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House of Commons Hansard #59 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.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, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to one petition.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.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

National Fish and Wildlife Heritage Commission ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

, seconded by the member for Yorkton--Melville, moved for leave to introduce Bill C-522, An Act to establish a National Fish and Wildlife Heritage Commission and to re-establish the Survey on the Importance of Nature to Canadians.

He said: Mr. Speaker, as co-chair with the member of the outdoors caucus, l am very happy to introduce this bill to establish a wildlife heritage commission and also a survey of how important outdoor activities are to Canadians.

Millions of Canadians participate in hunting, fishing and outdoor activities. It is a huge component of our tourism industry and it is very important that we do a lot of conservancy to preserve these resources, to make sure harmful species are not introduced, to make sure youth are involved in these activities, and to make sure there is no derogation of aboriginal rights. This is a very exciting initiative. I look forward to the support of the entire House.

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

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-523, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (certificate and special advocate) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to table a bill to amend security certificates after the Conservative government chose to suffocate debate on Bill C-3, which has just passed. Even Conservative Senator Nolin acknowledged that he had to hold his nose and adopt that bill because of the lack of time provided by the government.

Witnesses before legislative committees provided us with compelling evidence on why the law formerly known as Bill C-3 is flawed. This debate is not over. Canadians deserve a more fulsome discussion. This is my contribution to the debate. It is based on recommendations I gathered from legal experts.

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

PhosphatesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 4th, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to table a petition today with thousands of signatures.

The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to assume its responsibilities and act quickly to eliminate dishwasher and laundry detergents containing phosphates.

I remind members that this petition was presented as part of the initiative of the Bloc Québécois. The government committed to changing its regulations. It did so a few weeks ago, but these petitions are calling for a complete ban on the sale and import of dishwasher detergents containing phosphates.

Rights of the UnbornPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition today that has been put together by people from the great community of Coaldale in my riding, the community known as the “Gem of the West”. These people call on Parliament to enact legislation which would recognize unborn children as separate victims when they are injured or killed during the commission of an offence against their mothers, allowing two charges to be laid against the offender instead of just one.

Sri LankaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present to the House a petition on behalf of my constituents in regard to the assassination of the chief peace negotiator for the Tamils in Sri Lanka. This petition calls upon the House of Commons to condemn the targeted killing of the Tamil peace negotiator, to request the Government of Canada to exert diplomatic pressure on Sri Lanka to respect the human rights of the Tamil people, and to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to engage in negotiations with the Tamils toward a peaceful political solution.

Rights of the UnbornPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to present a petition on behalf of petitioners who have noted that in federal criminal law an unborn child is not recognized as a victim with respect to violent crimes. They point to the situation in Edmonton when Olivia Talbot was shot and killed in November 2005 and her 27-week-old unborn son, Lane Jr., also died. Because the law offers no legal protection for unborn children today, no charge was laid in the death of baby Lane.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to enact legislation which will recognize unborn children as separate victims when they are injured or killed during the commission of an offence against their mothers. Members will have the opportunity to do that tomorrow night on Bill C-484, which is sponsored by the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park.

Rights of the UnbornPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I was unable to be here at the time you asked for reports from committee, so I would ask for unanimous consent of the House to go back to reports from committee. I have a report from the finance committee.

Rights of the UnbornPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is there agreement that we revert to presenting reports from committees?

Rights of the UnbornPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

FinanceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Finance, requesting an extension of 30 sitting days to study Bill C-305, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act.

FinanceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Pursuant to Standing Order 97.1(3)(a), a motion to concur in this report is deemed to have been moved, the question deemed put and the recorded division deemed demanded and deferred until Wednesday, March 5, immediately before the hour provided for the consideration of private members' business.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.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

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

FisheriesRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair has received a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

I am now ready to hear his arguments.

FisheriesRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 52, I request an emergency debate on the agreement on subsidies and countervailing measures, which the World Trade Organization is discussing in relation to fisheries subsidies.

The situation is critical. There are texts circulating that call for the prohibition of subsidies, which would threaten the future of the fishery not only in Quebec, but in Canada. The texts mention subsidies in three areas. The first is infrastructure. As hon. members know, without wharves, there is no fishery. If we do not subsidize infrastructure, the future of the fishery is in danger.

One text mentions that the prohibition might apply to subsidies for the purchase, renovation and restoration of fishing boats. As in the case of infrastructure, without fishing boats, there is no fishery, because companies depend on financial assistance.

The third area is income support. As hon. members are aware, this could affect employment insurance.

Negotiations are under way at the WTO, and texts are being produced as a result. It is important and urgent that we discuss these texts now, in order to verify the nature and scope of the mandate given to our chief negotiator and to find out the government's position on this urgent and important issue.

FisheriesRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have considered the hon. member's request. I have read the letter he wrote me, and I have also heard his arguments this morning. In my opinion, this is not an urgent matter at this time. I am therefore refusing his request.

However, I should mention that I have received a notice from the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons indicating that tomorrow will be an opposition day, and I believe that it is the turn of the member's party to choose the motion that will be debated tomorrow. If this is an urgent matter, perhaps he can persuade his colleagues to introduce such a motion, and we will have the whole day tomorrow to debate this issue.

In my opinion, I must leave this in the members' hands for the time being. That is my decision.

Proceedings in Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday another colleague in the House rose on a point of order involving the mandate of a committee. I thought it might be helpful to the Chair if I provided a few more remarks which I felt yesterday were not fully addressed.

The question involves the operation of a committee and whether the committee is operating within its mandate and whether or not a committee when it drifts outside of its specific mandate should be communicated with by the House in some way.

I know, Mr. Speaker, you are reluctant and naturally so to interfere with the work of committees. They generally do a pretty good job of carrying on the work that is delegated to them by the House.

The first thing I want to mention of course is the very basics here, the rules of the House. Mr. Speaker, you will know very clearly that the work of the committees is set by orders of reference and Marleau and Montpetit fortunately speak to this fairly clearly. I am not too sure I have to read Marleau and Montpetit, but I will refer to the page numbers just for reference here in the discussion.

On page 853 it states: “The Standing Orders provide standing committees with permanent orders of reference--” and on page 854, the authors write: “Committees are bound by their orders of reference and may not undertake studies or make recommendations to the House which go beyond the limits established by them”.

In this case the particular committee is the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. That particular committee has adopted a motion the contents of which were made available to the House yesterday which purports to, and I will just use the short form here, “investigate the fundraising practices of the Liberal Party”.

That motion of the committee which was adopted has been provided to the House and, Mr. Speaker, if you want me to read it I can, but I probably do not have to.

Mr. Speaker, you are indicating that I should read it. The motion that was adopted states:

That pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(a) in relation to the conflicting reports about the fundraising practices of the Liberal Party, the committee investigate the fundraising practices of the Liberal Party of Canada, which - as evidenced by such recent events as, the February 13, 2008 Fundraising Auction at the Ottawa Congress Centre, the “Stéphane Dion’s Liberal Leaders Dinner” event of February 21, 2008, which accepted corporate money though the federal branch of the Liberal Party of Canada in Saskatchewan, the Halloween Spooktacular Carnival in Mississauga-Streetville of October 26th, 2007, which accepted corporate sponsors, and other prior events - potentially violate the Canada Elections Act by encouraging and allowing personal donations in excess of $1,100 dollars, as well as allowing and encouraging political donations from corporations, unions and associations.

Essentially, it is a Canada Elections Act fundraising focus. Mr. Speaker, you will be the judge of what that appears to be.

In adopting the motion, I am suggesting that the members have gone way beyond the mandate of the committee. The committee's mandate is contained in the Standing Orders. It does not have any specific other reference or guidance from the House in terms of its order of reference.

Mr. Speaker, if you read the order of reference from Standing Order 108(3)(h), you will find that there is really only one sub-category, 108(3)(h)(v) and (vi), which could in any way relate to what the committee is now purporting to do. I will just read subparagraph (vi):

the proposing, promoting, monitoring and assessing of initiatives which relate to access to information and privacy across all sectors of Canadian society and to ethical standards relating to public office holders;

I would accept that if the proposed work of the committee had to do with public office holders there might be a connection. But in fact, the term “public office holders” is defined by the Conflict of Interest Act. It is defined in the definition sections of that statute and does not have a particular section number. However, it is clear that the Liberal Party of Canada is not a public office holder. Public office holders are generally appointees of the government: ministers and parliamentary secretaries.

The focus of the committee's motion here is the Liberal Party of Canada. It is not a public office holder, so there is no reasonable reading of these rules that would allow the committee a mandate to do this type of inquiry.

I suggest that if the committee can clearly go beyond its mandate, then the committee can look at the fundraising efforts of the United Nations Children's Fund in Canada, the National Citizens' Coalition, charitable and political action groups across the country, and it might as well just go and study the Department of National Defence or the employment insurance fund. Once the committee goes beyond its mandate, it is simply beyond its mandate.

The point I want to try and make very clearly here is that the House should not allow its committees to do that. That would seem to be obvious. When a committee appears to be going beyond its mandate, I believe the House leadership should take steps to re-calibrate the committee's focus to ensure that the committee stays within its mandate.

I am suggesting that this committee is on the verge of going rogue. In this particular case, the committee overruled its own chair. The chair believed that this motion and this field of study was beyond the committee's mandate, and ruled it that way. The committee members overruled the chair. That is what I am told. I believe this is a very clear case.

Just as another benchmark, the procedure and House affairs committee, which does have a mandate to look at the Canada Elections Act and financing and fundraising of political parties, is currently doing a study on the issue of political party fundraising. So it is not as though the issue of political party fundraising is not covered in the Standing Orders. It is very clearly part of the mandate of the procedure and House affairs committee.

I am going to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to either make a ruling on this for the guidance of the House and the committee or, in collaboration with the House leaders or the members of the committee, effect some form of reconsideration of their decision to embark on this particular field of study simply for the purpose of following the rules of the House which are fairly flexible but clear, in this case.

I think your guidance to the committee would be very helpful in allowing the committee to get on and do the work it is supposed to be doing.

Proceedings in Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have a question for the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River. Does he have any precedent where a Speaker has made a ruling to indicate that a committee has exceeded its jurisdiction?

Proceedings in Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very sorry that I do not. It is not something that appears to have happened a great deal. I must say I have not spent hours and hours of research, but I did take a look at the usual sources and did not find this.

It would seem to me to be pretty obvious. If we simply follow the wording in Marleau and Montpetit, which attempts to package all of the historic precedents, we follow here in the House a rule of law and a committee has to stay within its mandate.

In this particular case, should the committee embark without a mandate, it would be in keeping for a person invited or summoned to the committee to simply say, “I am sorry, I do not hear you, Mr. Committee Chair because you are operating outside your mandate. You are rogue. You are not following the rule of law. I might just as well respond to a television reporter than respond to a committee that is clearly operating outside its mandate”.

I will accept any reasonable linkage of the mandate to this particular study, and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you would too. I am sorry that I just do not have a really useful bang-on precedent that would serve at this point.

Proceedings in Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.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 thank my hon. colleague for revisiting a point of order that was first raised yesterday by the member for Mississauga South.

I would like to reiterate some of the arguments that I presented yesterday. The overriding issue is that there has been a long standing practice in this place for the Speaker not to interfere with the business of any individual committee.

Committees themselves, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, are masters of their own fate and of their own agenda. I would suggest even further to that, when my hon. colleague suggested they are exceeding their mandate, he is in fact asking you to prejudge, before this committee has even demonstrated a linkage to its mandate with this issue, and trying to stop this investigation from happening.

Clearly, the official opposition has some fears perhaps about an examination of its own advertising practices and its own books, and perhaps this is why it is trying to quash the motion right now.

I would point out that if in fact it did not have a difficulty with this, it would have accepted the motion from the procedure and House affairs committee in which the Conservative Party, the government, had suggested that a thorough examination of all political parties and their advertising practices, fundraising included, be engaged, but the opposition party has rejected that motion.

It seems slightly disingenuous for any member from the party opposite to suggest that they have nothing against the motion but perhaps it is just in the wrong committee because it exceeds the mandate of one committee when it should rightfully be within the purview and the mandate of another committee.

They have rejected the procedure and House affairs committee's motion to do exactly what the ethics committee is attempting to do.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would point out to you that there have been many times in the past where there has been an overlap of responsibility between committees. I think we all know for an example that some subject material could be examined in the defence committee or it also could be examined in the foreign affairs committee.

There seems to be to me a very obvious linkage between ethical practices of political parties and their fundraising practices, as well as perhaps the procedure and House affairs committee that has a direct mandate to deal with this.

It seems to me perfectly legitimate for the ethics committee to engage in this motion and study. I do not believe it is outside of its mandate, but more importantly, and I keep coming back to this, the primary issue here is whether or not the Speaker should be interfering with a decision made by committee members.

I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that it is not appropriate for you to do so. It would be breaking a long standing tradition and practice of the Speaker not getting involved, and I think that is underscored by your very reasonable question to the hon. member as to precedence.

He has not been able to find any precedent, perhaps as he suggests because he has not done appropriate research, but I would suggest there are no real precedents and it would be a dangerous precedent to start if we now had the Speaker interfering in the business of committees.

Proceedings in Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform for their interventions in this case. I will take both their interventions under advisement as I continue to study the matter.

The House resumed from March 3 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.