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House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.

Topics

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 2nd, 2009 / 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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to three petitions.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Health in relation to Bill C-11, An Act to promote safety and security with respect to human pathogens and toxins.

Your committee examined the bill and has decided to report it with amendments and has ordered its reprint. I would like to thank all members of the committee for their hard work and cooperation.

Hazardous Products ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-357, An Act to amend the Hazardous Products Act (noise limit for children's products).

Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to present this bill to the House and I heartily recommend its adoption.

The intent of the bill is to lower permissible decibel levels in toys in order to save children from lifelong damage to their hearing. This issue has been brought before us on numerous occasions and it is time for government action. I am recommending this bill but if the government would like to steal the idea and put it into any upcoming legislation that would be fine with me as well.

The bill would bring Canada in line with the World Health Organization's limit of 75 decibels. The Hazardous Products Act currently allows toys with a noise level of 100 decibels. This limit was set back in 1970 and all audiologists agree that this is out of line with current standards.

Some hearing impairment is preventable and we owe it to our children to keep them safe from unnecessary hazards. Hopefully, child safety is an area where we can agree to make minority government work.

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

First Nations Veterans Compensation ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-358, An Act to provide a compensation plan for First Nations veterans comparable to the one offered to other war veterans.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House to honour our first nations veterans. The bill would ensure that first nations veterans receive comparable compensation to that received by other veterans of the Canadian armed forces. I would like to thank my friend from Nanaimo—Cowichan for seconding this.

I believe the bill is overdue and wish to extend my thanks to all veterans and hope that my colleagues in Parliament will recognize the need for this legislation. The bill, if passed, will ensure that all veterans receive benefits and compensation that properly expresses the gratitude felt by all Canadians for their sacrifices and upholds the principle of equality among all citizens by the Government of Canada.

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

Contraventions ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-359, An Act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (marihuana).

Mr. Speaker, the war on drugs has been a complete failure. It has not reduced the crime rate, it has not reduced drug use, nor has it saved lives or money. The status quo only benefits organized crime gangs and the insurgents in faraway Afghanistan. These are the parasites that benefit from the status quo.

This bill would decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana under 30 grams and the possession of two or fewer plants. It would sever the ties between the casual user and organized crime gangs. It would eliminate demand for their product and significantly undermine the financial underpinnings of organized crime gangs in Canada.

Possession would still be illegal but people would receive fines rather than going through the expensive judicial system. The money saved could be used to apply to the headstart program to prevent children from using drugs and to fund initiatives such as the NAOMI project, the North American opiate medication initiative.

Study after study has shown that decriminalizing marijuana is the right thing to do. Churches, police groups and others have supported it, including many studies from this House. As a physician, I have seen the ravages of drug use. The status quo only increases harm and drug use.

What I hope happens through this bill is that we can move toward a rational and mature debate on substance abuse so that people who have substance abuse problems are treated as a medical problem and organized crime gangs are treated as a judicial problem.

In medicine, we have a saying, “Do no harm”. Let us do no harm and pass this bill forthwith.

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

Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine 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

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among the parties and I believe you would find consent for the following motion. I move:

That, in relation to its study of the impact of the oil sands on water basins, 12 members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development be authorized to travel to Fort McMurray, Fort Chipewyan, Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta, from May 10 to 13, 2009, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine 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

(Motion agreed to)

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine 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

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That, in relation to its study of the state of organized crime, 12 members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights be authorized to travel to Vancouver, British Columbia, in April and May 2009, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

(Motion agreed to)

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine 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

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That, in relation to its study of the socio-economic conditions on reserves and in aboriginal communities throughout Canada, 12 members of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development be authorized to travel to Maniwaki, Quebec in the spring of 2009, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

(Motion agreed to)

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine 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

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That, in relation to its study of Canada-U.S. relations, 12 members of the Standing Committee on International Trade be authorized to travel to Washington, D.C., from April 26 to 28, 2009, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

(Motion agreed to)

Westville LandfillPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to present a petition signed by 5,600 people from all over, from my riding and from elsewhere in Quebec, who are asking the Government of Canada to talk to American authorities and persuade them not to pursue a planned expansion of the Westville landfill in New York State across the border from the riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine 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 am pleased to present another income trust petition from Mr. Peter Davis from my riding of Mississauga South.

The petitioners want to remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts but that he broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax, which permanently wiped out over $25 billion of the hard-earned savings of over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.

The petitioners, therefore, call upon the Conservative government to: first, admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions, as was shown at the finance committee hearings on that matter; second, apologize those who are unfairly harmed by this broken promise; and, finally, repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

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

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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Second Report of the Standing Committee on Finance—Speaker's RulingPointS of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now ready to rule on the point of order raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons concerning the procedural admissibility of the second report of the Standing Committee on Finance tabled in the House yesterday.

I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for raising this important matter, as well as the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain for his remarks.

The parliamentary secretary argued that the report was out of order because it was beyond the mandate of the committee as laid out in Standing Order 108. In his view, it was clear that the allocation of funds to the Library of Parliament for the Parliamentary Budget Officer was outside the mandate of the Standing Committee on Finance. He pointed out that the chair had ruled as such in the committee but that the committee had overturned the ruling. In concluding, the parliamentary secretary quoted from House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 879, as follows:

Committees are entitled to report to the House only with respect to matters within their mandate. When reporting to the House, committees must indicate the authority under which the study was done, (i.e. the Standing Order or the order of reference). If the committee's report has exceeded or has been outside its order of reference, the Speaker has judged such a report, or the offending section, to be out of order.

The parliamentary secretary went on to quote from my ruling of March 14, 2008, the Debates on page 4181-3, concerning the proceedings in the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, as well as my ruling of March 29, 2007, in which I stressed the importance of respecting the parliamentary procedures by which we govern our deliberations.

For his part, the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain argued that the intent of the report was to give the Parliamentary Budget Officer the funds necessary to operate effectively. Stressing the close relationship between the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the committee, he pointed out that section 79.1 of the Parliament of Canada Act states that the Parliamentary Budget Officer is mandated to serve the Standing Committee on Finance.

For the benefit of the House, I would like to briefly summarize the events surrounding the adoption of the second report in the finance committee.

On Tuesday, March 31, in the Standing Committee on Finance, the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain moved a motion recommending an increase in the Parliamentary Budget Officer's budget and that this be reported to the House. The chair of the committee, the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc, ruled the motion out of order because it went beyond the mandate of the committee. In his ruling, the chair cited the mandates of committees in general and those of the finance committee and of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament in particular. The ruling was appealed, the committee overturned the ruling of the chair and then proceeded to adopt the motion which became the second report of the committee.

As the chair of the Standing Committee on Finance noted in his ruling, the mandate of standing committees is specified in Standing Order 108(2) and states in part:

The standing committees, shall, in addition to the powers granted to them pursuant to section (1) of this Standing Order and pursuant to Standing Order 81, be empowered to study and report on all matters relating to the mandate, management and operation of the department or departments of government which are assigned to them from time to time by the House.

The mandate of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is defined in section 79.1 of the Parliament of Canada Act. Although he is specifically required to provide research services for the Standing Committee on Finance, as members know, section 79.1(1) states that the Parliamentary Budget Officer is an officer of the Library of Parliament. Thus, the resources and budget of the office are provided through the estimates of the Library of Parliament and not through those of the Department of Finance.

Standing Order 108(4) states that the mandate of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament includes the review of the effectiveness, management and operation of the Library of Parliament. Thus, matters pertaining to the mandate and the resources allotted to the Parliamentary Budget Officer fall within the purview of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament.

As members will recall, the issue of a committee attempting to go beyond its mandate as defined in the Standing Orders was raised last year. In a ruling given on May 15, 2008, in the Debates at page 5924-25, on the admissibility of the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, I reminded the House that while committees are masters of their own proceedings, a committee cannot stray beyond its mandate.

I am sure that hon. members would agree that the work of committees is vital to the functioning of the House and of Parliament. Because of their importance, the House has taken great care to define and differentiate the responsibilities of its committees, particularly where there might at first glance appear to be overlapping jurisdictions. While it is true that the House has given its committees broad mandates and significant powers, with such power and authority comes the responsibility of committees to respect their mandates and not exceed the limits of their authority.

Thus, it is expected that committees will be judicious in the exercise of their mandates so as to avoid bringing disputes to the House for the Speaker to adjudicate.

As explained in House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 857, decisions of committee chairs may be appealed to the committee. However, as I noted in rulings on March 14, 2008 and May 15, 2008, committees that overturn procedurally sound decisions by their chairs and choose to present procedurally unacceptable reports to the House will have them declared null and void.

In this instance, while one might understand the concerns of hon. members of the finance committee, their concerns are not sufficient cause for circumventing the Standing Orders. Indeed, I find it troubling that a committee chose to proceed as it did with the knowledge that what it was doing was beyond its mandate.

The subject matter of the second report of the Standing Committee on Finance is clearly not within the mandate of that committee, as spelled out in Standing Order 108, but rather is within the mandate of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament, and therefore, in my view, the report is out of order.

For this reason, I rule that the second report of the Standing Committee on Finance be deemed withdrawn and that no further proceedings may be taken in relation thereto.

Second Report of the Standing Committee on Finance—Speaker's RulingPointS of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order on a matter flowing from your ruling.

Mr. Speaker, as you know the Standing Orders provide for the House and its members to have a debate on the Standing Orders themselves in the first 60 sitting days of a first session of Parliament.

That is an extremely important event. As you referred in your ruling, Standing Order 108 prescribes the mandates. The only opportunity that ordinary members get to in fact deal with the evolving nature of mandates of committees is in addressing that.

It is unfortunate that in the last two Parliaments now those proceedings to have a debate on the Standing Orders have been eliminated because there was a negotiation between House leaders to trade it away for other concessions, and in the current Parliament because the House prorogued in the first session before 60 days lapsed. The Standing Orders are clear. The debate must take place in the first session of a Parliament.

I think this matter may even be a matter of privilege for hon. members who feel it is important that we have some reasonable opportunity to have input into amending the Standing Orders, which guide our actions and directions not only in the chamber but also in our committees and other duties as parliamentarians.

I wanted to raise that, Mr. Speaker, because I agree with you very strongly that the mandates of committees are there, but the envelopes have been pushed and clarifications are necessary. The only way that ordinary members of Parliament can get an opportunity to express their concerns and their views on this matter is to have the debate prescribed in the Standing Orders, which has been denied to hon. members in the last two Parliaments.

Second Report of the Standing Committee on Finance—Speaker's RulingPointS of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Mississauga South has pointed out that the debate has not taken place. He has also pointed out, I believe correctly, why it has not taken place in this Parliament, anyway, and it was apparently eliminated, as he says, by agreement among the House leaders in the previous one which must have got some unanimous consent in the House in order to become effective.

So the hon. member, to some extent, is master of his own fate in this one because all members of the House could be here and refuse consent to dispense with this debate if they chose to do that. But I point out to him that there is another avenue open to him. He can appear before the procedure and House affairs committee and argue for changes in the Standing Orders at his whim and pleasure.

The committee, I am sure, would be delighted to see him there when it meets. I think the chairman is here. I am sure he would love to have the hon. member for Mississauga South appear and make submissions to the committee in respect of possible rule changes and indeed he would love all members to come and discuss this subject in committee. They could have a lunch.

So, I recommend that and perhaps leave the matter there for now.

Second Report of the Standing Committee on Finance—Speaker's RulingPointS of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:20 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, on the same point and in response to the hon. member for Mississauga South, I can certainly share with my hon. colleague that the government will take it under advisement, but I must point out to my hon. friend that we have weekly meetings of the House leaders and this issue has never come up for discussion or negotiation. I think his concerns are misplaced and I appreciate your ruling in the previous matter.

Second Report of the Standing Committee on Finance—Speaker's RulingPointS of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Discussions between the House leaders can resolve all kinds of issues of this kind. I know the hon. member for Mississauga South could have a chat with his House leader and maybe there will be further discussions, but we will leave it there.

The House resumed from April 1 consideration of the motion that Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Energy Efficiency Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.