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House of Commons Hansard #61 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was equality.

Topics

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon the Prime Minister has admitted that the head of the Privy Council Office is investigating the Prime Minister's Office. The problem is that the most senior adviser in the PMO, the Chief of Staff, is the reason for the investigation in the first place.

Could the government clarify for this House the degree to which the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff is involved in the PCO investigation and will he ask the Chief of Staff to step aside until the investigation is complete?

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister has said, this kind of information leak is completely unacceptable. For that reason, the Clerk of the Privy Council, with the Department of Foreign Affairs, is doing an internal inquiry. As soon as the results are available, and with legal advice, this government will act on that information.

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I may have missed the answer as to whether the Chief of Staff would be stepping aside, so I wonder, when the Conservatives promised trust, openness, transparency, accountability and clean government, did they mean this? Did they mean stonewalling in the House of Commons? Did they mean refusing to tell the whole truth? Did they mean cover-ups and mistruths?

Are openness, transparency and accountability somehow really code for leak, hide and cover? How can working families trust this government if the Prime Minister will not fire the one person who we can confirm leaked this story?

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this government introduced the toughest accountability act ever in the country. We are very proud of that act. I will tell the hon. member again that an investigation is being conducted. As soon as the results are available, this government will act.

Manufacturing IndustryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister continues to attack the Premier of Ontario with the viciousness of a soon to be provincial opposition leader, but in the meantime, manufacturing jobs just keep flowing out of Ontario.

This is the same man who left us a $5.6 billion deficit when he was a provincial minister. He was the architect of Walkerton, Ipperwash and the jailing of the homeless. In December, he achieved zero growth for the Canadian economy. Will he please stop helping Ontario?

Manufacturing IndustryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I might point out for the benefit of the hon. member that the economy in Ontario actually is doing very well. I have been to a number of recent announcements and in particular in the aerospace sector, at the Diamond jet manufacturing facility.

Perhaps if she answered her phone it might be some good news relating to the Canadian economy. It might cheer her up.

Manufacturing IndustryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am sure the Minister of Industry would not want to urge the member to do something that is contrary to the rules. Cellphones are not to be used in the House.

The hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.

The EnvironmentOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, today the environment commissioner issued his latest report. Many of the problems identified were flagged for the Liberals years ago, but what did they do? Absolutely nothing on issues like species at risk, aquatic invasive species and protected areas for wildlife.

In fact, it takes time to clean up the environmental messes left behind by the Liberals, who were derelict in their duties. Can the Minister of the Environment please tell the House what this government is doing to address the great Liberal legacy of inaction on the environment?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, we have received a report from the environment commissioner, who did a great job. We fully accept the report. It is a follow-up report to reports that were issued by his office in the early 2000s. It is really a follow-up report to find out whether the Liberals were successful at cleaning up their mess.

The report is good in five areas and it shows we have progress in nine areas. We are committed to do something more than talk about it. We are taking real action: action to clean up our great lakes; action to protect species at risk; and action to protect habitat for our species at risk and wildlife in this country. We are committed to getting the job done.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of Ms. Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, as usual my question has to do with the flow of business, over the time between now and the Easter adjournment. I wonder if the government House leader could designate the remaining opposition days that will need to be covered in that space of time, and also indicate precisely what he has in mind in terms of House business for the two days of the five next week that would not be opposition days.

I would inform him that if he has in mind designating Monday as an opposition day for the official opposition it would be our intention to use that day to provide extra time for members of the House of Commons to give the proper kind of participation and consideration to the motion with respect to Afghanistan.

There is a strong desire, certainly on the part of the official opposition and I think on the part of all members of the House, to have adequate time to consider this matter in a proper way. Therefore, if Monday is to be a Liberal opposition day, we would devote it to that very important public business.

I would also ask the government House leader a question with respect to Bill C-21.

There was a procedural issue earlier with respect to that bill, Mr. Speaker. You have now ruled that two particular amendments are in fact in order and therefore any procedural question has been removed with respect to Bill C-21. Therefore, I wonder when the House leader intends to bring that bill back for consideration in the House.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 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 members of the House are aware, this week is confidence in the Conservative government week, and it is indeed turning out to be exactly that.

On Monday night, the House voted confidence in our government by rejecting a Liberal non-confidence motion on the budget by a vote of 202 to 7. Only seven Liberal caucus members bothered to show up to vote in favour of their own amendment.

On Tuesday night, this House again expressed confidence in the government by voting in favour of budget 2008. The budget is a responsible and prudent budget for uncertain economic times and I am pleased that the House supported it. This time, 11 members of the official opposition, the Liberal Party of Canada, decided to do their job and vote, thanks again to the Liberal whip imposing on her caucus a reverse two line whip, a new term that I trust the Clerk will include in the next edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice.

Today is the Liberals' turn again. They have so much confidence in this government that they have only the other opposition parties to condemn. As a result, today the House will continue to debate the Liberal opposition motion, which expresses non-confidence in the opposition parties.

On Friday, the NDP will step up to the plate and propose another test of confidence, which I am sure the government will pass, completing confidence in the Conservative government week.

Next week we will address the extension of our military mission in Afghanistan.

The government's revised motion to extend the military mission in Afghanistan, announced by the Prime Minister on February 21, reflects the consensus that was built by the efforts of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. The result is a motion that will extend the military mission to 2011 and reflects what we can truly call a Canadian consensus.

The motion was thoroughly debated for two days last week and on Monday night. Today, I received consent to extend the sitting hours of the House next Monday and Tuesday evening, so we can continue debating this motion before voting on it.

Of course, we have also heard that the official opposition will kindly offer its opposition day on Monday for further consideration of the same question.

The government plans to hold the vote on the motion to extend the military mission in Afghanistan on Thursday, March 13. That day will also be the last day of debate on the motion. Certainly we will be able to say that it has been a matter of clear public discussion for well over a month. It will have been in the House for many hours and it will be an appropriate time to make that determination before the upcoming NATO meetings in Bucharest so the Prime Minister will have a clear mandate when he attends.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week will be supply days. Wednesday will be the last day of debate for the supply period. The regular supply votes will follow.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the government House leader, did I miss Friday of next week? I was distracted and wonder if the House leader dealt with that.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, of course Friday of next week comes after Thursday of next week and at this point in time, we have not laid down government business for that one day. I would be pleased to answer the business for next Friday after Thursday's question next week.

Liberal Party Opposition Motion—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised earlier today by the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons alleging the inadmissibility of the opposition motion currently being debated, standing in the name of the hon. member for Beaches—East York.

The hon. government House leader has raised a number of arguments, but has principally focused on two main points. First, he has argued that an opposition day motion cannot bring into question the conduct of an opposition party and, second, he has suggested that the use of the word “condemn” in relation to an opposition party brings the confidence convention into play, with the intended consequences on that opposition party.

On the first point, the Chair is extremely reluctant to intervene in view of the fact that Standing Order 81(13) and House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at page 724, make it very clear that such motions “may relate to any matter within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada” and that members “enjoy a very wide scope in proposing opposition motions on Supply days and, unless the motion is clearly and undoubtedly irregular (e.g., where the procedural aspect is not open to reasonable argument), the Chair does not intervene”.

As I stated in a ruling delivered on March 29, 2007:

Past interventions from the Chair have, accordingly, been rare, restricted to cases in which a motion is “clearly and undoubtedly irregular”. Speaking to this principle, Mr. Speaker Fraser declared that “the use of an allotted day ought not to be interfered with except on the clearest and most certain procedural grounds.” (Debates, June 8, 1987, p. 6820).

The government House leader's reference to a ruling from 1983, while interesting, speaks to a different era, when anyone, even the government, could move amendments to supply day opposition motions. In that particular case, it was a Progressive Conservative Party motion to which the New Democratic Party moved an amendment that did not respect the Standing Orders in that it did not “relate to any matter within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada”.

Of course, Standing Order 85, which requires the consent of the mover for an amendment, now makes that kind of manoeuvre impossible. In the circumstances, it seems unreasonable to extend this 1983 precedent to a motion which clearly has as its central theme a subject matter which falls squarely within the jurisdiction of Parliament.

The Chair does recognize, however, that it must remain vigilant in these matters. As I indicated in the March 2007 ruling referred to earlier, the original purpose of opposition motions was for “…airing grievances before voting supply to fund the Crown’s programme”. At that time, I went on to suggest that perhaps the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs could review the relevant Standing Orders to consider whether revisions to their wording might be helpful in realigning current practice on opposition motions with their original mission.

Almost a year has elapsed since I made that suggestion and I will reiterate that request again today.

On the second point raised by the government House leader, specifically the use of the word “condemn” and its significance, the Chair has considerably less sympathy with the argument being presented. I refer the House to House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at page 37, where it is stated:

What constitutes a question of confidence in the government varies with the circumstances. Confidence is not a matter of parliamentary procedure, nor is it something on which the Speaker can be asked to rule.

This seems rather conclusive and I do not see what I could usefully add.

Accordingly, for the reasons I have just explained, the Chair will allow debate to continue on the motion. I thank hon. members for their attention.

Bill C-46--Canadian Wheat Board Act--Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on Monday, March 3 by the hon. member for Malpeque concerning the admissibility of Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act and chapter 17 of the Statutes of Canada, 1998, standing on the order paper in the name of the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Malpeque for raising this matter, as well as the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board for their contributions on the issue.

The member for Malpeque contends that Bill C-46 is inadmissible because it contravenes section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act which states:

The Minister shall not cause to be introduced in Parliament a bill that would exclude any kind, type, class or grade of wheat or barley, or wheat or barley produced in any area in Canada....unless

(a) the Minister has consulted with the board about the exclusion or extension, and

(b) the producers of the grain have voted in favour of the exclusion or extension, the voting process having been determined by the Minister.

In particular, the member for Malpeque alleges that the consultations referred to in paragraph (a) of section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act have not taken place.

In arguing that the bill is in order, the government House leader pointed out that the bill does not propose to amend the mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food added that the intention of Bill C-46 is, in fact, to amend section 47 of the existing Act and, therefore, that the provisions of section 47.1 do not apply in this matter.

The Chair has looked at Bill C-46 bearing in mind the arguments made. In light of the circumstances, it is perhaps helpful to highlight the bill's main objectives, as contained in its four clauses. Clause 1 amends the act to confirm that the government may repeal or amend any regulation it makes under the act. Clause 2 establishes a dispute resolution regime which does not relate to the point of order of the hon. member for Malpeque. Clause 4 is the coming into force provision found in most bills, regardless of their subject matter.

It is clause 3 that is at issue in this point of order. Clause 3 repeals a section of a 1998 amending statute; the effect of clause 3 is to cause the repeal of section 47.1, which I just read, and nowhere in the bill can the Chair find reference to any matter prohibited within section 47.1.

The Chair must conclude that, as Bill C-46 does not appear to propose the exclusion of any wheat or barley product from the provisions of part III or IV of the act, nor the extension of the application of these parts to any other grain, it is not subject to the requirements of section 47.1 of the act.

Accordingly, the Chair cannot find that the bill offends the requirements contained in section 47.1 and I am ruling that the bill has therefore been properly introduced and may proceed.

Naturally, the member for Malpeque will have the opportunity to debate the principle of the bill at the second reading stage and, if the House adopts the bill at that stage, the committee to which the bill is referred will no doubt want to examine his arguments during its clause by clause consideration.

I thank the member for Malpeque for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Before question period, the hon. member for Laval had the floor. She now has five minutes, or nearly five minutes, to conclude her remarks.

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier, at the beginning of my speech, I told you how uncomfortable I felt in rising to speak to this motion, but I am not alone. Today, women’s groups, Women and the Law, Equal Voice and aboriginal women’s groups must also be embarrassed to be listening to this debate in the House.

On the day after a vote that will be etched forever in the minds of women in Quebec and Canada as a disastrous day for their rights, I find it somewhat mean-spirited that we have to debate a motion that blames, not the people who should be blamed, but people who make a practice of working together. Those women’s groups must also find it mean-spirited.

On the day after such a vote, on the contrary, what this should be is an opportunity to show all of those women’s groups and human rights groups that for some issues and in some cases, we really can join forces and combine our strengths, our energies, our ideas and our suggestions and move beyond partisanship.

It is very unfortunate that we have to discuss this motion today, in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have had to speak out against women with whom I usually work, in committee, in a much less partisan way. Their parties have left me no choice.

Because of International Women’s Day and this year’s theme, “Strong Women, Strong World”, I would like us to recall that we, the women of this Parliament, have to be strong women. We have to be strong to make a strong world for the people we represent, for all the people who place their trust in us, when they vote, to stand up for their interests properly, and to use our time as members responsibly so that we can stand up for their rights and make it possible for them to move forward and go even farther.

On this point, I would even like to call on all my women colleagues in this House, even my colleagues in the Liberal Party who drafted the motion, to rise and vote against their own motion, because it is a motion that cannot stand. I hope they are listening.

Every one of us, both men and women, is going to vote against this motion. We all know that. I hope there will be some Liberal Party members present to vote for it. Otherwise, it will be just another instance of a party whistling in the wind while still claiming to stand up for the disadvantaged, women, aboriginal people, seniors and the marginalized. When you really want to come to people's defence, acting like this is not going to accomplish it.

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member, we should be working together as colleagues and comrades in the House, but I must say that is not always possible.

I would remind the hon. member that the NDP has made it a very partisan House in many ways. On September 28, 2006, the NDP voted with the Conservative government in support of the $1 billion in cuts. I put forward a motion that basically read that the cuts should be rescinded in order to support women and her party chose to vote against it.

In its plan for women, the NDP slammed the Liberals aggressively. We do not do that. We simply put forward our program. We do not even mention the NDP. I will not go through the list but the NDP has often attacked and slammed individuals and has had to apologize in the House for certain smears. There were other times for which it has never apologized.

While I agree with the hon. member that we really need to try, unfortunately, sometimes it does not happen. However, that does not take away from the fact that we need to continue to work for women's issues. I commend the hon. member for her work because I know that she is a member who works hard, collaborates and is a strong participant on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and has put forward some very good recommendations. I know that we will continue to work together.

I wonder if she could help us in the House to understand two things. First, how can we get women's programs back given the fact that so far we have not been able to convince the government of the day, and, quite frankly, I do not believe we will? Second, how will having an election change anything? That is the crux of it, that is part of what is causing the frustration. Maybe the hon. member has the answers.

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, with whom I also enjoy working.

We have heard about the interests of the New Democratic Party, the interests of the Conservative Party and the interests of the Liberal Party. These are the basic reasons, I think, why we have such problems in this Parliament.

The Bloc Québécois is the only party that does not owe someone, some lobby, company or big corporation. The only people to whom we are indebted are the people who elected us and placed their trust in us.

This is where many of the problems lie: all the other parties in the House cherish hopes of gaining power some day, and when a party hopes and wants to take power, its policies clearly change according to the issues of the day, the various things that people want or ask for, but not necessarily according to the needs that our electors tell us about in the streets where it really counts.

I think that one of the big problems in our Parliament lies in the fact that power is too often tied to Bay Street, and Bay Street often has teeth that are too long, pockets that are too full, and hands that are too big.

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would remind my colleague that this is International Women's Week and that this week we all had the opportunity to meet a number of Afghan female parliamentarians who were here in the House. That was a great privilege for all of us.

I also would remind her of some of Canada's international efforts as they relate to women. Canada is addressing the needs of Afghan women by supporting projects that improve the protection of women's rights, the participation of women in political life, which we saw this week, and women's access to the labour market, health services and education.

We have seen many changes in Afghanistan in six years. Six years ago, only 700,000 children went to school, all of them boys. Women did not participate in political life and were not represented in government. Today, however, close to six million children are attending school, one-third of them girls. More than 6.5 million Afghans, 43% of them women, voted in the parliamentary and provincial council elections and 27% of the members of the national assembly are women.

I call that real progress for women but the Bloc position on extending the security for those we are standing beside in Afghanistan is to simply leave now. I am wondering how she squares that with the idea of protecting vulnerable women?

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can do that very easily. My colleague forgets that charity begins at home. We have legions of native women who do not have the wherewithal to feed and educate their children, send them to school, and just be themselves with roofs over their heads. The government is responsible for the people in native communities but it does not have enough respect for them to give them what they need.

There are also our seniors to whom the government would not give the money that it has owed them for quite a number of years. It owes it to them now and will owe it to them in the future because it will not take the first step toward giving it to them. In addition, our veterans’ widows have not received one red cent and do not get any home care services even though their spouse was in the army for six or seven years at the front. They are too old now to take care of themselves but do not get any assistance.

I am glad that Afghan women are being assisted; I am glad Afghan children can go to school; and I am glad women make up 27% of the Afghan parliament, but I want us to take care of the people in need right here in Quebec and Canada.

Opposition Motion—Status of WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my hon. colleague from Laval for her excellent work as the Bloc Québécois critic for the status of women. Women are well represented by her. On the eve of International Women's Day, she rose and strongly defended the women of Quebec, and I am very proud of her.

My question is simple. With today's motion, the Liberals are trying any way they can to blame the other parties. I would like her to explain what the Liberals did not do to help women when they were in power.