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House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I certainly share in the grief of what happened at Dawson College. We tried to get in touch with Mr. Kadhim today. His press secretary informed us that he would try to get back to us; they were quite busy. I have offered to meet with him in Montreal on Monday. He may have some insights.

I will also share with him that our view is to have more effective gun control and that those who apply to have guns of any kind would face a more rigorous process. We agree with him. We want to see effective gun control.

Crime PreventionOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, in Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec, there is a disturbing increase in serious crimes committed by street gangs and young delinquents.

Can the minister tell the House what the government intends to do to prevent these crimes?

Crime PreventionOral Questions

3 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, in the last budget we allocated almost $20 million to prevention programs for troubled youth.

However, let me be clear on this point, we have never had and do not have the slightest intention of amending the law with respect to the age of criminal responsibility. Those with claims to the contrary, such as Father Gravel, the Bloc Québécois candidate in the Repentigny riding, quite simply are not telling the truth. Father Gravel is surely familiar with the eighth commandment.

HealthOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, last night a disturbing report by CTV News uncovered voluntary plastic surgeries were taking up valuable time in hospital operating rooms from coast to coast to coast. The Minister of Health complimented the journalist on her excellent piece and told her that he would be hearing from provincial ministers on the issue.

Could he now report to the House how many provincial health ministers he has encouraged to end this practice? When does he plan to register formally his concern with the provinces about this tactic?

HealthOral Questions

3 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, I have not heard from my colleagues yet; operators are standing by, however.

In the meantime, I can report to this chamber that as a result of the excellent budget 2006, we have an extra $1.2 billion of health transfers going to the provinces to focus on the important medical conditions and the important procedures that every single Canadian has a right to ask for from a government that is delivering.

We are delivering. The Minister of Finance has delivered. I am very proud of the Minister of Finance.

HealthOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, over two years ago this House of Commons passed an NDP motion to ban trans fats in Canada. The entire city of New York will soon be trans fat free. Even the worst of the worst fast food has changed its ways, but the health minister is nowhere to be found on this issue. Trans fats have been scientifically proven to drastically increase the risk of heart attacks. They are totally unnecessary.

Will the minister announce today that Canada will officially be the second country in the world to ban trans fats in our food?

HealthOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member is well aware, a report is under consideration by the Canadian public as well as by the Government of Canada regarding this very issue. We are certainly studying it very closely. The hon. member neglected to mention that food companies in this country have voluntarily gone trans fat free, or are radically reducing their trans fat. We would encourage that trend to continue.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order. I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the galleries today of young people who are participating in the Take Our Kids to Work Program.

The Take Our Kids to Work program gives participants an opportunity to experience the demands and the reality of the work world.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Bravo!

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

In oral question period, the hon. member for Outremont used unparliamentary language when asking two questions. I am now requesting that he withdraw his remarks immediately. Thank you.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, out of respect for you, I withdraw the word that has offended your delicate ears.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

November 1st, 2006 / 3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe McGuire Liberal Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege concerning remarks made by the Minister of National Revenue in yesterday's question period.

Yesterday during question period the minister responded to a set-up question from the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley that “since 1999, the Liberals cut 459 CRA positions in Summerside alone”. It is my belief that these comments raise a prime facie question of privilege as they are an inaccurate representation of the facts and a blatant attempt to impede my ability to effectively represent my constituents.

My first concern is the minister's assertion that past Liberal governments have cut 459 jobs at the Summerside tax centre. This is an absolute misrepresentation of the facts. There was no significant decrease in permanent jobs at the Summerside tax centre under the Liberal government. The centre was established in 1993 with a core 400 to 500 permanent jobs. The minister knows that there are considerably more than that presently employed at the Summerside tax centre. In fact a combination of permanent, contract and term positions can fluctuate up to 1,100 jobs at certain times of the year.

The minister's statements were a false representation. In fact, if the minister's statements were true that 459 jobs had been eliminated, the centre would be closed.

Second, I spoke with the minister before her meeting with the mayor of Summerside. I asked her before this visit about the situation at the tax centre. At that time she assured me that he, the mayor, would be travelling back to Summerside, and I quote what she said, “a happy man”. I took from that that she had solved the problem on her own and that she had convinced the Minister of Finance to rescind the cuts and the jobs had been reinstated. Obviously that did not happen.

To continue on this point, I have taken this issue to the Commons standing committee, this is true. My colleagues on my behalf took it to the Standing Committee on Finance. Following confusing media reports on the effects changing government policy would have on the tax centre and to ensure that all stakeholders were aware of the full implications of the decision, my colleagues moved a motion at the Standing Committee on Finance that requires the committee to fully investigate the local and national implications of the elimination of the GST visitor rebate program.

Again, I find it incomprehensible that the minister would not think that a parliamentary motion by Liberal MPs at a standing committee of this very House did not constitute bringing this issue to the fore. As a former member of the finance committee, one would think that the Minister of National Revenue would have more respect for the committee process and would recognize this as a legitimate function of my parliamentary duties.

I am just halfway through, Mr. Speaker.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

In that case the hon. member for Egmont will want to get to the point. It sounds to me like a major disagreement on facts, but on a question of privilege, he has to indicate to the House what privilege it is that has been breached. He said something at the beginning, but we seem to have gone astray since. I hope the hon. member will get to the point of the question of privilege because this sounds like debate.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe McGuire Liberal Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, I want to call your attention to the ruling of Speaker Lamoureux referred to in Marleau and Montpetit at page 84.

--that parliamentary privilege includes the right of a member to discharge his responsibilities as a member of the House free from threats or attempts at intimidation.

I am trying to perform my duties as a parliamentarian described on page 186 of Marleau and Montpetit as representing constituents and getting action out of government, and yet find myself subjected to false accusations.

The elimination of the visitor rebate program has very grave circumstances for the constituents I represent. It means real job losses in the city of Summerside. It was announced as a complete surprise after no consultation with me, other parliamentarians, affected individuals in Summerside, or indeed the tourism industry across this country. I am attempting to find answers for my constituents and represent their interests here in Ottawa through legitimate parliamentary channels.

To conclude, Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to examine the merits of this question of privilege with respect to the remarks of the Minister of National Revenue on the grounds I have outlined above. The minister has given an inaccurate representation of the facts in a blatant attempt to impede my ability to effectively represent my constituents.

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

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I am actually quite surprised that the hon. member, who has considerable experience in this chamber, would rise on this matter. This is not even close to a question of privilege.

The hon. member does not like the facts being told to him by the Minister of National Revenue. If he does not want to hear the facts from various ministers of the Crown, then he should take it up in debate.

If he wants to talk about how the previous government so poorly treated the maritime provinces, it would not be a question of privilege. It was something that might take up the rest of the session, if we were going to fully explore that, but clearly this is not a question of privilege.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I support my colleague in terms of his facts as challenged by the hon. House leader. As a former minister of revenue who travelled to this location many times, his numbers certainly ring true and so does the logic of his statement.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am very supportive. We have to keep in mind that this was a set-up question by the governing party on the other side, a soft lob, of which it tried to put misinformation in the House, which affected the privileges of the member for Egmont.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar Saskatchewan

Conservative

Carol Skelton ConservativeMinister of National Revenue and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, the numbers I received from my officials in Revenue Canada were the numbers that were given. The member opposite never spoke to me until after the mayor of Summerside visited me.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Shame on you.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

No, it was after because he said something to me about Mayor Basil Stewart, and what he had told him after he met with me.

It is false. The numbers were given to me by Revenue Canada officials.

Remarks Made by Minister of National RevenuePrivilegeOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

As is quite clear from the discussion, this looks to me, as I suggested, that it was a matter of debate. There is disagreement as to facts. It is not for the Chair to determine how many employees were here or there, or anywhere, at any given time.

I will review the remarks made by all hon. members on this question of privilege and if necessary, I will get back to the House in due course.

Canada's Clean Air Act--Speaker's RulingPrivilegeOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member forMississauga South on October 19, 2006, concerning the premature disclosure of Bill C-30, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the Energy Efficiency Act and the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act (Canada's Clean Air Act).

I would like to thank the hon. member for Mississauga South for having raised this important matter as well as the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform for his comments on October 23, 2006.

In raising this question of privilege, the hon. member for Mississauga South claimed that a breach of the privileges of the House had occurred as a result of the premature disclosure of Bill C-30, Canada's clean air act. He stated that copies of the bill had been distributed at a press conference held on October 13, 2006 by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups. The bill itself was not introduced in the House until October 19, 2006.

In response to this question of privilege, the hon. government House leader contended by Bill C-30 had a much broader scope than the document tabled by the hon. member for Mississauga South. He noted that the bill proposed amendments to three statutes rather than only to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. He went on to indicate that, even with respect to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, Bill C-30 proposed amendments not identical to those in the document referred to by the hon. member for Mississauga South.

In response to this intervention, the member for Mississauga South stated that the basis of his complaint was not that the two texts were identical, but that they contained, “substantively, the same critical provisions”.

This is not the first time a question of privilege has been raised about the premature disclosure of a government bill. In cases where prima facie cases of privilege have been found, there has been divulgation of the actual bill prior to members having been made privy to its contents. Members may wish to consult the ruling delivered by Mr. Speaker Parent on February 21, 2000, at pages 3766 and 3767, of the Debates where such an issue is discussed.

When looking carefully at the document provided by the hon. member for Mississauga South, it is evident to me that it is not a copy of the bill which the government placed on notice. In addition to the differences pointed out by the hon. government House leader, an examination of the two documents shows numerous other differences. These include not only differences in the organization and numbering of its parts, but more extensive textual differences as well, since there are various provisions in the bill not found in the document provided by the hon. member for Mississauga South.

I have also looked at the press release issued by the Sierra Club in conjunction with the October 13 press conference. The press release clearly indicates that the Sierra Club's comments relate to, “...an August version of the proposed amendments...”. The Sierra Club further notes in the press release that its comments on the legislative proposal will remain valid, and again I quote, “...(a)ssuming that this draft is what is introduced into Parliament...”.

The fact that the document distributed by the Sierra Club contains blacked-out passages also indicates that the document as circulated by the government was a consultation document and not an advance copy of Bill C-30.

As has been noted in previous Speaker's rulings, the government is free to consult whomever it wishes in preparing legislation for submission to the House. It is not for the Chair to determine what form these consultations may take or what documents the government may circulate for comment.

The key procedural point, as I indicated in a ruling delivered on March 19, 2001, at pages 1839 and 1840 of the Debates and to which the government House leader made reference, is that once a bill has been placed on notice, it must remain confidential until introduced in the House. In the present case, I can find no evidence that there has been any premature disclosure of a confidential document to which the House has priority. I, therefore, must rule that no breach of privilege has occurred.

I would again like to thank the hon. member for Mississauga South for his vigilance in drawing this matter to the attention of the House.

Canada's Clean Air Act--Speaker's RulingPrivilegeOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. Speaker for his ruling. I accept it totally. As it turns out, it is really somewhat inconsequential, since Bill C-30 was dead on arrival in Parliament.

Bill C-253--Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. government House leader on June 21, 2006, in relation to the procedural issues relating to Bill C-253, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (deductibility of RESP contributions), standing in the name of the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East.

In his arguments, the hon. government House leader explained that clause 2 of the bill contained provisions which would effectively increase how taxable income was calculated and thus result in potentially more taxes being collected. Specifically, subclause 2(5) would make any refund of payments regarding contributions to RESPs considered as taxable income. Subclause 2(6) necessarily repealed a section of the Income Tax Act, which would have made such refunds excluded as taxable income.

Therefore, the hon. government House leaderargued that if Bill C-253 was creating a new tax burden, then it should not have been given first reading without the adoption of a ways and means motion, and the Speaker should discharge the order for second reading and remove the bill from the order paper.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice provides some information on the operation of taxation bills on pages 758 and 759:

The House must first adopt a Ways and Means motion before a bill which imposes a tax or other charge on the taxpayer can be introduced. Charges on the people, in this context, refer to new taxes, the continuation of an expiring tax, an increase in the rate of an existing tax, or an extension of a tax to a new class of taxpayers…Legislative proposals which are not intended to raise money but rather reduce taxation need not to be preceded by a Ways and Means motion before being introduced in the House.

Furthermore, on page 898 it states:

With respect to the raising of revenue, a private member cannot introduce bills which impose taxes. The power to initiate taxation rests solely with the government and any legislation which seeks an increase in taxation must be preceded by a Ways and Means motion.

As I understand it, the current RESP regime requires the person contributing to the plan to make such contributions out of after tax income. If, subsequently, the amount in the plan is not to be used for funding post-secondary education as intended, the contributor may have the contributions refunded. This refund is not taxed as the original contribution was made from income on which tax had already been paid. Similarly, a student withdrawing money from an RESP is not required to report the contribution amount as income, but only the interest earned while the funds were invested in the plan.

Let us now turn to the proposal before the House. The summary of Bill C-253 states that the bill provides “that contributions to a Registered Education Savings Plan are deductible from a taxpayer's taxable income”.

The bill also provides that if, at a later time, contributions are taken out of the plan by the contributor, they are to included as taxable for that year. Not having been taxed initially, the contributions would cease to enjoy tax-exempt status at the time of withdrawal from the plan.

This proposal amounts to a tax deferral. Rather than making contributions out of after tax income, the contributor would be provided with a tax deduction at the time that the contribution is made. If, subsequently, the money is not used for educational purposes but is withdrawn from the plan, the funds would be reported as taxable income at that time.

I do not regard such a tax deferral as imposing any increased tax burden on the contributor. It is permissible for a private member's bill to introduce a tax exemption, or to propose a delay in the reporting of income. Therefore, I find that Bill C-253 is properly before the House.

Accordingly, in my view, debate may continue on the bill in its current form.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the Canadian Parliamentary Delegation to the Republic of South Africa, from August 27 to September 3.