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House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was national.

Topics

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the Yellowknifer newspaper that urges all members of Parliament to support the budget and the government. Why? Because we have increased the northern residence deduction so people can keep more of their own money in their pockets. We are delivering $300 million in the northern housing trust to improve living conditions and $720 million for a new state of the art icebreaker. We are protecting sensitive environment areas and expanding parks. We are building an Arctic research station.

This is about promoting the north. It is about believing in the north. It is about protecting our sovereignty. We are getting it done for northerners.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of the Environment introduced his brown plan. He missed another opportunity to act. Since the Conservatives came to power, they have picked up where the Liberals left off. No green legislation has been adopted and no regulations have been announced. The NDP has no confidence in this government, because it refuses to take action against pollution.

Why does the minister think that Canadians should pay, instead of major polluters?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, polluter pays is one of the principles of our plan. The good news is this. While I do not have the confidence of the member from Skeena—Bulkley Valley and the NDP, I do have the full confidence, the full support, the full enthusiasm of the Liberal Party of Canada.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is not easy to miss the mark on pollution regulations, but I guess getting a free pass from the former Liberal environment minister makes life a little more easy. All we got from the Liberals was deny, delay, de-Liberal.

These weak regulations are a license to pollute more. They do not kick in for years. They are reliant upon unproven technologies. However, here is the kicker. Taxpayers have to flip for the bill.

Why does the government not just end the subsidies and make big polluters, not hard-working Canadians, foot the bill for all the pollution they are creating?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I have good news for the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

The Conservative government finally has begun to get rid of the tax subsidies given to the oil sands by our friends opposite in the Liberal Party. We are taking real action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an absolute 20%. That will put Canada in a leadership position. We will do more in the next 12 years than virtually any country in the world.

While we may not have the full support and enthusiasm of the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, we have the full support of the Liberal Party of Canada.

HealthOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is clear the provinces and territories have no partner in the Conservative government in health or in health care.

The Minister of Health has failed twice in his meetings with health ministers to help them fulfill his government's campaign promises on wait times. Afraid of another 13 on 1 pile on, he simply cancelled the meeting in December. Now we learn that he must be hiding under a stretcher in a hallway somewhere, while he is cancelling the meeting for June.

Will the minister explain to the House why he refuses to meet with his provincial counterparts?

HealthOral Questions

2:55 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 am not quite sure what the hon. member is talking about. Indeed, the meeting last December was postponed as a result of a request from the provinces, not as a demand from the federal government. In fact, we have agreed to a meeting later on this year.

When it comes to the issue that she mentioned in Alberta, I have been in contact with the Alberta minister of health. He is continuing his investigation of the issue.

All is sweetness and light when it comes to the provincial and federal health ministers.

Tourism IndustryOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada's tourism industry is a $67 billion a year economic engine for Canada, employing some 1.6 million Canadians in over 200,000 businesses. It is a great industry. Unlike our Liberal members opposite, we are treating the tourism industry as the economic enabler that it truly is.

Could the Secretary of State for Small Business and Tourism tell the House what measures our government is taking to support Canada's dynamic tourism industry?

Tourism IndustryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Calgary Nose Hill Alberta

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy ConservativeSecretary of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent work as chair of the tourism caucus of the House.

Tourism has strong support from the government. We are spending $800 million over two years on tourism. In addition, budget 2008 has allocated $24 million for tourism related infrastructure on the St. Lawrence and Saguenay, $9 million for national museums and $25 million for the Olympic torch relay. Tourism income has increased for 17 consecutive quarters.

We are working hard to help achieve significant progress for tourism in our country.

International CooperationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Bloc Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, last December, the Minister of International Cooperation told this House that the government did not plan to close the Montreal office of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. International peacekeeping organizations are already complaining about the lack of staff trained in French. This is part of the Pearson centre's mandate. Since then, the Montreal office has been empty and calls have been transferred to the Ottawa office.

Can the Minister of International Cooperation confirm whether or not the Pearson centre in Montreal is closed?

International CooperationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda ConservativeMinister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of the closing. As I said, there are no plans to close. In fact, I will commit to look into the situation and get back to the member.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives cannot be trusted to stand up for Canadians abroad. We see that on the death penalty file in torture cases, and we now see it in the case of Canadian citizen Brenda Martin in Mexico.

Brenda Martin has not received any semblance of justice in Mexico. She has not received any help from her own government. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Trade was just in Mexico and ignored her. Her health has begun to decline and she is now on a suicide watch in a prison hospital.

When will the Prime Minister stand up for Brenda Martin?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, that is so far from the truth. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, myself and a lot of members of the cabinet raised this case with the Mexican authorities. We are very deeply concerned about her health and the conditions of her detention. What we are doing here is helping her to have a positive resolution of her case as soon as possible.

Notice of MotionWays and MeansOral Questions

3 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1) l wish to table a notice of ways and means motion to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26, 2008, and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget.

I am also providing notice today of our intention to include with this ways and means motion language to protect Canada's fiscal framework from the effects of Bill C-253 which would risk sending the federal government back into deficit.

I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Notice of MotionWays and MeansOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Due to the unusual circumstance that has required the finance minister to do what he is apparently doing, I wonder if you would consider the fact that this matter has already been passed by the majority of this House of Commons and therefore the motion put forward by the minister that the bill not go before the Senate is out of order.

Notice of MotionWays and MeansOral Questions

3 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I believe you will be well familiar with the fact that this approach is entirely in order. We are dealing with a different matter than Bill C-253 and the approach that is being adopted in this ways and means motion is entirely appropriate.

I invite my friend to actually take the time to review the ways and means motion so that he can gain a fuller appreciation of its approach. I would be happy to return to you, Mr. Speaker, with further submissions later on.

Notice of MotionWays and MeansOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am sure there will be further argument on this point once the House has seen the ways and means motion that has been tabled.

Response to Oral QuestionPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order with regard to yesterday's question period when the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food misinformed the House on milling wheat prices available to western farmers through the Canadian Wheat Board.

I read a Canadian Wheat Board bases price contract program. Farmers could have availed themselves of prices ranging above $700 per tonne. This is more than twice the price the minister said. I am willing to table that information before the House if I am permitted--

Response to Oral QuestionPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I think the hon. member for Malpeque, who has considerable experience in matters procedural, is aware that disagreement of the facts is not a point of order.

I am sure the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food will appreciate any assistance the hon. member can give him and he could pass his figures and statistics over to the minister. I am sure if the minister feels that some kind of correction in his statement is necessary after reviewing the facts and figures the hon. member for Malpeque is producing, he will want to make the necessary corrections to the record. However, to get into an argument about it under the guise of a question of privilege or a point of order, in my view, is not in order.

Is the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food rising on the same point?

Response to Oral QuestionPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz ConservativeMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I would be very happy to see those reports coming from the Wheat Board on a monthly basis but it keeps denying me. The member for Malpeque certainly proves that he is never last but he is also never pertinent.

Response to Oral QuestionPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Yes, you see the difficulty we get into when we get into points of order that are not really points of order.

Private Members' BusinessOral Questions

March 11th, 2008 / 3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair would like to take a brief moment to provide some information to the House regarding the management of private members' business.

After a replenishment of the order of precedence, the Chair has developed the practice of reviewing the items there so that the House can be alerted to bills which, at first glance, appear to infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown. The aim of this practice is to allow members the opportunity to intervene in a timely fashion to present their views about the need for a royal recommendation.

Accordingly, following the March 3 replenishment of the order of precedence with 15 new items, I wish to inform the House that two bills give the Chair some concern as to the spending provisions they contemplate. They are: Bill C-490, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (application for supplement, retroactive payments and other amendments), standing in the name of the member for Alfred-Pellan; and Bill C-445, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for loss of retirement income), standing in the name of the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska.

I would encourage hon. members who wish to make arguments regarding the need for a royal recommendation in the case of Bill C-490 and Bill C-445, or in the case of any of the other bills now on the order of precedence, to do so at an early opportunity.

I thank the House for its attention.

The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering. I will hear him now.

Alleged Obstruction of Member in the Conduct of His DutiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege arising out of a letter I received from Peter Downard, a lawyer at Fasken Martineau on behalf of Mr. Chris Froggatt, chief of staff to the Minister of the Environment. I am raising this matter at the earliest opportunity as I was officially served with this letter yesterday afternoon.

I believe that by instructing his counsel to send this letter, Mr. Froggatt has deliberately obstructed and interfered with me in the conduct of my duties as a member of Parliament and is, therefore, in contempt of the House of Commons and has violated my privileges as a member.

As noted on page 84 of Marleau and Montpetit, it states:

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. In a technical sense, such actions are considered to be contempts of the House and not breaches of privilege. 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.

Also on page 84 of Marleau and Montpetit it states:

...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 believe that Mr. Froggatt has crossed this line.

In his letter of March 7, 2008, Mr. Downard alleged that I defamed Mr. Froggatt during an interview on CTV Newsnet and threatens to launch a libel suit should I not comply with his demands for an apology and retraction.

Specifically, Mr. Downard writes:

Your statements in the CTV Newsnet were false and seriously defamatory of Mr. Froggatt. A reasonable viewer would have understood your statements to mean that Mr. Froggatt had interfered with or attempted to interfere with a police investigation into [the Minister of the Environment] and caused or attempted to cause the OPP to alter a decision you allege the OPP had made to forward its file to the RCMP so that the RCMP could conduct an investigation of [the Minister of the Environment].

I deny all of the charges that have been levelled at me by Mr. Froggatt. In particular, I deny that anything that has been said is defamatory or untrue.

At the root of my question of privilege is Mr. Froggatt's attempt to prevent me from debating the issue of conduct by the Minister of the Environment.

Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, serious questions have been raised in the House about the conduct of the minister during the 2006 municipal election in the city of Ottawa. You are also aware that the Ontario Provincial Police have charged Ottawa mayor, Larry O'Brien, with two counts of bribery under the Criminal Code.

At the end of its investigation, the OPP indicated that it would be forwarding its files to the RCMP for further investigation. The next day, the OPP withdrew that statement. As far as we are aware, the only intervening events between those two statements were a series of phone calls made by Mr. Froggatt to the OPP.

I have repeatedly questioned the Minister of the Environment about his involvement in both the actions of Mayor O'Brien and his dealings with the OPP in this matter. It was those questions that led to the CTV Newsnet interview, of which Mr. Froggatt now complains.

It is clear that the primary goal of Mr. Froggatt is to prevent me from continuing to raise the very serious questions that I have about his actions and the actions of the Minister of the Environment with respect to the OPP investigation.

Mr. Froggatt is well aware that he is unable to directly control what I say in this House. As a result, he has chosen to attempt to intimidate me outside the House by threatening a lawsuit should I refuse to withdraw my earlier comments and refrain from accusing him of inappropriate activity.

I believe that the involvement of the Minister of the Environment in a bribery scandal and improper interference by the chief of staff to a minister are two issues that are clearly of public importance. Indeed, I have laid these issues before the House on a number of occasions. Mr. Froggatt's attempt to stifle debate is clearly a violation of my privileges.

As I have read from the letter that I received from Mr. Downard, I have a copy of it to be tabled in the House.

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

Alleged Obstruction of Member in the Conduct of His DutiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, as you and all members of the House are aware, the privileges that extend to a member of Parliament that their speech is free from any consequences in terms of libel or other harm that they may cause and free from any responsibility is restricted to their duties as members of Parliament in this House.

There is a big difference between our Westminster parliamentary system, based on the mother Parliament in Britain, and as it has evolved here in Canada, and those of, say, the Republic of Russia right now where one becomes immune from any form of prosecution or any form of liability simply by one's status as a member of the house.

The fact that one is a member of Parliament does not give one licence to make reckless accusations that harm the reputation of any individual in this country, regardless of one's position or status.

Any comments that are made outside of this chamber, outside of one's direct role in the House, are comments for which a member must assume responsibility, comments which they should recognize have risks and that they should have a basis on which they can defend the truthfulness and accuracy of those remarks.

Were it to be otherwise, the situation that would result would be one that would be most unfortunate. Any member of the House could speak freely to the newspapers, on television, communicate in any form or fashion they wished, and have their comments reported widely which could harm the reputation of all kinds of private individuals or public figures, regardless of the basis for them.

Our parliamentary privilege does not work like that. We are simply restricted to comments made in the House. On that basis, I think it is very easy for you, Mr. Speaker, to dispose of this matter because there simply is no privilege being interfered with.

A very unfortunate trend has been coming from the official opposition in the House. It is an official opposition whose members have resorted to an ongoing program of character assassination. I recognize that they consider that to be part of the political game and they can do it in the House with the protection and the privileges of the House, but they must take seriously the responsibilities of every Canadian citizen outside the House.

They are not freed from that burden nor are they freed from the duties of every other citizen when they step outside the House and make their comments. They are in the same position of having to defend their public statements and utterances as every other Canadian citizen. If they make reckless and false accusations of criminal behaviour, which is the worst kind of bully tactic, if they go out there and say that someone is an ax murderer who is not, that someone is a criminal who is not, and they say those things without any consequences, that would be a serious affront to our democratic system and our Parliament.

We protect members within the House to allow for freedom of speech but we also respect the rights of every citizen and recognize that there is a difference between what Parliament means and what the House means. It is by virtue of membership and participation in the House that those privileges exist. It is for the protection of what happens in this chamber that those privileges exist. It is not to give individuals licence to engage in reckless behaviour and destroy people's reputations without any basis, which is exactly the conduct that the member continues to engage in outside the House.

On that basis, he must, as any other citizen outside the House, be prepared to defend those comments, not to cry like a baby that he is not allowed to say what he wants. He must assume the adult responsibilities for the truth of the comments he makes. If they are not true, then he should own up to the lack of evidence and own up to the lack of truth and be prepared to defend those words in court. That is all he is being asked to do.

It is not an unreasonable proposition for any individual or any citizen. It is the basis of our democracy. That is why laws against libel and slander exist. They are as old as our traditions in this western Parliament. They are laws that come out of our common law tradition to protect the people. While it may not be consistent with the Liberals' strategy, when they have no policies to talk about and no facts on which to base their accusations, they still engage in repeated false accusations that harm the individual reputations of people, harm their families and their loved ones and ruin people's lives. This is what that man is seeking the right to be able to do without consequences.

A member cannot do that, by virtue of being a member of Parliament, outside this House. A member can make his or her best efforts in this House, engage in debate, and that privilege exists, but there is no such privilege outside this House.

The fact that this question is even being entertained in front of you, Mr. Speaker, the fact that it has been raised, demonstrates the dangerous path that we are going down.

The particular case is quite clear. The police themselves have said that his accusations are false. The police have said that none of the interference which on television he alleges existed, exists. The police have said that in a public forum.

The facts do not bear out anything he said. If he disagrees with this, he can attempt to rely on those facts in a court of law for comments he wishes to make outside this House, but privileges of this House, and the privilege to speak, are restricted to inside this House.

Alleged Obstruction of Member in the Conduct of His DutiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, my comments are very clear. I stand by what I say both in this House and outside of this House.

The issue is when members of Parliament in trying to execute their duties as members of Parliament ask legitimate questions of the government about matters of deep concern to the country, matters that are well reported, are sued by individuals who try to do indirectly what they cannot do directly, to try to intimidate individuals into not asking legitimate, fair questions on matters of fact, in my opinion, that is a serious attack upon the privileges of members of Parliament.

I believe the courts are being abused and used to try to stifle the abilities of members of Parliament to ask questions.