This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was young.

Topics

Montreal Grand PrixOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe LiberalMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I would like to attend the Formula One race. My favourite car, the red one, is a winner and I would like to come first. But I will have to get there on foot. I am nonetheless prepared to go, if the House breaks a few days early.

Montreal Grand PrixOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rahim Jaffer Conservative Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, if this is such a mundane question, why did the Liberals cave in to Legault and Ecclestone's blackmail in 2003, secretly diverting $4 million from the Canadian unity fund to pay the czars of the automotive industry while Canadian workers were seeing their jobs flee to Asia?

Montreal Grand PrixOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe LiberalMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the member did not get it the first time around. I will try again. We have a very competitive industry, which provides first class products to customers across North America and around the world. Perhaps the member is confused. We are talking about the industry in Ontario, but also about a certain racing event that draws international attention to Canada and brings us great enjoyment.

Appointment of JudgesOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the House voted to improve the procedure for appointing federal judges and to create a parliamentary subcommittee to make recommendations in this regard. The Minister of Justice said that the vote would not change the government's approach.

Does the Minister of Justice intend to act responsibly and tell us directly today that he considers himself bound by the decisions of this House and that he plans therefore to thoroughly review the process for appointing judges?

Appointment of JudgesOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Mount Royal Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I still say that the current process is excellent in principle, but I remain open to recommendations for its improvement.

Appointment of JudgesOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, how can anyone have faith in the Minister of Justice, who is practically saying he will not honour yesterday's vote in this House? How does the minister reconcile this statement with the comments by the Prime Minister, who promised to rectify the democratic deficit?

Appointment of JudgesOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Mount Royal Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, with respect to that part of the motion aimed at condemning the remarks of the chief justice of the Quebec court of appeal, I said that, because the motion did not comply with the Constitution, I would not respect it.

JusticeOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, for months we have been pushing the government to do the right thing, reclassify crystal meth as a schedule 1 drug and allow judges to impose serious penalties on those convicted of trafficking meth.

The justice minister told me this matter would be studied until June. June is here and many voices have united to demand action. The western justice and health ministers are meeting in Regina on Friday to discuss this issue. Will the minister commit to saving lives now? Will he commit to reclassifying crystal meth before week's end?

JusticeOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Mount Royal Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we are as concerned as the opposition with respect to the saving of lives with regard to crystal meth. The matter is now in discussion not only among the justice ministers and the provincial ministers in the west, but as well with regard to my colleague the Minister of Health. As I indicated, we will be responding appropriately with regard to that kind of classification.

JusticeOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, we need more than just concern and discussion. We need to see some leadership from the government and some immediate action to protect our citizens. Surely the minister recognizes that the only Canadians who would not support reclassifying crystal meth are crystal meth traffickers.

The FCM unanimously passed a resolution demanding that the government reclassify crystal meth. The western justice and health ministers are meeting Friday to push for this change. Will the minister listen to the chorus of voices advocating reclassifying this deadly drug and deliver this commitment this week?

JusticeOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Mount Royal Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we have heard the voices. We are responsive to them, but the matter is within the jurisdiction with respect to the particular legislation regarding the Minister of Health. In that regard, he has superintending authority. I am in discussion with him and we will bring forth the appropriate response.

The BudgetOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, while testifying before the finance committee, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers spoke in favour of the government's proposed technology fund contained in Bill C-43. Its president said:

Canada needs to increase its investment in new technology. The policy direction for LFE targets includes an innovative feature that recognizes the importance of technology development.

This initiative has the support of industry, it has the support of the environmental community and it has the support of government. Can the Minister of Finance explain why the Conservative Party turned its back on industry and defeated this initiative?

The BudgetOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the short answer is no. I think it is impossible to try to understand why the Conservative Party would have turned its back on the industry. The technology fund is very widely supported. It is a key component of the strategy for reducing pollution. It is a key element of the budget of 2005. That budget was considered one of the greenest ever in history. This measure in the original bill provides industry with an additional tool to help meet the Kyoto targets.

Unlike the party across the way, we will not turn our backs on the industry. We are trying to bring business together with government to deal with environmental issues.

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Mills Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, today is Clean Air Day. Our air quality has never been worse. People are dying from smog related illnesses in our major cities, in the Fraser Valley and in southern Ontario. Air pollution and greenhouse gases are on the rise.

How can the minister be happy presiding over a legacy of pollution?

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, how can the hon. member stand up and say anything about the environment when the finance critic of his party did not request a penny for the environment? The Conservatives want to kill the technology fund through their alliance with the separatists.

The separatists do not believe in Canada. They do not believe in climate change. Why are they together to stop the capacity for Canada to do its share for the planet?

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Mills Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, even a Liberal member did not support the technology fund in the vote yesterday in committee.

Two years ago the OECD rated us 26th out of 29 industrial countries in terms of environmental integrity. Last year we dropped to 28th out of 29. We have boil water warnings. We have smog days. We have raw sewage going into the ocean.

When will the minister stop talking and do something about the environment?

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the last thing we would need to do is to do what the leader of the Conservatives wants to do. For instance, he does not believe that human activity has an impact on climate change. The Conservatives do not believe in it. They do not believe that we need to put the environment and the economy together.

We need to continue with the leadership of the Prime Minister to ensure that Canada will continue to go ahead with a cleaner environment.

Automobile IndustryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the president of General Motors announced yesterday that the company is planning to cut 25,000 jobs in the United States, which could result in the loss of thousands of direct and indirect jobs in Quebec and Canada.

Can the government tell us whether the millions of dollars in subsidies made available to GM during the last election campaign were, and are, conditional on maintaining the jobs?

Automobile IndustryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Vancouver Kingsway B.C.

Liberal

David Emerson LiberalMinister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to say that the GM Beacon project is expected to continue to go ahead. Not a penny has flowed to the project. Not a penny will flow until the project gets under way. GM has become in Canada one of the most efficient in North America.

Incidentally, our health care system into which the government has poured substantial resources has become a very important competitive advantage for Canada.

We will continue to grow the automotive industry in Canada as we continue to put money into our social programs.

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, for most major Canadian cities smog episodes are increasing, not decreasing. So far, Toronto has had 14 days under an air quality advisory. This is a serious problem that we can work to stabilize.

Can the Minister of the Environment share with the House what he said this morning at the Toronto smog summit?

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, at last a good question on the environment.

Indeed it is a very serious problem. It is why we have developed a regulatory plan that will reduce smog-forming emissions for new vehicles by 90% by 2010. The transportation regulatory plan will ensure that starting in 2007 bus standards will require a reduction of 85% from current allowable levels of emissions.

We are serious. We know it is a serious problem. That is why we need a serious government to deal with it.

AgricultureOral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the trade minister.

We are trying to get a sense in Canada whether the government will stand up for our farmers at the WTO. We want to know if it will invoke article XXVIII. We are hearing some prevarications from agriculture, but we want to know where trade stands on this.

Will the government invoke article XXVIII to protect our domestic market from the flood of modified milk imports?

AgricultureOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, as hon. members would know, we had a four hour take note debate in the House last night on supply management.

We had an opportunity to have a very thorough discussion on article XXVIII. We made it very clear that our primary objective as a government is to achieve a result from the WTO negotiations that will allow us and allow our producers to choose supply management as their choice for domestic marketing.

That is what the government stands behind. It is what it stood behind for 35 years. It is what we will continue to stand behind as we move toward the future.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 and on Thursday, June 2, 2005 by the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell concerning the blocking of fax lines and the registration of Internet domain names of certain members of the House of Commons by individuals or organizations with no affiliation to the House, which the hon. member claimed has prevented them from carrying out their work as parliamentarians

I would like to thank the hon. member for raising this matter. I would also like to thank the hon. deputy House leader of the official opposition and the hon. members for Charlesbourg--Haute-Saint-Charles, British Columbia Southern Interior, Cambridge, and Prince Albert for their interventions on May 31. In addition, I would like to thank the hon. members for Halton, Scarborough--Rouge River, Edmonton--Sherwood Park, Yorkton--Melville, and Elmwood--Transcona for their contributions to the discussion on June 2.

On May 31 the hon. member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell claimed that his right to carry out his duties as a member of Parliament had been interfered with by a group called Focus on the Family Canada which was blocking his and other members' office telephone lines by sending multiple computer-generated faxes.

To illustrate, he indicated that during the course of one day he had received over 800 facsimiles. Only a handful of these faxes had been from constituents, whereas on a normal business day his office would receive an average of 30 to 40 faxes from constituents. He argued that because of this, his constituents had been unable to communicate with him and that he had not had access to notices sent out concerning committee and House business. He further claimed that some of the faxes had been sent by someone who was impersonating a member of Parliament.

In his arguments, the hon. member cited the ruling I had given on a similar matter on February 12, 2003 concerning mass e-mails. He also referred to a judgment handed down in the Ontario Court of Justice by Mr. Justice A.L. Eddy on November 22, 2000 in the case of Her Majesty the Queen against a citizen of Ontario who was found guilty of harassing a member of the Ontario legislature.

In conclusion, the hon. member cited Marleau and Montpetit at page 84 which states that Speakers have consistently ruled that members have the right to carry out their parliamentary duties free from obstruction, intimidation and interference. He asserted that, by interfering with the work of individual members, the organization responsible was in contempt of the House. He indicated that if the Chair found a prima facie case of privilege, he was prepared to move the appropriate motion.

In his intervention, the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles confirmed that his office had also received over 1,000 faxes and 2,300 e-mails in a span of 36 hours, thus monopolizing the tools provided to him as a member of the House, as well as the time of his staff. In addition, he argued that this action was an infringement on the privileges of members of Parliament because they are unable to carry out their parliamentary duties or remain in contact with their constituents

The deputy House leader of the official opposition challenged the claim of harassment, asserting that all Canadian citizens have the right to communicate with all members of Parliament on matters of public interest. He dismissed as absurd the contention that citizens wishing to communicate with members of Parliament on an issue of public moment constituted an attack on anyone. He maintained a logistical solution could be found to the problem and warned against censoring Canadians from communicating with their members of Parliament.

The hon. members for British Columbia Southern Interior, Cambridge, and Prince Albert contributed to the discussion by seeking clarification of certain points raised by the hon. member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell.

On June 2 the hon. member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell rose again to bring to the attention of the Chair that in addition to the communication difficulties he and other members were experiencing as he had described on May 31, an organization called Defend Marriage Coalition had taken over the Internet domain names of approximately 40 to 50 members of Parliament. This, he alleged, was not a legitimate use of the domain names.

He also claimed that in the case of 15 of these sites, this organization not only was using the members' names to access the sites, it had also published information about these members of Parliament. These sites, he alleged, were designed to look like the official websites of the members concerned, of which he also questioned the legitimacy. He contended that this constituted a bona fide case of privilege.

In response, the hon. deputy House leader of the official opposition argued that it was incumbent upon members to register their domain names and that this matter was not within the purview of the House or the Speaker.

The hon. member for Halton, in his intervention, informed the Chair that he was one of the members whose domain name had been taken over by the organization in question and it was using his House of Commons photo on its site, thereby creating the impression that it was his official website. The hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River wondered if this might be a case of impersonation or identity theft, which would interfere with the duties of the members and the functions of the House.

I want to assure all hon. members that I consider this situation to be very troubling. Allegations of obstruction, interference and misrepresentation should not be taken lightly.

Over the years, members have brought to the attention of the House instances which they believed were attempts to obstruct, impede, interfere, intimidate or molest them, their staffs or individuals who had some business with them or the House. Since these matters relate so closely to the right of the House to the services of its members, they are often considered to be breaches of privilege.

That being said, members of Parliament come into contact with a wide range of individuals and groups during the course of their work and are subject to all manner of influences, some legitimate and some not.

First of all, I wish to address the matter of the blocking of members' fax machines and email systems.

The hon. member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell claimed that he had been obstructed from fulfilling his duties with respect to his constituents because of multiple computer-generated faxes that were preventing them from contacting his office in an expeditious manner. To support his contention, he cited the ruling I gave on February 12, 2003, at pages 3470 and 3471 of the Debates , concerning the disruption a mass emailing from a member's office had on the House's email system. I did not find that there was a prima facie question of privilege, but encouraged hon. members to use alternative means of communication and set in motion administrative changes to rectify the situation.

The hon. member also referred to a decision rendered in a court case before the Ontario Court of Justice in November 2000. I have now had an opportunity to review the particulars of the judgment and wish to share these with you.

In 2000 a resident of Ontario was charged with and found guilty of mischief by wilfully interrupting and interfering with the lawful use and operation of the property of Mr. William Murdoch, a member of the Ontario Legislature, by continually sending numerous lengthy facsimile messages to his Queen's Park and constituency offices.

The judge looked at the broad issue of what were the constraints, if any, on the right of a constituent to contact, consult and relate to his elected member of the provincial Parliament and whether it was open to the court to set reasonable limits.

The judge determined that the faxes were not sent by the accused in any realistic effort to inform and assist the member in carrying out his duties but, rather, they were sent in anger and in frustration in an effort to express his dissatisfaction.

In addition, the judge found that the citizen's actions had the effect of monopolizing the member's fax machines, thereby precluding the ordinary and reasonable use of them by constituents and others, and impeding the member and his staff from carrying out the orderly operation, activity and responsibilities of the member's office.

The judge ruled that the right of a citizen to communicate with a member is not without reasonable limits and that, when a constituent, by his or her actions, affects the ability of others to access and exercise their rights, a boundary has been crossed. The judge found that there is an inherent responsibility on the part of the constituent in his or her dealings to act in a manner that respects others' rights of access.

In the matter raised on May 31, the Chair has examined all the material supplied by the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell and has found only one facsimile attributed to a member of the House. In the absence of any complaint from a member that he or she was or is being impersonated, the Chair will set aside the claim that facsimiles had been received from individuals falsely claiming to be members of this House.

With regard to the second issue raised on May 31, namely, whether or not the hon. member has clearly demonstrated that his constituents have been limited or prevented from contacting him in a reasonable and ordinary fashion, it is evident from its website that Focus on the Family Canada is encouraging Canadians to contact the members of the legislative committee and express their views with regard to Bill C-38.

Unlike the court case referred to by the hon. member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell, where only one individual was involved in a deliberate attempt to obstruct the Ontario MPP, with no intent to inform or influence, dozens or perhaps hundreds of individuals are contacting members as they are free to do. I must ask myself, is the intent of these communications to prevent the members' constituents from contacting them? This is impossible to tell.

While it is clear that large numbers of faxes and emails have been sent to the offices of the hon. member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell, Charlesbourg--Haute-Sainte-Charles and others, and have interfered with the smooth functioning and ordinary routines of those offices, the hon. members and their constituents have still been able to communicate, albeit somewhat erratically, by facsimile and email, as well as by letter post and telephone.

Most certainly, the hon. member does have a grievance, but does it constitute a prima facie contempt of the House? As is pointed out in Marleau and Montpetit, at pages 91 to 95, there are numerous examples of members raising similar, legitimate complaints, but Speakers have regularly concluded that members have not been prevented from performing their parliamentary duties. Therefore, though the work and the offices of certain members may have been slowed, I cannot find a prima facie question of privilege in this regard.

I now wish to deal with the matter raised by the hon. member on June 2 concerning the cyber squatting of members’ domain names and the creation of websites that resemble those of members.

I am very concerned about this situation and the potential negative impact it is having on some members. When this situation was first brought to my attention, I visited the official website of the hon. member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell to see for myself what the problem was. On the website, listed under LINKS, I clicked on the link to the federal party association and up came the cybersquatting site. I worried at the time that this indicated that the hon. member's official site had been tampered with. Had that been the case, I might well have been inclined to find a prima facie case of privilege.

However, I have since learned that the offending link was not the result of some hacker, but that there was a far less sinister explanation. Simply put, the link occurred because the cybersquatters had bought the domain name when the hon. member's ownership of his name lapsed and the link, which predated the change in ownership of the domain name, had not been modified to take account of that change.

As a number of hon. members pointed out on June 2, like many things on the Internet, it may well be that it is impossible to resolve this. As was noted, it is incumbent upon members to register their domain names if they wish to prevent others from registering similar or even identical ones. I would urge all hon. members to take such precautionary measures immediately, for once a member's domain name has fallen into other hands, it is not easy to find a remedy to the situation.

In such cases, it appears to the Chair that hon. members may certainly have a grievance in this situation, and a serious grievance, but I cannot find that members have been prevented in any way from carrying out their parliamentary duties. Therefore, I cannot find that this constitutes a prima facie case of privilege.

The question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell raises important issues in an era where communications technology is ubiquitous and the demand for accessibility grows daily more aggressive. It is, of course, the right of all Canadians to communicate with their members of Parliament, but when does the exercise of the right to communicate with Parliament become unreasonable? What role, if any, should the House take in regulating such communication?

Similarly, with regard to “cybersquatting”, is this a legitimate means of engaging in debate and holding a member accountable in the public square for his or her stand on an issue? Is the inconvenience to the member and the potential confusion in the minds of constituents and citizens irrelevant to that legitimacy? Or ought the House look at safeguarding the Internet identity of its members in the interests of ensuring clear democratic discourse? Or ought this situation simply be left to the forces of the marketplace, leaving members who have not taken steps to protect their domain names to bear the consequences?

In conclusion, it is evidence that the matters raised last week are serious and bear further discussion and examination. It seems clear to the Chair that, given the realities of communication technologies in 2005, members of all parties will doubtless be faced with similar situations in the future. As it happens, Standing Order 108(3)(a)(i) mandates the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which is chaired coincidentally by the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, “to review and report on the provision of services and facilities to Members”.

Accordingly, the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell may well wish to take these matters up with the committee to explore, at a minimum, the ramifications of new communication technologies, including the Internet, as they affect members in the performance of their duties.

I thank all honourable members for their interventions on this very important matter.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 8th, 2005 / 3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to present the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates regarding the failure of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services to appear before the committee, as he agreed to do. He broke his commitment twice. I intend to move concurrence in the eighth report later this day.