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House of Commons Hansard #30 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sentence.

Topics

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

May 31st, 2006 / 3:10 p.m.

South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale B.C.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I also have the honour to table, pursuant to Standing Order 34, reports from the Canadian Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association regarding the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association United Kingdom Branch Seminar on “Restoring Faith in the Political Process: Tackling Corruption, Upholding Human Rights, the Role of the Media”, held in London, England, January 22-28, 2006.

I have an additional report from the 55th Parliamentary Seminar at Westminster Palace held in London, England, March 16-17, 2006.

Document Quoted from during Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

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, this refers to a point of order that was raised yesterday at the conclusion of question period.

The member for Nunavut asked the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to table a document from which she indicated the minister was reading.

I can inform the House that the minister will be tabling that document tomorrow as soon as it has been translated into both official languages.

Judges ActRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Judges Act and certain other Acts in relation to courts.

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

Judicial CompensationRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying only a moment ago, our government today is introducing a bill to implement the May 2004 recommendations of the Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission. Two of those recommendations will be implemented in modified form.

Some members will recall that the previous government introduced Bill C-51, which would have implemented all but one of the commission's recommendations, including an increase in judicial salaries of 10.8%, but as was typical of the previous government, it did nothing to move the bill forward and it died on the order paper when the election was called.

When Canadians voted for a change on January 23, they voted for a government that is willing to recognize its responsibilities, make tough decisions and implement them.

There are a number of constitutional principles which guide governments in establishing judicial compensation, both from Supreme Court case law and the Constitution itself. The Constitution specifically provides that it is the role of Parliament to set judicial salaries and benefits. This is accomplished through amendments to the Judges Act.

Judges are prevented from negotiating directly with governments. Instead, independent commissions are established to examine and make recommendations on judicial compensation.

These commissions are an integral part of the process of establishing judicial compensation. Their deliberations and recommendations must be taken seriously, but decisions about the allocation of public resources ultimately belong to legislatures and governments. Governments can reject and modify the recommendations of these commissions, but they must provide legitimate, factually based reasons.

Earlier this week our government released its response to the commission's response. The response addresses the substances of the commission's recommendations fairly and objectively. It is consistent with promoting the effectiveness of the commission process, depoliticizing the establishment of judicial salaries and preserving judicial independence.

The bill introduced today reflects the response. The bottom line is that this government is prepared to accept all of the commission's recommendations, with two modifications. First is the recommended salary increase. Second is the proposal on legal costs for the judicial organizations. On that issue, the government's bill takes the same approach as Bill C-51.

The government has decided to depart from the commission's recommendation of a 10.8% salary increase. Instead, the government is prepared to support a salary increase of 7.25%, or $15,700 retroactive to April 1, 2004 plus the annual cost of living increment.

There are two main reasons that we believe 7.25% is an appropriate increase, which are fully explained in the government's response.

First is the overall economic and financial position of the federal government. This is one of the statutory factors that the commission is required to consider under the Judges Act. The government's view is that the commission gave insufficient consideration to this factor in determining the adequacy of judicial compensation. Because judges are paid from the public purse, judicial compensation must be understood in relation to other legitimate demands on public resources and the economic and social priorities of the government.

Second is the need to attract outstanding candidates to the judiciary, another statutory factor that the commission is required to consider.

In summary, our view is that too much attention was paid to the salaries of lawyers in private practice and in particular, those who practise in large urban centres. There are a significant number of appointees from outside private practice and from outside those large urban centres. This fact needed to be given more weight.

I want to thank the members of the commission for approaching their task in a thoughtful and diligent manner.

Under our Constitution, it is not the government that sets judicial compensation; that is Parliament's job. We therefore call on parliamentarians to carefully discharge their important constitutional responsibilities in an informed and respectful fashion in light of the constitutional and statutory principles that are engaged.

Given the need to move forward on this matter, we will be referring the bill without delay to committee for its immediate consideration.

Judicial CompensationRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, section 100 of the Constitution Act, 1867 requires that the salaries and allowances of federally appointed judiciary be established by Parliament.

The Supreme Court of Canada has established a constitutional requirement for an independent, objective and effective commission. The commission's purpose is to depoliticize the process of judicial remuneration. The statutory mandate of the Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission must consider: one, the prevailing economic conditions in Canada, including the cost of living and the overall economic and financial position of the federal government; two, the role of the financial security of the judiciary in ensuring judicial independence; three, the need to attract outstanding candidates to the judiciary; and four, any other objective criteria that the commission considers relevant.

Earlier this week the current government responded to the commission's latest report in a different manner than the former government had in some areas, notably by introducing the commission's recommendation on the salary increment over the four year period.

It should be noted that the government's response is reviewable in a court of law and must meet the legal standard of simple rationality.

Now the government will present a bill, we are told, knowing that it can ask Parliament for approval. It also knows that Parliament has no ability without a royal recommendation from the government to increase the financial aspects in this bill.

We know the commission has already gone through a challenging process. Also included in that process were two days of public input. We thank the commission for its hard work.

The government is telling us in its reasoning that it is taking into account the overall financial and economic position of the federal government. I would remind the minister that our former government left his government with a $12 billion surplus and the best economic situation in all G-8 countries.

The respect in which Canada's judiciary is held is a key factor in the strength and stability of our nation of Canada. Our tradition of judicial independence is not only an important element in this country's democratic framework, it also provides a model from which others can take hope and from which they can learn.

The government must understand that constant attacks on the independence of the judiciary, however they may come, whether they are from the member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin or any other government member, do not make for acceptable public policy.

An independent judiciary is a fundamental part of Canadian democracy. This independence must be respected.

Judicial CompensationRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take the floor today on this new matter of judges’ salaries.

I must confess, however, that I am discouraged. It is my impression that the Conservative government is continuing on the same path as the previous Liberal government in choosing to assign an independent commission authority for setting judges’ salaries, while at the same time not hesitating to act against those recommendations to suit the mood of the moment.

In 1999 we had found a solution, which was supposed to be definitive, to the problem of setting the salaries of members of Parliament and judges. To avoid bursts of demagoguery and ensure that salaries and other monetary benefits are equitably adjusted, parliamentarians chose to link the salaries of parliamentarians to those of judges, the latter being set by an independent commission every four years.

This solution, developed by all the parties represented in the House of Commons, seemed to us to be reasonable.

The commission was required by law to propose a reasonable salary, taking into account the state of the economy, the government’s financial position, the role of the financial security of judges in preserving judicial independence, and the need to recruit the best candidates to the judiciary.

The Prime Minister was going to earn the same salary as the chief justice of the Supreme Court; ministers, three quarters of that salary; MPs would receive an annual sessional allowance of 50% of the yearly salary of the chief justice of Canada, and so forth. The solution was simple and fair. It preserved the independence of the judiciary and ensured that parliamentarians did not have to set their own salary.

Everything was fine until the Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission proposed an inordinate increase in 2004. In a panic, the Liberal government and the Conservative opposition chose to play petty politics and unlink the salaries of MPs and judges, instead of calmly analyzing the situation and proposing a review of the remuneration suggested by the commission.

It appears that the Conservative government has decided to continue the tradition of hypocrisy and simplistic populism of the Liberal government in this matter, by continuing to separate the salaries of parliamentarians and judges.

Admittedly, setting the salaries of parliamentarians and judges is still an extremely difficult and thankless task, for one simple reason: these are people who are well compensated, even very well compensated. The citizens who pay these salaries often find them to be out of all proportion. That brings me to the solution which the Bloc is proposing to the government as a way out of this mess.

Because it is necessary to establish an arms-length salary-setting mechanism for parliamentarians as well as for judges, the Bloc Québécois is calling for the government to reintroduce a legislative obligation to link the salaries of parliamentarians to the salaries of judges.

Also, because the indexing of the salaries of judges and parliamentarians has to be reasonable, the Bloc Québécois is asking that the salaries of judges be based on the same indexing mechanism as the salaries of parliamentarians, so that their salaries increase each year in step with those of unionized employees of big corporations and the private sector.

That seems to us reasonable and equitable.

Judicial CompensationRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, what we have from the minister's statement today is another reflection of the contempt that the government holds toward our judiciary and another chink in the wall of judicial independence in our country. We export our judicial independence as a model to the rest of the world. We are currently showing a number of countries our experience in judicial independence, and the government at the same time is undermining that judicial independence.

The Minister of Justice is trying to justify this conduct on the basis that his party won the last election, but I am sure Canadians did not vote for them to break down the role of our independent judiciary. I can assure the House this was not part of the mandate that came out of the last election.

I heard him also trying to justify this by saying the government had to make tough decisions. The tough decision here is really a very simple one, and that is to support the system as it is.

Historically, we have fought the issue of how we pay our judicial appointments in the provincial and federal courts. This has been dragging on for the better part of 20 years. We finally resolved it in 1999 by appointing, through legislation, an independent commission that would review the salaries of judges and their status. That has worked well in most cases.

The Supreme Court of Canada has made it very clear that the commission's report is to be adopted by the House unless there are extraordinary circumstances.

Today the minister is trying to justify extraordinary circumstances. First, he said that we had to look at our financial circumstances. These compensation packages would cover 2004-05. The federal government had surpluses of $10 billion to $12 billion in both of those years, yet the minister tries to justify that the government does not have the money. Try to sell that to a judge some time in the future, which is likely what will happen if we proceed with the legislation as recommended.

The second point the minister has tried to argue is that somehow the government did not take into account the fact that lawyers in private practice got paid differently in small communities as compared to those in large communities. The commission did take that into account. It looked at this very closely, and it is recorded right in the commission's report.

There is no justification for this legislation or for the position taken by the government other than a straight attack on our judiciary. It is unforgivable that the government would do it at this period of time in particular, given some of the statements made by the Prime Minister during the election, given some of the statements made by my colleague from Saskatchewan, which had such notoriety, and given some of the statements the Prime Minister made when he was in opposition.

We have to stop attacking the judiciary and treat them with the independence they are entitled to under our Constitution and in the way we should handle our judiciary in general.

Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with DisabilitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, three reports of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

The first report, entitled “Summer Career Placement Program”, is the same as the one adopted by the standing committee in the 38th Parliament. The first session requires a response from the government.

The second report, entitled “Restoring Financial Governance and Accessibility in the Employment Insurance Program”, was also adopted by the standing committee during the 38th Parliament. The first session requires a comprehensive response from the government.

The committee has also adopted a third report entitled “Pilot Project on Increased Weeks of Employment Insurance Benefits (Pilot Project No.6)”.

FinanceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Finance concerning the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2007.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans entitled “Small Craft Harbours”.

National Environmental Standards ActRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-315, An Act to provide for the harmonization of environmental standards throughout Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table my private member's bill, an act to provide for the harmonization of environmental standards throughout Canada.

With rising temperatures, incredible climate change and smog-related sickness affecting things across the country, we must act to protect our wildlife and our environment before it is too late.

Having had the opportunity to speak with representatives from organizations such as the Canadian Boreal Initiative and Nature Canada, I have come to believe that harmonizing national environmental standards must be set and met in order to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land we are so fortunate to live upon.

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

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Thompson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

moved that Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act, be read the first time.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I seek the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion: In the opinion of this House under existing crimes against humanity legislation that the Government of Canada support the indictment of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe for crimes against humanity.

This is in response to the humanitarian catastrophe that Mr. Mugabe has inflicted upon the civilians of his country. He is using state-sponsored rape, murder and torture to kill the civilians of his population.

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to propose the motion?

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Citizenship and ImmigrationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising once again to speak on the issue of undocumented workers. I have a petition signed by many people across the country.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to immediately halt the deportation of undocumented workers and to find a humane and logical solution to their situation.

Last Saturday, several rallies and protests were held in various cities across Canada. These people ask the government to have a moratorium on this issue and to find a humane solution.

I was fortunate to participate in one of the protests on Saturday that took place in Toronto. Many people who attended were very much concerned about what would happen to their families, relatives and friends. It is about time that we find a humane solution to their situation.

Child CarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of presenting a petition, four pages with 33 names, primarily from residents in the city of Revelstoke.

The petitioners call upon the government to provide the provinces and territories with annual funds of at least $1.2 billion to build a high quality, accessible, affordable, community-based child care system and to ensure fair and effective income support programs for Canadian families.

TransportPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present three sets of petitions.

The first set of petitions has five pages and is from many citizens from Toronto. Recently there have been several cyclist deaths involving big trucks. A coroner's report in 1998 into the death of a Toronto cyclist noted that 37% of the conditions resulting in cyclist deaths involved big trucks and that the U.K. and Europe all reduced injuries to cyclists and pedestrians by installing side guards in trucks.

The petitioners ask for an amendment to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act so there would be side guards installed on big trucks in Canada.

Child CarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second and third sets contain 56 pages of petitions, with hundreds of names of citizens across Canada.

Whether it is Chatham, Ridgetown, London, Belle River, Windsor, Duncan, B.C., Cobble Hill, Ladysmith, Tecumseh, Belleville, Toronto, et cetera, these parents ask the House of Commons to create affordable, high quality child care spaces, adopt a Canada child care act and ensure the Canada universal child tax benefit would not be taxable and have it delivered under the child tax benefit.

Child CarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, like the two members before me, I too have a petition calling upon the government: first, provide provinces and territories with annual funds of at least $1.2 billion to build a high quality, accessible, affordable community-based child care system; and second, to ensure fair and effective income support programs for Canadian families.

The petition is signed by over 50 of my constituents and represents their desire to see the Government of Canada reinstitute the previous government's plans with respect to a child care agreement.

Child CarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also present a petition, containing several dozen pages, with regard to early learning and care. People continue to sign the petition now that they know what the serious implications of losing the program are in the province of Ontario.

Wilbert CoffinPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present another petition from the people in the riding of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine. This petition of approximately 1,000 signatures concerns a very important matter. It is asking the federal justice minister to push for a judicial review in the matter of Wilbert Coffin who was sentenced to death in 1954 and hanged on February 10, 1956.

Child CarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I present on behalf of the people of Cape Breton—Canso a petition that has been echoed in this chamber, evidenced by a number of similar petitions that have been presented. It is with respect to the cancellation of the agreements struck across the country for the benefit of young families in early education and child care.

The petitioners call upon the government to honour the agreement that was struck between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia on early learning and child care.

The petition is signed by a great number of residents from Cape Breton—Canso who are very concerned about the cancellation of that agreement.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:35 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

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is it agreed?