this. When the chair of a caucus goes to a private meeting and reports to the chair of the next caucus up and the next caucus being recorded, I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that even you would want to ensure us that right of privacy, that right of being able to bring our constituents' problems forward without fear of being taped by someone. Was it taped? Was it broadcast? I have heard of four different ways as to how this happened.

Mr. Speaker, I believe this was criminal activity and I would ask you to investigate it, to look into it, and to ensure me that my rights as a member of Parliament are secure in this environment.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the same matter, apparently as the press would show it and as the House record will show, there was an Ontario regional Liberal caucus meeting which took place on February 25, 2004. On both February 29 and March 4, which followed that event, there were accounts, and verbatim accounts, of that meeting published in an Ottawa newspaper. I believe it was the Ottawa Sun . The Ottawa Sun also published that it had received an audio tape of that meeting and presumably relied on the audio tape in order to write, print and publish the story.

There are three aspects I would ask the Speaker to consider in relation to this event. The first involves the matter of privilege itself. I submit that this disclosure by the Ottawa Sun constitutes a breach of our privileges, the privileges of all of us in this House.

It is the disclosure that is the breach. I have not made reference explicitly to the taping or the broadcast. There are factual elements involved in what happened here that are not precisely known to me. It is quite possible that the taping, the switching, the broadcast, the transcription, all of those elements, may also constitute a breach of our privileges here, individually or collectively, but I will leave that matter to the Chair.

Suffice it to say, from my perspective, that the disclosure itself of something known to be private communication in camera in our Parliament by a person outside of it constitutes a breach of our privilege. I submit that work that happens in camera in this place, whether it is by ministers in camera, House committees sitting in camera, or caucus meetings in camera, is all the same in terms of the need to ensure that we have the ability to conduct some of our business in camera.

I do not have to point out to the Speaker or members that when this privilege, this privacy of these meetings, is breached, innocent individuals can be hurt, not just elected persons but individuals and their interests. In addition to injury to individuals, the process of governance itself is hurt.

The second aspect, which relates to the first aspect I have raised, is section 193 of the Criminal Code. As I read the facts, I come to the conclusion, and I speak really as a person just reading the code and looking at the facts, there appears to be the basis of a criminal offence. The words of the section state, and I will just take the relevant words:

Where a private communication has been intercepted by means of an electro-magnetic, acoustic...device without the consent...of the originator...every one who...wilfully...

(a) uses or discloses the private communication or any part thereof...or

(b) discloses the existence thereof,

is guilty of an indictable offence and [is punishable]--

I submit that based on what has happened here, a criminal offence has been committed. I will not suggest by whom; I will simply indicate that it is the disclosure that constitutes the Criminal Code offence and not the taping or the transcription or the broadcast. These may also constitute offences under sections 183 and 184 of the Criminal Code. I will leave that aside for now.

The third aspect which I want to bring to the Chair's attention is in relation to the conduct of media in and around Parliament. Media in the House are given special privileges by the House. They are the controllers of a press room right below us, where we speak now. They are given privileged access to this place way beyond what individuals of the public would normally expect.

It seems inconsistent to me that those who avail themselves of these privileges as media, both for service and for profit, would knowingly be able to violate our rules here about confidentiality of some of our meetings.

Certainly, the meetings in the House of Commons are not private but are quite public; however, we do have in camera private meetings.

For those who would knowingly violate those rules and flaunt our working privileges on the front pages of a newspaper, I find quite inconsistent with their use of the privileges they have. I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that you consider that as a matter of privilege as well.

I will leave the matter there. I will look to you, Mr. Speaker, to engineer, if possible, some form of resolution that will uphold both the public interest and the finest traditions of the House. I am prepared to move a motion if you find that this is a matter of prima facie privilege as I believe it to be.

I would also add that as a result of this being on the public record, and in the event that there is the basis for a criminal complaint, that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police take note thereof subject to any direction that you, Mr. Speaker, might wish to assist them with.

As one member, I would like to see a resolution from within the House rather than the criminal courts. This is not impossible and that would be a preferred resolution if that were possible.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair appreciates very much the gravity of the allegations raised by the hon. member for Haliburton--Victoria--Brock and the hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River.

As hon. members may have noted, I have ordered an inquiry into the leak of these proceedings in this particular room on that particular day. February 25, I believe, was the date that the hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River mentioned. I have received a report that I have communicated to certain officials who requested the report. I am continuing to look into the matter as we speak.

In fact, I was doing it before the hon. members raised their questions of privilege today. I will continue to do that and I will get back to the House with a ruling on these questions very shortly.

I am sure that the House will have further opportunities to hear of the matter in due course. I certainly regard it as one of the utmost gravity and will certainly deal with the situation.

Business of the HouseOral 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 rise on a point of order. If you were to seek it, I believe you would find consent to adopt the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice, when Government Orders are reached after the introduction of a bill entitled “An Act to Amend the Parliament of Canada Act” on March 12, 2004, the second reading stage of the said bill shall be taken into consideration, during which no more than one speaker from each party in the House may speak for no more than five minutes, after which the said bill shall be deemed to have been read a second time, referred to and reported without amendment from a committee, concurred in at the report stage and read a third time and passed.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the honourable Deputy Government House Leader have unanimous consent to move this motion?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles and to all my colleagues who spoke so eloquently to the motion on health-care spending put forward by my friend and colleague the member for Joliette.

I told my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi earlier that his speech had saddened me. It is in this context that I wish to put a question to the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles. I said I was saddened because I felt the member from Brome—Missisquoi was agreeing with what he was saying.

He read a text, probably written by Health Canada officials, but while reading it he said or gave the impression that he was agreeing with it. He told me afterwards that in fact he was. However, I am not sure he understood what it was all about. He was agreeing with what he was reading, but I am not sure he understood what it was that he was reading. I had forgotten to mention that and I wanted to do so.

The Romanow commission said “Health care transfers have to be increased from 16% to 25%”. The Provincial and Territorial Premiers Council also tells us that we should increase health care funding from 16% to 25%. Then, all the social and economic stakeholders tell us “We have to increase it from 16% to 25%”. How can the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles explain that, on the one hand, the Liberal Party is willing to negotiate, but on the other hand, it wants to start negotiating by saying that the federal government is already giving 40%?

How can it say on one hand that it wants to negotiate, claiming it is giving 40%, when on the other hand, all the stakeholders say that health care transfers amount to 16%?

I would like the member to explain this discrepancy.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very much attuned to the comments of my colleague from Repentigny, and will moreover be in his riding this coming Sunday, in Le Gardeur, for a special event, namely his nomination meeting. He can count on my being there.

What we are seeing is a real shame. A real shame, because ever since 1997, that is for as long as I have been in this House, we have been aware of this dictatorial side to the government, the despotic side which seems to be sending the message: “We are the true possessors of enlightenment, the possessors of all knowledge”.

To review a few events, all provincial health ministers in Canada say there is a fiscal imbalance. Everyone agrees on this except this famous Liberal government. Over there, they say “No, that is not true”, because they are the enlightened ones.

Let us hearken back to the young offender legislation. Everybody said there was something wrong with that bill, everyone but the people over there. It was not just us nasty separatists who were saying so, it was everyone involved in the justice system everywhere in Canada.

The folks over there think they know it all.Their attitude: “We are right, we are the enlightened ones, we have a direct line to the Almighty”.

I will give my colleague from the riding of Repentigny the best answer I can. Just remember the tax credits, the tax points, they are all mixed up in this. Let us remember how the provincial governments allowed the federal to encroach on their areas of jurisdiction, to collect taxes during the second world war.

We tried to restore things after the war. In 1964, the Liberal Premier of Quebec, Jean Lesage, managed to regain a few of what were called tax points. Let us remember that we managed to regain a few of those points in 1997.

In those days, Duplessis described the Supreme Court—since we took this as far as the Supreme Court—as being like the leaning tower of Pisa, always leaning to the same side.

Those words are just as apt today. Truth always leans toward the Liberals, with their lord-and-master mentality. Yet there are a lot of things they could stand to learn, things I have pointed out in my speech. As for their forecasted surplus, they are in the wrong every year.

My apologies if I have gone on overly long, and I thank the Chair for his indulgence.