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House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, thousands look to Canada every year as their new home, a place to pursue their dreams. Financial burdens should not stop them from coming to Canada.

Could the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration tell us what he has done to make it easier for immigrants to come to Canada?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Medicine Hat Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for her tireless work on behalf of newcomers. I want to point out that a low moment the old government imposed a $970 tax on immigrants to Canada. We have cut that in half in the budget. We will eliminate it as finances permit.

However, it goes beyond that. We are providing $307 million to the provinces for settlement. We are providing money for recognizing credentials.

We have done more in 13 weeks than that old government did in 13 years.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government is spending three times as much subsidizing the oil patch in Alberta than it is spending on cleaning up the environment. This is not a made in Canada solution. This is a made in the oil patch solution.

After 13 years of incompetent Liberal governments, when it comes to climate change that took us from leaders in the environment internationally to laggards, why does the government continue the practice, after more than a year in the House that it claimed to have a climate change plan, where is the plan? Will the minister table it today?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we made a positive investment in Canadians by encouraging Canadians to get out of their cars and into public transit and investing in new greener public transportation systems. We are giving Canadians the tools to clean up their own environment.

I would like to share what the mayor of Toronto said about our public transit passes, which is that it would be a very good thing as part of the transit strategy and it also includes funding.

We are happy today to tell the mayor of Toronto that yesterday we did a very good thing and introduced our transit pass and made a real investment in green transportation.

Communications Between Bureaucrats and Members of Parliament--Speaker's RulingPrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on Thursday, April 6, 2006 by the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest, alleging that public servants refused to communicate with him during the recent election campaign.

I would like to thank the hon. member for raising this matter, as well as the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot and the hon. member for Halifax for their interventions. I also want to thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader and Minister for Democratic Reform for his intervention on April 7, 2006.

In presenting his case, the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest stated that departmental officials refused to meet with him during the recent general election to discuss the Anti-terrorism Act. In the last Parliament, the hon. member had been a member of the Subcommittee on Public Safety and National Security of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The subcommittee had been reviewing the operations of the Anti-terrorism Act, but before it had the opportunity to finalize its report, the 38th Parliament was dissolved on November 29, 2005.

After dissolution, the hon. member attempted unsuccessfully to contact departmental officials from various departments to discuss some of his proposed recommendations. He was advised on two separate occasions that a policy directive had been issued prohibiting public servants from communicating with members of Parliament during the campaign period.

The member alleged that this directive impeded his ability to discharge his duties as a member of Parliament. In support of his position, the hon. member argued that, after dissolution, members of Parliament remain in office until election day, and thereafter if re-elected, and during this period are still considered by their constituents to be members.

In his intervention, the hon. parliamentary secretary indicated that the Privy Council Office did not have a policy prohibiting public servants from communicating with members during a dissolution period. That being said, he went on to argue that a member of Parliament is a member only for such period as the Parliament exists, referring in particular to the Parliament of Canada Act, which deems that members continue in office for purposes of allowances payable only. He posited that the dissolution of Parliament terminates all parliamentary business, including committee work, and concluded that the member's parliamentary privileges were not breached.

The hon. member for Scarborough Southwest has raised two important issues, namely, the status of a member during a general election period and the issue of the relationship between members of Parliament and public servants. Let me deal first with the matter of whether or not a member remains a member during a dissolution period.

As the hon. Parliamentary Secretary noted, this gives rise to certain questions. At dissolution, Parliament, comprised of the Crown, the Senate and the House of Commons, no longer exercises its powers; however, the government continues to exist and Ministers remain in office until they are replaced. Members are discharged from their parliamentary duties, in other words, from the requirement to attend sittings of the House and its committees.

One could argue, as did the hon. parliamentary secretary, that the wording of the Parliament of Canada Act implies that once Parliament is dissolved, members are only members for purposes of allowances payable. Section 69 of the Parliament of Canada Act states that for purposes of allowances payable under sections 55.1 and 63, anyone who was a member as of dissolution “shall be deemed to continue to be a member of the House until the date of the next following election”.

Nonetheless, as all returning members and their staff are aware, constituents do not stop requiring assistance just because Parliament is dissolved. To this end, bylaw 305 of the Board of Internal Economy permits members to continue to use their offices to serve their constituents.

It might be argued, therefore, that during the election period, a member's role in assisting constituents continues, and this might include contacting government departments on behalf of their constituents.

This brings us to the second matter: the relationship between members and government departments. Specifically, if Parliament had not been dissolved, would the difficulties experienced by the member in meeting with public service officials constitute a prima facie breach of privilege or contempt of the House?

For the sake of new members in the House, I believe it would be useful if I briefly described what is meant by parliamentary privilege. The classic definition of parliamentary privilege is found in Erskine May's Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usages of Parliament:

Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively...and by Members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions, and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals.

Obstructing members in the discharge of their responsibilities to the House or in their participation in its proceedings is considered a contempt of the House. My predecessors have consistently upheld the right of the House to the services of its members free from intimidation, obstruction and interference. However, before the protection of parliamentary privilege can be invoked, the member's activity must be linked to a proceeding in Parliament.

The 22nd edition of Erskine May, on page 121, puts the matter succinctly:

Correspondence with constituents or official bodies, for example, and the provision of information, sought by Members on matters of public concern will very often, depending on the circumstances of the case, fall outside the scope of 'proceedings in Parliament'...against which a claim...of privilege will be measured.

As I have already indicated, members have risen on numerous occasions over the years on questions of privilege, alleging that they have been obstructed by government officials in fulfilling their responsibilities. For example, on May 15, 1985, two members, Mr. Frith, Sudbury, and Mr. Malépart, Montréal--Sainte-Marie, rose in the House to claim that their privileges had been breached, alleging that the Department of Employment and Immigration had directed its officials not to release information on certain projects, thus infringing their ability to serve their constituents. Speaker Bosley ruled that a complaint about the action or inaction of government departments could not constitute a question of parliamentary privilege as it did not infringe on members' freedom of speech or prevent members from fulfilling their duties. This ruling can be found at page 4768 of the Debates for May 15, 1985.

On another occasion, in ruling on a question of privilege raised by hon. member for Wild Rose concerning information allegedly denied to him by an official of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Speaker Parent found that the situation had not precluded the member from participating in a parliamentary proceeding. The Speaker ruled, therefore, that a contempt of Parliament had not occurred. This ruling is found at pages 687 to 689 of the Debates for October 9, 1997.

These precedents, where no prima facie case of privilege was found, arise in cases where the House was actually in session, whereas in the case before us not only was the House not in session, Parliament was actually dissolved. Accordingly, while I will concede that the hon. member may very well have a grievance, I have to conclude that the hon. member has not been obstructed in the performance of his parliamentary duties. I cannot, therefore, find a prima facie case of privilege.

I thank the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest for bringing this matter to the attention of the House as well as those members who contributed to the discussion.

Canadian Human Rights CommissionRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to table the 2005 Annual Report of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(e), this document is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

ALS Month ActRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-244, An Act to designate the month of June as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease) Month.

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to recognize the month of June as ALS month across Canada. Hopefully this bill and the debates that will take place on it will help bring Canadians' attention to this devastating disease.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-245, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (trafficking in a controlled substance within five hundred metres of an elementary school or a high school).

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to reintroduce in this Parliament a piece of private member's legislation that met with great success in the previous Parliament. This bill would impose mandatory prison sentences of one year for a first offence and two years for a further offence for a person convicted of trafficking in a narcotic within 500 metres of an elementary school or a high school.

School is a place where children must be allowed to build their futures free from the tyranny of drug pushers. We must send a forceful message that selling drugs to our children, especially near their schools, will not be tolerated by our society and will result in mandatory imprisonment, not a slap on the wrist.

Before the dissolution of the last Parliament, my colleagues from all sides of this House voted to send this legislation to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for further study. I am hopeful that my colleagues in this new Parliament will be equally supportive.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-246, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (vitamins).

Mr. Speaker, this bill, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (vitamins), is important to all Canadians who use vitamins and other supplements to maintain their health. The purpose of this enactment is to expand the list of allowable medical expense deductions in the Income Tax Act to include expenses incurred for vitamin supplements, mineral supplements, dietary vitamin supplements or dietary mineral supplements.

I urge all members to support this bill. We all know that Canadians need to stay healthy and this bill encourages that through a tax break.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-247, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deduction for volunteer emergency service).

Mr. Speaker, I rise for first reading of my private member's bill, entitled an act to amend the Income Tax Act (deduction for volunteer emergency service). This enactment would amend the Income Tax Act to allow volunteer emergency workers to deduct $3,000 from their taxable income from any source. As we are all aware, volunteer firefighters and emergency workers provide over 75% of all emergency services in Canada.

As a country, we need to encourage people to enter volunteer emergency services. I encourage all members of the House to support this bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-248, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sex crimes and violent crimes).

Mr. Speaker, one of the key commitments of our government is to strengthen our criminal justice system. This bill, entitled an act to amend the Criminal Code (sex crimes and violent crimes), would do exactly that by amending the Criminal Code to preclude persons who commit sex offences and offences involving violence from receiving conditional sentences under that code.

It is imperative that this bill pass. I encourage all members of the House to support it.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

DNA Identification ActRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-249, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes).

Mr. Speaker, I am introducing this bill entitled an act to amend the DNA Identification Act concerning the establishment of indexes because I believe that our law enforcement agencies should be able to assess every tool necessary in order to help them do their jobs.

The enactment would amend the DNA Identification Act to provide for the establishment of a human remains index and a missing persons index to help law enforcement agencies search for and identify persons reported missing. I urge all members to support this bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canadian Safe Drinking Water ActRoutine Proceedings

May 3rd, 2006 / 3:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-250, An Act to ensure safe drinking water throughout Canada.

Mr. Speaker, it is always surprising that although Canada has the largest freshwater supplies in the world, we are very concerned that hundreds of our communities have to boil their water to have safe drinking water on a regular basis.

I honestly believe that from coast to coast to coast and inland, everybody in Canada should have the right to safe accessible water. Nobody should have to boil their water. Nobody should have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars worrying about those concerns.

We all know what happened in Walkerton and Kashechewan. That should not happen to any Canadian. That is why I am proud, along with my colleague from Victoria, to introduce this bill to ensure safe drinking water for every Canadian.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Food and Drugs ActRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-251, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (warning labels regarding the consumption of alcohol).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a bill which I first introduced into this House over 11 years ago and which, each time it has been introduced, has received very significant support in this House.

Maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is the leading known cause of mental retardation in Canada. According to the latest report from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, binge drinking is the most dangerous form of drinking which leads to problems such as fetal alcohol syndrome.

I am pleased to present this bill regarding health warning labels on the containers of alcoholic beverages to caution expectant mothers, and others, of the risks associated with misuse of alcohol.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding the special order adopted on Tuesday, May 2, 2006, regarding the special debate on NORAD, when no member rises to speak during that debate, or after five hours of debate, whichever is earlier, the question be deemed put and the recorded division be deemed requested and deferred to Monday, May 8, 2006, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

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

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Child CarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to table a portion of a petition on behalf of 9,000 concerned Nova Scotians. This petition, signed by parents from Yarmouth to Cape North, calls upon the Prime Minister to honour the May 16, 2005, child care agreement between the Government of Canada and Nova Scotia.

I know members from two other parties will receive the remainder of this petition and I look forward to seeing them table it here in the coming days.

Child CarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to rise again with a petition from the Shearwater Military Family Resource Centre.

The petitioners are parents who are concerned about the government's plan to kill child care, which was done yesterday. They indicate that adding a taxable $100 a month allowance to a child benefit will not establish new child care spaces.

Child care is an every day necessity. There is an urgent need and they call upon the Prime Minister to honour the early learning and child care agreement in principle, and to commit the funding for five years.

Child CarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of a number of Nova Scotians who could not have their names added to the petition presented by the member for Halifax West. Over 9,000 Nova Scotians ask the government to maintain and honour its agreement with the Province of Nova Scotia for the development of early childhood education.

Human RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of people in the Toronto area, primarily from my riding, who are Falun Gong practitioners and are concerned about what they perceive is the treatment of Falun Gong practitioners in the People's Republic of China.

They are calling on the Prime Minister and the Canadian government to condemn the Chinese government's crimes, which they have alleged in their preamble, against the Falun Gong practitioners, and have asked that Canada speak out at the United Nations. I am tabling this petition on their behalf.

Child CarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of my constituents regarding child care cuts by the government and the fact that they will not receive the child care they want.

The Conservative government proposed a taxable $1,200 allowance as an income measure, which does not support child care. Even as an income measure, it will discriminate against families with employed mothers by giving them less financial assistance after tax than families in which one parent stays at home. I submit this on behalf of my constituents.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?