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House of Commons Hansard #73 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was development.

Topics

Canada PostOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Markham—Unionville Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalMinister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is speaking nonsense. The Deloitte report has been received. The board has an item by item list of the matters that have to be followed through on. I receive regular reports on this matter. The receipts are being sought after and the board is seized of this matter. The member can have every confidence that the board is doing its job in following up on these matters.

FisheriesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, due to DFO mismanagement, the Fraser River sockeye salmon are in danger of going the way of the Atlantic cod. Yesterday the fisheries committee tabled a unanimous report on the disastrous 2004 Fraser River salmon season.

Clearly, this fishery cannot survive any more Liberal dithering, so for a change of pace, will the minister actually implement the committee's unanimous recommendations, or will he just ignore them like every other report on Fraser River salmon that has crossed his desk?

FisheriesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the members of the committee for their work on this report. I want to tell them I take this matter very seriously. Having been to B.C. seven times as Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, I know how important people feel this issue is in that province, and it is an important one.

I take it very seriously, but for the member who is talking, who recognizes and who realizes, as the report says, that one of the issues is water temperature and climate change, I am surprised his party is against Kyoto.

Montreal AirportOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, despite major increases in revenues in recent years, the financial situation of the Montreal airport has deteriorated to the point of jeopardizing its future development. The rent charged by Transport Canada is so high that, last year, ADM had to use more than half its increase in revenue to meet an annual rent increase of $15 million.

How can the Minister of Transport continue to demand rent hikes of 306%, when the Auditor General's last report criticized the length of time the department took in reviewing this questionable policy?

Montreal AirportOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the situation of ADM and other Canadian airports is of concern to me. Obviously my colleague in Finance and I continue to hold discussions in order to come up with a more equitable formula so as to ensure that the rent is fair and in keeping with the Auditor General's recommendations.

I would, however, remind the hon. member that, when it comes to leases signed by airport administrations throughout the country, a lease involves two parties. These leases were signed by people supposedly with good heads for business. We will review the situation, of course, but those leases do, after all, bear their signatures.

Montreal AirportOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, does the Minister of Transport realize that these exorbitant rent hikes are a hindrance to the future development of the Montreal Airport, and that these excessive rents are just a backhanded way of taxing travellers even more?

Montreal AirportOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I agree that airport rents are an integral part of what is termed the development of aviation and air travel. Obviously, in the coming weeks and months, we are going to continue to work with our colleagues to ensure that there is a fairer formula. I believe the government is committed to that, as is the Minister of Finance, and we will deliver the goods, as usual.

TerrorismOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, according to Unicef and other international groups, the Tamil Tigers forcibly recruit children and train them to become suicide bombers. Unicef has recorded over 3,500 cases like this.

In Canada the Tamil Tigers raise funds. Our allies, many other governments, have made it a matter of their foreign policy to ban the Tamil Tigers. The recruitment of children has continued even after the tsunami. Why will our government not ban this group?

TerrorismOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the LTTE has been listed in Canada pursuant, as the hon. member knows, to Canada's United Nations suppression of terrorism regulations since 2001.

I want to point out to the hon. member that this listing makes it an offence for persons in Canada or Canadians outside of Canada to provide funds to the Tamil Tigers, as well as fundraising on its behalf. The hon. member clearly knows this. We will continue on that assumption because it is the right thing to do.

TerrorismOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a separate list and the member well knows that. That is not the list we are talking about in terms of banning the Tamil Tigers.

I will refer to comments made by a former director of Canada's intelligence service. He said that our government's policy of not banning the Tamil Tigers, and they are not banned under the classification that the member just mentioned, even puts the good people of the Tamil community in Canada here at risk. The Tamil Tigers as a group are not banned in Canada.

What does a terrorist group have to do that is more horrific than train children to become suicide bombers in order to be banned in this country?

TerrorismOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, to state the question is to answer it.

The hon. member knows full well that the government is concerned about terrorism. It is one of the reasons we have spent a considerable amount of money toward ensuring that we have safe and secure borders.

The hon. member also understands that there are, in essence, certain considerations that he is taking into account, including the concern we all have to ensure that the people of Tamil origin in this country are not treated as if they are all terrorists.

The hon. member has the same objective that we do, which is to ensure that we keep a safe country and to work hard to ensure that in Canada we keep security as the number one issue.

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, since the opposition parties are not giving taxpayers value for money by repeating the same line of questioning and not listening to the answer, I have a question of great importance for the north.

Recently, the United States senate voted in language in a budget bill that will allow for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. This will put at risk the core calving ground of the porcupine caribou herd which migrates between Canada and Alaska. This majestic animal is vitally important to aboriginal and indigenous people on both sides of the border.

Will the Minister of the Environment guarantee that our government will continue to register our concerns?

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, today the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs intend to raise this issue with President Bush, as we have done many times. Because we have a sensitive Arctic coastal plain and the impact would be so bad to the calving ground of the porcupine caribou herd, Canada established a national park. It is too bad caribou do not know when they are in Yukon or Alaska. We urge the United States to protect this area, as we have done.

Human ResourcesOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the compassionate care program is failing Canadians. Olga Petrik of Ontario is another Canadian denied the compassionate care benefits to care for her dying sister. Olga appealed and the board ruled in her favour that a sister is a family member. Then the unbelievable happened. This minister is appealing Olga's right to take care of her dying sister.

How can this minister justify such a heartless act while claiming to be reviewing the program?

Human ResourcesOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am very sensitive to the fact that some individuals have been denied compassionate care leave for various reasons. I should point out in passing that Canada is a world leader for having established this type of leave.

When we introduced it, we said that we would be reviewing the compassionate care leave program after one year. That is what we are doing right now, and we will certainly bring about some improvements.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Kolawolé Idji, Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Benin.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I would also like to draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Honourable Greg Melchin, Minister of Energy for the Government of Alberta.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in GalleryPoints Of Order

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rahim Jaffer Conservative Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, something disturbing happened during question period. I would like to bring it to the attention of the Chair that in my question to the Minister of Public Works I asked about a particular scandal, which was the World Aquatic Championship scandal. Unfortunately, the public works minister thought I was asking about the sponsorship scandal.

I would like to give the minister an opportunity to get his scandals straight.

Presence in GalleryPoints Of Order

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sure the minister appreciates the clarification from the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, but I suspect it is more a point of debate than a point of order.

Presence in GalleryPoints Of Order

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, my point of order is with respect to Hansard for Monday, March 21, page 4368 at 14:40, where I talked about the Liberals having hidden that they had stolen money from Canadian taxpayers, and you chastised me, Mr. Speaker, at the time. I would like to put on the record that what I intended to say was the Liberal Party, and certainly was not impugning the integrity of any of my colleagues opposite in an inappropriate manner.

Presence in GalleryPrivilege

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on February 17 by the hon. opposition House leader concerning remarks made by the Hon. Minister of International Trade in relation to the defeat of the motions for second reading of Bill C-31 and Bill C-32, the bills that proposed to create a Department of International Trade separate from the Department of Foreign Affairs. The hon. opposition House leader contends that these remarks represent a contempt of Parliament.

I would like to thank the hon. opposition House leader for raising this matter, as well as the hon. member for Vancouver East, the hon. member for Calgary Southeast and the hon. government House leader for their contributions when the issue was raised. I also want to thank the hon. parliamentary secretary to the Government House leader for his intervention on March 8 and the hon. member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, the hon. member for Halifax and the hon. opposition House leader for the responses to his comments.

The hon. opposition House leader in his original statement objected to comments made by the Minister for International Trade on the day following the defeat at second reading of Bill C-31 and Bill C-32. He pointed to articles in the Globe and Mail and the Ottawa Citizen which quoted the minister as saying that the two departments would continue to work independently even though Parliament had voted against the bills that proposed to split the two entities, the former Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

The hon. opposition House leader alleges that the minister's words suggest that the passage or defeat of legislation was inconsequential to the separation of the departments and, in so doing, showed disregard for the role of the House of Commons. He argues that this shows such disrespect as to constitute, in his opinion, a contempt of the House.

There are two issues in the presentation made by the hon. opposition House leader. The first issue is the current status of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade given that on February 15 the bills containing the proposal that it be split into two departments were defeated at second reading in the House. The second issue is whether actions taken or statements made by the minister in the wake of the defeat of Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 constitute a contempt of the House of Commons.

Let us consider the first issue, the status of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

On December 12, 2003, a number of orders in council were made under the authority of several statutes, including the Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act, the Public Service Employment Act, the Financial Administration Act and the Ministries and Ministers of State Act.

I draw the attention of the House, for example, to order in council numbered 2003-2052 designating the Department of International Trade as a department. Other orders in council in this series address ancillary issues related to that designation, while the existence of the positions of Minister of Foreign Affairs and a Minister of International Trade both existed pursuant to the Salaries Act prior to that day.

The Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act provides that the government, by order in council, may reorganize existing functions of government for which Parliament has voted funds. In short, existing statutes grant the government considerable leeway in proceeding with any reorganization it chooses to pursue. The Canadian custom has been to complete or confirm such rearrangements by way of legislation.

The House will note that these are some of the very points which were emphasized by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the government House leader when he spoke to this issue on March 8, saying, in part:

In reorganizing or organizing a cabinet and making use of the Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act, the government does not create new statutory authorities or powers. Rather, the government rearranges pre-existing authorities that have already been created by Parliament and does so in accordance with a legislative mechanism that has also been created by Parliament.

It would appear to the Chair that in general the power of the government to reorganize, and specifically this latest reorganization, is not very well understood. The House will recall that as far back as March 2004 questions related to the reorganization were surfacing in the House.

For example, I remind hon. members of the question of privilege raised on March 10, 2004 by the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl with regard to the form of the main estimates for 2004-05. I refer hon. members to the debates for that day at pages 1310 and 1311.

I also refer hon. members to the text, Organizing to Govern, Volume One, by the Hon. Gordon F. Osbaldeston, former Clerk of the Privy Council, who explains at page 24:

For a variety of reasons--ministerial preference, better organization fit, and other reasons...--governments may decide to rearrange their organizations. The chief legislative tool for accomplishing this type of organizational change is the Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act. Orders in council pursuant to this act are used principally for two purposes:

transfer of organizational subunits...from one organization to another...

transfer of responsibility for acts or parts of acts from one minister to another...

On page 25 he goes on to confirm:

Strictly speaking, these tools are meant only to reorganize existing functions of government for which Parliament has voted funds--any new activities must be authorized by Parliament.

So, too, in the case now before us, whether or not the House is convinced of the case for reorganization, the government nonetheless has at hand the tools to execute those plans; legislative measures like Bill C-31 and C-32 merely complement them.

I trust that the background I have just presented will assist the House in better appreciating the current situation. Here, existing functions, notably international trade, are being reconfigured and those rearrangements have been carried out by orders in council. I should say that this is what distinguishes the current situation from the one cited by the hon. opposition House leader on which Speaker Fraser ruled in 1989. In that case, a new tax, the GST, was being proposed by the government of the day, but enacting legislation had not yet been adopted in the House.

In the opinion of the Chair, the authority to begin the process of separating the departments rests on the series of orders in council adopted December 12, 2003 pursuant to existing statutory authorities granted to the government by Parliament. That authority is set out in the law and it is not for me to judge whether it is sufficient in this case.

Following a search of our precedents, I am unable to find a case where any Speaker has ruled that the government, in the exercise of regulatory power conferred upon it by statute, has been found to have breached the privileges of the House. Indeed, the hon. member is not arguing that. He seems to be suggesting that the minister's comments amounted to a breach of privilege, but if the minister was stating the legal position, it could hardly constitute a breach.

To recap then, since I promised the hon. member for Halifax that all would be made clear in this ruling, statutory authority, namely the Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act, already exists to proceed with the changes that were originally made in December by orders in council pursuant to that act. When the government introduced legislation, specifically Bill C-31 and Bill C-32, since, as explained the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, it was as a complement in keeping with “...Canadian practice...to confirm major changes in government organization through legislation”. We can think of these bills as similar to the miscellaneous statutes amendments bills that come before Parliament from time to time.

From a reading of the bills, it appears to me that they enshrine in statute the new names of the departments and ministers and spell out the mandate of international trade, not in the cryptic language of the order in council but in the more Cartesian vocabulary of legislative drafting. Furthermore, Bill C-31 appears to create a new post of associate deputy minister of international trade.

Thus, as the House well knows, on December 7, 2004, Bill C-31, an act to establish the Department of International Trade and to make related amendments to certain acts, and Bill C-32, an act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, were introduced and read a first time. These bills were debated at second reading in early February, each coming to a vote on second reading, that is to say a vote on approval in principle of each bill, on February 15. Both bills were defeated at second reading.

Where does that leave matters?

The procedural consequence is clear. Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 will not proceed further in this session.

The legal consequence is not for me to address. The Chair is unable to determine what future legislative measures the government may bring forward to complete or confirm the division of the two departments. That is for the government to determine.

As my predecessors and I have pointed out in many previous rulings, where legal interpretation is at issue, it is not within the Speaker’s authority to rule or decide points of law. This principle is explained on pages 219 and 220 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice :

—while Speakers must take the Constitution and statutes into account when preparing a ruling, numerous Speakers have explained that it is not up to the Speaker to rule on the “constitutionality” or “legality” of measures before the House.

If the Chair cannot pronounce on the legality of government action, it is up to the Speaker to examine the situation and to weigh the arguments of the hon. opposition House leader to determine from a purely procedural perspective whether the privileges of the House have been breached.

I can only assume that the minister, in stating his intention to continue with the establishment of the Department of International Trade, is planning to proceed for the moment under existing authorities.

In a similar vein, the Chair has noted and draws the attention of the House to the form of the main estimates for 2005-06. Those documents present separate budgets for foreign affairs and for international trade, though the formal name Foreign Affairs and International Trade is still invoked.

Is there cause for concern, however, that the privileges of the House are breached where the government continues with its departmental reorganization by orders in council after confirmation of these initiatives was not approved by the House? Am I to find here a prima facie breach of privileges of the House?

It seems to me that in making the statement outside the House, which gave rise to the point of privilege of the hon. opposition House leader, the minister might only have meant to indicate that the reorganization by orders in council continue to have legal effect. If that was the intent of the minister's remark and the actions taken are legally valid, which I must assume is the case, it is difficult to find this comment offensive to the dignity of the House and therefore a prima facie breach of privileges.

That is not to say that the comments, if reported accurately, do not concern me. I can fully appreciate the frustration of the House and the confusion of hon. members, let alone those who follow parliamentary affairs from outside this chamber. The scrutiny of legislation is arguably the central role of Parliament.

The decision of the House at each stage of a government bill determines whether or not the proposal can go forward. How can the decisions of the House on these bills be without practical consequence?

We appear to have come upon a paradox in Canadian practice. Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 aimed to confirm executive action, action already taken pursuant to statutes by non-legislative means, and the House of Commons has refused to give that confirmation. It leaves the government and the House in a most unfortunate conflict on the matter but, on the information I have, I cannot find that this constitutes a prima facie breach of the privileges of the House.

At the end of all this, it seems to me that what we have here is an unfortunate incident that has impacted upon the working relationship between the House and the government. The hon. government House leader has said that the government is reviewing its parliamentary options. The Chair would encourage the government, during the course of that review, to have further consultations with all parties in the House to clarify events and restore the central working relationship to its usual good form.

Government Online ReportRoutine Proceedings

March 23rd, 2005 / 3:20 p.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and table in the House this afternoon, in both official languages, the fourth report on Government-wide online initiative entitled “Government Online 2005, from Vision to Reality and Beyond”.

Internal Disclosure Policy ReportRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to table, in both official languages, a paradox; two documents on the annual report on the internal disclosure policy which describes how the current policy on disclosures of wrongdoing is working in an increasingly effective way.