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House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was goods.

Topics

Auditor General of Canada

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to table the report of the Auditor General of Canada to the House of Commons, entitled “Managing Identity Information”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(g), this document is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Privacy Commissioner

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I also have the honour to lay upon the table the special report of the Privacy Commissioner concerning the examination of the privacy management frameworks of selected federal institutions.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(h), this report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

A message from Her Excellency the Governor General transmitting supplementary estimates (C) for the financial year ending March 31, 2009, was presented by the President of the Treasury Board and read by the Speaker to the House.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two reports this morning.

I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in relation to Access to Information Act reform.

The committee has recommended to the government that a bill to update the Access the Information Act be presented to Parliament by May 31.

I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, in relation to supplementary estimates (B), 2008-09, which we report without amendment.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-315, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (leaving province to avoid warrant of arrest or committal).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to reintroduce this bill that addresses a glaring loophole in our criminal justice system. There is a serious problem in Canada with regional arrest warrants that are issued across the country but are not executed because of the cost of returning the accused to the area of the alleged crime.

This is of particular concern in British Columbia. A 2005 study by the Vancouver Police Department found that over a three month period, it came into contact with 726 people, subject to 1,582 of these kinds of warrants. Eighty-four per cent of these people had four or more criminal convictions, including sexual assault and other serious crimes. This has seriously eroded public confidence in the criminal justice system in the lower mainland of Vancouver.

My bill would make it an indictable offence for a person to leave the province of jurisdiction where he or she knows or has reason to believe that a warrant for his or her arrest has been or will be issued.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has called for this kind of action, a call that has been supported by provincial justice ministers right across Canada. The chiefs of police in my community of New Westminster and of Port Moody support it but so far it has been totally ignored by the federal government.

I urge the government and my colleagues in this House to help me get this important legislation through the House of Commons and right what is a very serious wrong.

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

Employment Insurance ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-316, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (special benefits).

Mr. Speaker, I originally introduced this bill in the previous Parliament when the issue of sickness benefits on the employment insurance benefit program was brought to my attention by a constituent whose name is Natalie Thomas.

Natalie was recovering from breast cancer surgery and was forced to return to work before she had fully recovered because her EI sickness benefits ran out. People who have suffered a serious illness should not be forced to go back to work too early. They should be able to focus on getting well and not have their health compromised by worries over their financial situation.

That is why I am pleased to reintroduce the bill to extend sickness benefits under EI from 15 weeks to 30 weeks.

Natalie Thomas is the kind of woman who all Canadians can respect. Since she had her diagnosis, she has participated in fundraising activities for breast cancer research for support for other people going through cancer. She is a role model for all Canadians.

As my colleagues in the NDP have raised repeatedly, there are many problems with the current EI system but I seek the support of all members of the House for this bill, which would resolve one of them.

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

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-317, An Act to amend the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act (Northern Ontario).

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to introduce this bill which was previously introduced by the former member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing. I am confident that it has the support of both the Liberals and the New Democrats. All we need is the support of the government party to make this happen.

The government has moved forward to increase the number of seats in Ontario, as it has committed and promised to do. I think I speak on behalf of all of the members from northern Ontario, many of them here this morning, such as the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North, who seconded the bill, as well as the members for Thunder Bay—Atikokan, Sudbury andNickel Belt. This is a very important piece of work and an important message to be sent to the commission that will look at how these new ridings will be developed.

We need to ensure that northern Ontario loses no further its voice in this place. It is really important, given the large geography of northern Ontario and the large population there, made up of many aboriginal communities, that we not lose our voice in this place.

Over the last 10 years we have gone from having 15 seats in the House of Commons to having 9, which is a shame. It really reduces our ability to have an effect in this place and to get the kinds of things we need from government to protect that really important segment of the economy that has served this country so well.

It is my pleasure and privilege this morning to introduce the bill and to ask the members of the House of Commons to move expeditiously to support it and ensure it becomes the order of the day.

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

Employment Insurance ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-318, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (self-employed artists and authors).

Mr. Speaker, this is another bill whose time has passed and should be in place.

The purpose of the enactment would be to allow self-employed artists and authors to participate in the employment insurance scheme and obtain such advantages as maternity, parental and sickness benefits and access to publicly funded training programs.

This is a group of people who typically earn very little wages and are unemployed, not just periodically, but often in any given year and when they are not employed they need access to training, re-training and upgrading. They also need to look after themselves and their families when they get sick.

Without the artists and authors, how would we capture the story that is Canada, those wonderful pictures, both in books and on canvas that these people put before us that we come to appreciate and which serve us so well.

I think it is time that we as a government moved to protect the well-being, the income and the families of these very important professionals in every one of our communities.

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

Motor Vehicle Safety ActRoutine Proceedings

February 12th, 2009 / 10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-319, An Act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (speed limiters).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to re-introduce this legislation and I thank my colleague for Pickering—Scarborough East for seconding the bill.

Each summer we witness carnage on our highways caused by excessive speed. Since first introducing this legislation in the previous Parliament, I have received support from municipalities and police forces from across the country.

This legislation would help save lives by requiring all vehicles manufactured after January 1, 2010, to be equipped with speed limiters so that vehicles cannot travel at more than 150 kilometres per hour.

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

Interprovincial BridgePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I once again have the privilege of presenting a petition signed by many citizens from the National Capital Region concerning heavy-truck traffic in the downtown core of the nation's capital. These petitioners are worried that building another bridge would not actually resolve the issue.

The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to force the National Capital Commission to conduct an in-depth study regarding a possible bridge linking the Canotek industrial park and the Gatineau Airport, namely, a variation on option number 7 of the first phase of the environmental assessment of the interprovincial crossings. Both the Ontario and Quebec governments support this idea.

Labelling of Alcoholic BeveragesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 and as certified by the clerk of petitions, I have two petitions to table. The first petition concerns the dangers associated with the misuse of alcohol.

The petitioners from my riding of Mississauga South would like to bring to the attention of the House that the Food and Drugs Act is designed to protect Canadians from potentially harmful effects related to food and drug consumption and that the consumption of alcoholic beverages may cause health problems. Further, that fetal alcohol syndrome and other alcohol-related birth defects are preventable by avoiding the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy and that the consumption of alcoholic beverages may also impair one's ability to operate machinery and automobiles travelling maybe as much as 150 kilometres an hour.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to require the labelling of alcoholic beverages to caution expectant mothers and others of the risks associated with alcohol consumption.

Public Safety OfficersPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition has to do with legislation that I have raised in this place on a number of occasions concerning public safety officers, particularly police officers and firefighters.

This petition draws to the attention of the House that police officers and firefighters are required to place their lives at risk in the execution of their duties on a daily basis. It also states that the employment benefits of these public safety officers often provide insufficient compensation to the families of those who are killed while on duty and further, that the public mourns the loss of police officers, firefighters and other public safety officers who lose their lives in the line of duty, and that they wish to support, in a tangible way, the surviving families in their time of need.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to establish a fund known as the public safety officers compensation fund for the benefit of families of public safety officers who are killed in the line of duty.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Alleged Misuse of Intraparliamentary Internet--Speaker's RulingPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine on Wednesday, February 4, concerning the alleged misuse of parliamentary equipment and services by the hon. member for Ahuntsic.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Notre-Dame-De-Grâce—Lachine for raising this important matter, the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord and the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice for their contributions and the hon. member for Ahuntsic for her statement.

In raising this question of privilege, the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine explained that on Monday, February 1, she had received on her House of Commons BlackBerry an email from the member for Ahuntsic, which appeared to have been sent to all members of the House.

According to the hon. member, the email “contained text and images supporting and glorifying three organizations that the federal government has deemed to be terrorist organizations”. In fact, she characterized some of these as constituting anti-Semitic propaganda.

The member argued that the dissemination of this email was a clear misuse of parliamentary equipment and services. Noting that the hon. member for Ahuntsic had indicated that she had not viewed all the images, the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine argued that it is the duty of every member to ensure that they do not intentionally or unintentionally expose members of the House to this kind of material.

The hon. member for Notre-Dame-De-Grâce—Lachine went on to say that the misuse of parliamentary services in this manner constituted a violation of her privileges as a member of Parliament. In making her arguments, she drew to the Chair’s attention a ruling given on what she believed was a related question of privilege raised by the former member for Saskatoon—Humboldt, Mr. Pankiw, on February 12, 2003 in the House of Commons Debates, pages 3470 and 3471.

For the information of the House, I should say that that ruling concerned a mass email survey originating in the member’s office that had been blocked by various government departments because it disrupted their systems.

I have carefully reviewed the interventions made by all hon. members in this case and it seems to me that the crux of the issue here is whether the actions of the hon. member for Ahuntsic in any way impeded the hon. member for Notre-Dame-De-Grâce—Lachine in the fulfillment of her duties as a member of this House.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at page 52, reminds us that “individual Members cannot claim privilege or immunity on matters that are unrelated to their functions in the House.” Thus, unless it can be demonstrated that the actions complained of were closely linked to a parliamentary proceeding, the Chair cannot intervene.

Having reviewed the ruling invoked by the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine in support of her argument, I have concluded that the ruling focused on the right of the member to seek information in the context of parliamentary proceedings, but I have not found in it the procedural grounds for a finding of prima facie privilege in the case now before us. I did, however, find that at that time I had enjoined all members to heed the guidelines regulating the use of their email accounts.

These guidelines, which I have again consulted, state categorically that members “are responsible for the content of any electronic messages sent using their account”, and that account holders “will not use their network accounts for accessing data or participating in activities which could be classified as obscene, harassing, racist, malicious, fraudulent or libellous”.

As I noted in a ruling involving the Internet given on June 8, 2005, at page 6828 of the Debates, the use of new communication technologies has ramifications that affect members in the performance of their duties. One important consideration members must take into account is that communications via the Internet and email may not be protected by privilege and may expose members to the possibility of legal action for material they disseminate.

It is not, however, the role of the Chair to monitor the contents of emails and other electronic communications that members send and receive, nor is it possible or desirable to do so. That responsibility falls to members themselves.

In rising to address the House on February 5, 2009, the hon. member for Ahuntsic acknowledged that she should have viewed all of the material in the links included in her email before sending it. Having now done so, she admitted that she found the material to be hateful propaganda and condemned it, and she apologized to the House and to all members for having sent the email in the first place. The hon. member for Ahuntsic then stated that she would be more vigilant in future and assured the House that such a lapse on her part would not happen again.

Having reviewed the facts of this case, the Chair cannot find that the privileges of the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine have in any way been violated by this unfortunate incident, although there is no doubt that she and other members were offended by the material they received.

In addition, by the admission of the hon. member for Ahuntsic, the House of Commons guidelines on the appropriate use of email were not respected in this case. However, in view of the unequivocal apology by the hon. member for Ahuntsic, the Chair believes the matter is now resolved and will consider the matter closed.

I thank the House for its attention to this matter.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2008-09Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Pursuant to order made on Wednesday, February 11, 2009, the House will, later today, proceed to study and adopt the motion regarding the Supplementary Estimates (B) and pass the supply bill through all stages.

In view of recent practices, do the hon. members agree that the bill be distributed now?

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2008-09Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2008-09Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The bill is now available for all hon. members.

The House resumed from February 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-10, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on January 27, 2009 and related fiscal measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River had the floor. I believe there are eight minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. The hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise again in the House to talk about this bill and to voice my displeasure at many of the elements that are in the bill.

The Conservatives have attached a number of ideological riders to this budget implementation act. They are trying to sneak in through the back door a series of ideologically driven measures that really have nothing to do with the stimulus package. The Liberals have given a blank cheque to the government, a blank cheque which the Canadian public did not give them in October.

Hidden in the 500-plus pages of the budget implementation act, the government proposes: taking a woman's right to pay equity out of the Human Rights Act; opening up Canadian industry to more foreign ownership and hollowing out, including putting institutions like Air Canada up for sale; making it easier to punitively go after student loan recipients. Most important, the budget fails to protect the vulnerable, safeguard the jobs of today and create the green jobs that we need tomorrow.

In January all the NDP members spent a lot of time in their constituencies holding town hall meetings to talk about the things we needed to see in the budget. Probably every member in this House, regardless of which party the members belong to, did exactly the same.

I held seven town halls in seven different communities. Two things became very apparent in those town halls. The first was a r need for EI reform, which of course is not in this budget, and we are very disappointed in that.

Remember that many of these communities are quite small. The other thing that came through loud and clear from the people who live in these communities is a need for small infrastructure projects that can be taken care of quickly and particularly in the non-profit sector. I have some good examples.

I held a town hall at the Royal Canadian Legion in Kakabeka Falls, the Niagara of the north, by the way, for those members who do not know about Kakabeka Falls. Twenty-five or so citizens from that very small town were there. They mentioned some things that do not require a lot of money but they cannot come up with the money themselves. For example, the Kakabeka legion needs to renovate its washrooms to make them accessible; fair enough, but they do not have the money to do that. The Rural 60 Plus centre in Kakabeka Falls needs an addition to accommodate the rise in members. A few years ago there were 60 to 70 members in the Rural 60 Plus club, and now there are almost 300 members. More space is needed, but the centre cannot raise that kind of money.

I am sure that what we found in all of the seven town halls is what all members who also have small rural towns in their constituencies found. Organizations like the Kakabeka Falls Legion and the Rural 60 Plus club provide a very important function not just for seniors but for families and children to access community discussions and get-togethers. We were very disappointed that there is nothing in the budget for those places.

The other thing that is missing is an understanding that certain cultural and heritage institutions right across the country, including in my riding, need help. The Fort Frances Museum is trying to improve the heritage situation. There are lots of spinoffs from those sorts of things, most notably being right on an international border, the opportunity for increased tourism. We were very disappointed to see that those sorts of things were not talked about.

Let me mention one last non-profit organization, the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra. Members may not know that the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra is the only professional full-time orchestra between Toronto and Winnipeg. It provides a very important function to northwestern Ontario and, in particular, the citizens of Thunder Bay. Members of the orchestra work very hard all year round, not just with their symphony series but also in terms of education work and the travelling they do right across the region.

I will give the House a good example. In Atikokan on Saturday night the Thunder Bay Symphony, with Rodney Brown and The Big Lonely, provided a virtually free concert for the citizens of Atikokan, a community that has been very hard hit by the forestry crisis that we are in the middle of right now. I was disappointed not to see these sorts of things in the budget.

Amendments are proposed to the Navigable Waters Protection Act to streamline approval processes and give more authority to the minister to allow construction without further environmental assessments. It would exclude certain classes of works and works on certain classes of navigable waters from the approval process. While it is vague in nature, I am particularly concerned for my riding, which has been part of a historical trade route for hundreds of years, that some access would be denied.

This new act would end legal challenges to pay equity, including amending the Human Rights Act. Complaints about pay equity would no longer go through the Human Rights Commission but through the Public Service Labour Relations Board. Having a bargaining agent working on one's behalf could result in a $50,000 fine.

It would also amend the Investment Canada Act so that only significant investments will be reviewed. That creates more than a little discomfort for this particular member.

Canada student loans is another issue in the budget and is quite punitive for students right across Canada. The act would require that anyone who receives Canada student loans must provide any document the minister requests and creates a host of new penalties for false statements or omissions. It also appears to permit the minister to retroactively punish students for making a false statement or some sort of omission on their applications for Canada student loans.

I have three children in university right now and a fourth will be attending the University of Ottawa in September. I would like to tell the House that post-secondary students right across this country are the brightest and best that this country has to offer. To include something in an act that is punitive or at the outset treats students as if they are criminals before anything happens is deplorable.

In addition, I came across a figure the other day in terms of Canada student loan defaults--

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. I will have to stop the hon. member there. The time has expired for his speech.

We will move on to questions and comments with the hon. member for Abbotsford.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, during the member's speech he mentioned navigable waters, and rightly so. As we know, the current Navigable Waters Protection Act is over 100 years old and has not been substantially revised for many years. Many people across Canada, including municipalities, have seen this act as being an impediment to getting infrastructure built. It has resulted in significant delays in projects where there is a duplication of environmental reviews.

I was a member of the transportation committee that actually did a review of the Navigable Waters Protection Act and some of the issues related to it. Since the member raised the issue and also expressed some concern that some modes of access would be blocked as a result of changes to the act, I would ask him to expand on that and explain how the act presently supports his position? How would changes to bring it up to date after 100 years would fly in the face of our efforts to get infrastructure projects built in this country that are so desperately needed to make sure that our economy gets the boost it needs right now?

Budget Implementation Act, 2009Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, indeed, this act is one of the oldest pieces of legislation we have in this country. It was 1882, I believe, when this act was first enacted. There is no doubt that this act needs some modernization. I would agree with the member in that regard.

What I am concerned about is that it would give increased powers to the minister to go around the environmental assessment of certain projects. Now I also know that the minister has always had that authority but it is not a new authority. However, this would increase what he is able to do.

As far as infrastructure projects go, I do not think it is in the best interests of Canadians, in any situation, to see environmental assessments put aside so infrastructure projects can go further. This stimulus package should be for projects that are ready to go right now. The projects that need an environmental assessment should indeed have an environmental assessment.