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House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was victims.

Topics

CN RailwayOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, since the expiry of their collective bargaining agreement earlier this year, there has been speculation about an impending work stoppage of conductors at CN Railway. Many Canadians have been concerned about the effects that a strike would have on the economy and on local communities.

Could the Minister of Labour please give this House an update on the status of the labour negotiations at CN?

CN RailwayOral Questions

3 p.m.

Halton Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt ConservativeMinister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, our economy remains fragile and the stability of it depends upon the productivity of our industries. That is why I am very happy to say that a tentative agreement has been reached between CN and the Teamsters union.

I congratulate both parties that, with our mediator at the table, reached this settlement, because the best solution is an agreement reached by the parties, and it is always in the best interests of the Canadian public that we do not have a work stoppage.

TaxationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Independent

Helena Guergis Independent Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the finance minister says, the economy remains fragile. One of the best ways to encourage private sector investment is to substantially reduce capital gains taxes. Many economists claim that it will not hurt revenues because of the new business start-ups, the innovation jobs and the economic activity it will create.

Fifty-five per cent of those reporting capital gains have incomes under $50,000 a year. While the tax-free savings account is a good start, it is not enough.

When will the government substantially reduce capital gains rates to boost the Canadian economy?

TaxationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the member raises an important question about capital gains taxes.

The tax-free savings account is probably the most significant tax change in Canadian public life since the RRSP. Almost five million accounts have been opened now. I encourage Canadians to open tax-free savings accounts. Over time they will have the effect of virtually eliminating taxation of capital gains when they are used by Canadians.

I am pleased to see so many Canadians taking advantage of tax-free savings accounts.

National DefenceOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am a Christian who knows well that there are many divisions and opinions within my own faith, and I expect that there are as many within Islam or other religions. The role of a minister of the Crown is to rise above the noise, to build bridges and to not tear them down.

Dr. Delic has released his planned remarks. They are thoughtful and articulate.

Has the minister read Dr. Delic's remarks? If not, will he? If so, does he now recognize his mistake? Will he apologize?

National DefenceOral Questions

3 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, a very positive event was held yesterday at the Department of National Defence attended by about 40 individuals. It was an event that was very much focused on the contributions made by members of the Muslim community, of the Islamic faith in Canada, who are members of the Canadian Forces. This event was meant to focus on the positive, not to stir up controversy, not to embrace violence and not to bring into the discussion any comments by organizations that do not espouse that approach.

I am very proud of the efforts made by the Department of National Defence and we will continue to reach out in that spirit.

CensusOral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, in April, the House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion recognizing unpaid work. By abolishing the long form census, the government will no longer be able to estimate unpaid work as measured by question 33, which is not included in the short form census.

How can this government both recognize the importance of volunteer work, and get rid of a tool to help adjust its programs to the needs of volunteers?

CensusOral Questions

3 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, certainly we do value unpaid work; there is no question about that. All I can tell the hon. member is that this question was canvassed via Statistics Canada with stakeholders. They came to the conclusion that there were other means to get that information, other than the census. We relied on that advice from Statistics Canada as we do from time to time or more often than that. We accepted the advice of the experts and Statistics Canada on this question.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 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 the Honourable Conor Murphy, Minister for Regional Development in the Northern Ireland Executive.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order. I am going to hear a question of privilege from the hon. Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.

Comments attributed to Minister of Human Resources and Skills DevelopmentPrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a question of privilege. During the opening questions this afternoon, the leader of the official opposition attributed certain statements and comments to me that he said I made publicly. This was erroneous. I did not make those statements as transcripts of the event would indicate and prove.

In the interests of accuracy and honesty and respect for this House, I do ask that the leader of the official opposition withdraw those comments and apologize.

Comments attributed to Minister of Human Resources and Skills DevelopmentPrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am sure the leader of the opposition will examine those comments in light of the minister's statements and we will hear from him in due course.

The hon. opposition House leader is rising on a point of order.

Document Pertaining to Access to Information RequestsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

David McGuinty LiberalHouse Leader of the Official Opposition

Mr. Speaker, during question period, the government House leader bandied about a handbook of some kind, a binder. I wonder if the hon. government House leader would be prepared to table that document immediately. It is something that he referred to at least once if not twice during his answers to questions put to him today.

Document Pertaining to Access to Information RequestsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I can tell my colleague, the House leader for the official opposition, that this book comes from former Liberal minister Jim Peterson's former director of parliamentary affairs, Lou Riccoboni, who is identified as the interferer in chief.

Tab A outlines the general attempts by the Liberal minister's staff to interfere in ATI requests. Tab B provides summary statistical information on delays to ATI requests by the minister's office. Tab C provides written documentary evidence demonstrating that the minister's director of parliamentary affairs had to sign off in order to release access to information requests to non-partisan public servants. Members will see that Mr. Riccoboni had to physically okay the release of these requests. The first page in Tab C outlines and provides a template on how Minister Peterson's office would interfere with ATI requests.

There are also numerous examples that I can provide. I would hope that all members of the House would look into this important matter.

Document Pertaining to Access to Information RequestsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I think the question was whether the minister would table the document, fascinating as it may be to hear it read. Perhaps the minister could clarify that point because I know we are going to get it again if he does not.

Document Pertaining to Access to Information RequestsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Pardon me, Mr. Speaker. My earphone was not working. Could you repeat.

Document Pertaining to Access to Information RequestsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I wonder if the minister is going to table the document. Reading from it is fine. He can read the whole thing if he wants. The question was whether he was going to table it. That is what we are waiting for.

Document Pertaining to Access to Information RequestsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, before you asked me if I would table it, you said I could read it if I want. Mr. Speaker, I want.

Document Pertaining to Access to Information RequestsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, for the third time, through you, could we ask the minister to just give us a straight answer. Is he going to table the document or not?

Document Pertaining to Access to Information RequestsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes.

Motion to Concur in the Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on September 30, 2010, by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader concerning the disposition of the order for resuming debate on the motion to concur in the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for bringing the matter to the attention of the House and the member for Windsor—Tecumseh for his contribution to the discussion.

The parliamentary secretary, in raising this matter, pointed out that the motion to concur in the seventh report is essentially the same as the supply motion moved by the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie on September 28, 2010 and adopted by the House on September 29, 2010.

Quoting House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 560 on the rule of anticipation, the parliamentary secretary argued that to allow the debate to resume on the concurrence motion would violate the principle which forbids the same question from being decided twice within the same session.

Noting that it would be redundant to resume the debate on the concurrence motion at a later date, as required by Standing Order 66(2), he requested that the Chair strike the motion to concur from the order paper to prevent an unnecessary debate and vote.

The Chair has examined the motions in question and agrees with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons that they are substantially the same. In his arguments, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh pointed out that, in his view, this does not mean that the rule of anticipation would necessarily apply and outlined reasons for why he believes that in this case it does not.

I listened to the intervention of the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh with great interest. As he noted, the debate on the motion for concurrence in the committee report had already begun when the opposition motion was moved.

In deciding that the opposition motion could proceed, the Chair was guided by the long-standing approach of my predecessors who, as described on page 560 of O’Brien-Bosc, have consistently

“...ruled that the opposition prerogative in the use of an allotted day is very broad and ought to be interfered with only on the clearest and most certain of procedural grounds.”

As I see it, at this stage, the Chair is now left to decide how best to proceed so as to respect the principle behind the rule of anticipation which forbids the same question from being decided twice within the same session.

In the present circumstances the House has actually adopted one of the two motions, namely the supply motion of the official opposition. As such, to allow the proceedings on the concurrence motion to continue would violate the fundamental principle by which we are guided. The Chair cannot overlook the critical importance of unwritten practices and conventions in the conduct of business in this chamber.

Accordingly, I have directed the Clerk to remove the order for resuming consideration of the motion to concur in the seventh report from the order paper.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Comments Regarding the Member for Portage--Lisgar—Speaker's RulingPrivilegeOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on September 22, 2010, by the hon. member for Portage—Lisgar concerning an emailed media release issued by the Press Secretary to the Leader of the Official Opposition.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Portage—Lisgar for having raised this matter, as well as the hon. Government House Leader, the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition and the hon. member for Outremont, for their interventions.

The member for Portage—Lisgar, in presenting her question of privilege, stated that she believed that in addition to containing comments about her, which she called a grave slur upon her reputation, the media release at issue constituted an improper use of House resources.

The House Leader for the Official Opposition argued that, read carefully in their full context, the statements contained in the media release were reasonable interpretations of comments the member for Portage—Lisgar had made in a CBC radio interview and, thus, were simply matters of public discourse and debate.

Let me deal first with the member for Portage—Lisgar's contention that House of Commons resources were misused in this case. I wish to remind the House that in a ruling on February 12, 2009, at pages 713-4 of Debates, I stated that it is not the role of the Chair to monitor the contents of emails and other electronic communications. I added that:

...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.

Obviously, in cases where the staff of a member is involved, it is ultimately the member who bears responsibility for ensuring that House resources are used appropriately.

With regard to the main argument raised by the member for Portage—Lisgar, the Chair wishes to state at the outset that it takes very seriously matters in which the reputation of a member is involved. In adjudicating such cases, the Chair is guided by well-established principles. As is stated in House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 111:

In ruling on such matters, the Speaker examines the effect the incident or event had on the member's ability to fulfill his or her parliamentary responsibilities. If, in the Speaker's view, the member was not obstructed in the performance of his or her parliamentary duties and functions, then a prima facie breach of privilege cannot be found.

Consistent with this, in a ruling by Mr. Speaker Fraser from May 5, 1987, at page 5766 of the Debates, which can also be found at pages 111 to 112 of O'Brien and Bosc, it states:

The privileges of a member are violated by any action which might impede him or her in the fulfilment of his or her duties and functions. It is obvious that the unjust damaging of a reputation could constitute such an impediment. The normal course of a Member who felt himself or herself to be defamed would be the same as that available to any other citizen, recourse to the courts under the laws of defamation with the possibility of damages to substitute for the harm that might be done.

In support of her argument, the member for Portage—Lisgar referred to a ruling by Speaker Sauvé from October 29, 1980. But I would invite the House to a closer reading of the ruling at pages 4213-4 of Debates, in which the Speaker stated:

...it seems to me that to amount to contempt, representations or statements about our proceedings, or of the participation of members should not only be erroneous or incorrect, but rather should be purposely untrue and improper and import a ring of deceit.... My role, therefore, is to interpret the extracts of the document in question not in terms of their substance, but to find whether, on their face, they represent such a distorted interpretation of the events or remarks in our proceedings that they obviously attract the characterization of false.

Members will note that in this 1980 case, Madam Speaker Sauvé is speaking about the interpretation of statements made in the course of our proceedings; in the case now before us, the statements at issue were made in the context of a media interview. This is a significant difference.

In the past, when members have raised concerns about comments made outside the House and whether or not they constituted breaches of privilege, successive Speakers have been consistent in ruling that these are not matters in which the Chair intervenes. In support of that, I refer members to the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, page 614.

Speaker Sauvé succinctly summarized the issue in an October 12, 1983, ruling (Debates, p. 27945), when she stated:

Parliamentary privilege is limited in its application.... If members engage in public debate outside the House, they enjoy no special protection. To invoke privilege, the offence must be attached to a parliamentary proceeding.

In view of these key precedents, it is therefore not surprising that there have been very few instances where the Speaker has found a prima facie breach of privilege related to the damaging of a member's reputation. The member for Portage—Lisgar recalled one such instance in my ruling of November 19, 2009, which can be found at page 6982 of the Debates, concerning mailings sent into the constituency of Sackville—Eastern Shore.

However tempting it is to regard that particular instance as analogous to the one currently before us, it did differ materially in several respects. First, that case involved mailings paid for from a central budget in the House. Then, these mailings were sent directly by another member into the complaining member's riding to large numbers of his constituents. Finally, the information in those mailings was factually incorrect, thereby directly distorting the member's position on an issue.

Instead of the case just described, I believe that the ruling I gave on February 12, 2009, at pages 765-6 of the Debates, is more helpful in this case. On that occasion, I stated:

In adjudicating questions of privilege of this kind, the Speaker is bound to assess whether or not the member's ability to fulfill his parliamentary functions effectively has been undermined.... [W]ithout minimizing the seriousness of the complaint or dismissing the gravity of the situation raised by the hon. member, it is difficult for the Chair to determine, given the nature of what has occurred that the member is unable to carry out his parliamentary duties as a result.

On balance, based on the arguments presented in this instance, and given the relevant precedents, I cannot find that the member has been impeded or obstructed in carrying out her duties. While the Chair is sympathetic to the concerns of the member for Portage—Lisgar, in view of the strict exigencies the Chair is bound to observe in cases of this kind, I cannot find a prima facie question of privilege.

The House will have noted that in rising on her question of privilege, the member for Portage—Lisgar did get an opportunity to correct the record: she has been able to dispel any wrong impression of what her true position is on the issue raised in the email media release at the centre of this controversy.

I therefore thank hon. members for their attention on this matter.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When the matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway had the floor, and he has eight minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. I call upon the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway.