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House of Commons Hansard #106 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.

Topics

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeOral Questions

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right. There has been a serious concern expressed about this. We understand that people take this process extremely seriously because it is their opportunity to communicate. They understand there are many priorities out there, but the assessment people make of those priorities and how reasonable their approach is to come. We have had people say that they do not want anything more. They want the status quo for now until we get our house in order. Others were asking for tens of millions of dollars for new initiatives.

It will be unfortunate if the views of those witnesses and the submissions we receive were given at least some consideration. We cannot comment on all 451, but we could bring some attention to those that we felt were worthy of further consideration by the Minister of Finance. That may not happen. That would be a disaster if it did not, but unfortunately it may have to be the reality this time around simply because there is very little chance it will be objectively handled at this time.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeOral Questions

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I sat on the finance committee for six years and participated in the same budgetary consultations that hon. members have had over the last number of months. I know at times the committee literally has gone from coast to coast to coast. At times, particularly under the previous government, the minister of finance was in some measure guided by the work of the finance committee in shaping his budget.

The member rightly raises this issue. With this kind of a leak, that opportunity should the government have wished to avail itself of the recommendations of finance committee will not occur. Therefore, the government will be left to its own devices to make up its budget.

This is a significant issue and it is unique to the finance committee. The finance committee, like the Minister of Finance, looks to a budget of something in the order $230 billion. That is a lot of money and it is about 15% of the nation's GDP. As a consequence, potentially there will not be any recommendations coming from the people of Canada who came before the finance committee, who worked hard on their presentations. It will all be for naught.

That is unique too. I cannot think of any other parallel committee where the consequences of a leak are so devastating and so significant.

There are those who argue in favour of say WikiLeaks and things of that nature, where this is simply people having an opportunity to gain information. This is an entirely different category. This is where the people have actually come before a committee and made their contribution.

Is this of such magnitude as to require a very serious inquiry on the part of procedure and House affairs and what other consequences does the member think could accrue?

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeOral Questions

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right. The finance committee over the years has earned a great deal of respect for its thoughtful consideration of the presentations from all sectors across the country. It is an important responsibility and I know all the members personally on the committee now. We have had some excellent sessions and learned quite a bit, as have others.

However, it comes down to we cannot report favourably or unfavourably on everybody. We have to pick and choose. That is an important responsibility. Because everyone knows this, that is why one of the first lobbyists who got the draft report in advance responded back to the person, “I love you”.

That speaks volumes about how important it is to someone to finally get that last edge to see if he or she can change the wording a bit, maybe get someone dropped off that would help. There are so many things that could happen, and it is already happening.

This is he sad thing. No one will believe this report if we cannot say that we had full unrestricted serious and thoughtful consideration of each and every report and we put down what we believed were the most important issues for the consideration of the finance minister.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeOral Questions

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, my question for colleague is this. Is he concerned about the coziness that seems to exist between the lobbyist community and the government and the obvious relationships between the government and Conservative lobbyists?

I have some information on the five individuals who received the document and there is something they all have in common, and that is their Conservative ties. Clarke Cross worked as a Hill staffer to the Conservative member for Vegreville—Wainwright and the member for Nanaimo—Alberni. Lynne Hamilton lists on her biography that she worked with Conservative governments federally, provincially and municipally. In fact, she used to work in the office of Mike Harris, Conservative premier of Ontario. Then there is Timothy Egan. The Elections Canada website has the fact that he has donated over $1,500 to the Conservatives since the summer of 2008, including a donation of $300 to the finance minister's 2008 campaign. Andy Gibbons has worked on the Hill as a staffer to the Conservative member for Vegreville—Wainwright. He sought the Canadian Alliance nomination for the riding of Ottawa West—Nepean. On the profile of Howard Mains, it says that he has been a resident of Ottawa—Vanier for 15 years and has worked on many federal and provincial Conservative campaigns over the years. In fact, he worked for a former Conservative minister in the Mulroney government.

Do these Conservative ties to the lobbyist community concern the hon. member? How does the hon. member feel about the fact that this information was distributed so broadly within the Conservative community?

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeOral Questions

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, those are the facts with regard to the five. I could only speculate about all other lobbyists and what their political affiliations, if any, might be. Procedure and House affairs may find that of interest.

However, I want to repeat probably the most important point I want the members to understand, and that is we have to try to look beyond the actual leak and find out why this happened and why it was not resolved in what a reasonable man would say would be the best possible way. It did not happen. We should know why.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeOral Questions

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Québec, Veterans; the hon. member for Windsor West, Potash Industry.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Hochelaga.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeOral Questions

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe that we should very sincerely applaud the Speaker's decision to refer this matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Sadly, the current Speaker has informed us this year that this is his last term of office. This ruling will be part of the remarkable legacy that he will leave behind. We should now have even greater respect for this Speaker and his ruling on the motion that this ethical issue must be addressed by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

We and the members on the other side of the House have spoken at length about the fact that the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar has apologized. I have already said, here and elsewhere, that it was easier to beg forgiveness than ask for permission. In this case, we were told that action was taken as quickly as possible, which is untrue. I believe that we have to recognize this. It is untrue. Although this incident may have occurred inadvertently or innocently, it is still untrue.

As everyone has stated, my colleagues and I received the report from our committee clerk at 8:31 a.m. on Thursday. The first emails were sent six minutes later. Our Liberal colleague from Mississauga South gave some background on the person who sent these emails, Mr. Ullyatt. He said that Mr. Ullyatt even has a company that specializes in sending these types of things. This person did not act innocently; what he did was premeditated. It was done right away, immediately.

I was personally informed of the situation on Friday at lunch when I was told, in a trembling voice, that it had been learned the previous evening that three emails had been sent inadvertently. Three copies of the report were sent to three people. However, that did not happen on Thursday evening but on Thursday morning. We were told about it on Friday at noon. And that is where it ended. It just hung in the air. The committee met last Monday, at about 3:30 p.m., and we began talking about it. And now I am being told that due diligence was done and apologies were made as quickly as possible?

Last Monday, the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar spoke at 2:05 p.m., relatively early in the day, to congratulate the Saskatoon Hilltops, but she said nothing about the oversight, the error in judgment, the fundamental mistake that occurred in her office. Not a word.

At 2:55 p.m., 50 minutes later, like other committee members, I told myself that perhaps she had warmed up and was ready to talk about it, but the same member instead rose to ask a question about her bill on accountability and enhanced financial transparency.

Enough is enough. Accountable to whom? Three days earlier her office was accountable to a Conservative Party lobbyist. As for the financial transparency of elected officials, I will not even go there. It was not until 5:50 p.m., three hours later, that the member said she acted as quickly as possible and apologized. We accept her apology, but there comes a point when, as the expression goes, enough is enough.

This is a question of responsibility. Here in this parliament, as in many others, there is ministerial responsibility. When someone makes a mistake, the minister is responsible. In my opinion, a member of Parliament or parliamentary secretary is responsible when a mistake is made. Of course, we need to look at the kind of mistake, but the more we dig and the more the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs digs, the more we will realize that this is no trivial matter. It is not a question of someone accidentally hitting “send” and wondering what he did. The person did it again. Who gave the order to hit “send”? No one knows.

The government is a control freak when it comes to sending information. Everything is managed by the Prime Minister's Office: press conferences, statements and so on. Everything is managed from above. Do we really believe that it was a young rookie who hit the wrong button on his computer, not knowing what he was doing? Perhaps it was something else.

We were in the midst of our work, and some members said that the Standing Committee on Finance was a serious committee. As one of the authors, I have a copyright on the report that will be released, but they went ahead and copied it. That is what she did. They copied certain things, even though the committee—my Liberal, Conservative and NDP colleagues and I—still had serious work to do.

Ministerial responsibility is reflected in the answers. On Monday, we asked the hon. member whom she had sent the unanimous report to. She swore that she had sent it to three people only. One of those three people sent us a message saying they had not received the report. That is odd. The other two then said they did receive it. The answer provided by the hon. member, maliciously or innocently, was not worth anything. We have to find out exactly what is behind such an answer.

We received other vague answers. We were told she had checked her BlackBerry, but it was turned off. Give me a break. Who does she take us for? When it comes to responsibility, the other members of the committee, including the Conservative members, should not be taken for fools. Perhaps someone has something to hide. That is why we support the motion of the hon. member for Outremont to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

We still do not have an answer. Who received the report? It is highly likely that many people in Canada received this report and are smacking their lips. I am sure of it. They have the list of recommendations made by each party, which is rather unusual. They are seeing what was kept and what was not, and how we proceeded. The documents were confidential.

I have asked whether we could have assurance that the documents were received, whether they were destroyed and whether we could get what we call in financial jargon, certification of destruction. So far, no one has given me any certification of destruction. I was told in one case that the document had been deleted and in another case, that it had never been received. In yet another case, the response I got was, “I heart you”, which is more than just a thank you very much. It is a declaration of love. That goes above and beyond appreciation. That is what we got. Those are the types of questions that need to be asked.

The Standing Committee on Finance plays an important role. Any finance minister faced with the leak of his budget or a draft of the budget would have to resign. We are talking about fiscal matters here. Does the member who was here earlier understand how important that is? Does the House understand how serious this work and the leak that happened are?

We conduct serious consultations about fiscal matters. These are either serious or not, either bogus or not. Consultations took place. Earlier, one of our colleagues said he sat on the finance committee for six years and went from coast to coast to coast. These are my second prebudget consultations. We have heard from more than 100 people, and nearly 500 wanted to appear before us. This is an important fiscal matter.

I will draw a parallel with something that has been on everyone's mind in recent days. Could this be insider trading? For the past three or four days in the House, questions have been put to the government about the sudden drop in the Taseko Mines stocks because insider trading was suspected. In that instance, a 165-page plus fiscal document was leaked. We are told that the member made a mistake, and we forgive her. I want to believe her, but this is more serious than the lump in her throat as she spoke. This is a serious matter.

Were any sanctions imposed? We were told that she booted out her secretary, Mr. so-and-so. Fine, but under what terms? Where is he now? Has he been recruited by a lobbyist of hers or by the Prime Minister' office? Who hired him? Will this be taken further? Someone who gets caught insider trading is prosecuted. Who will be prosecuted? Who is responsible? Someone in that office is the boss.

A simple apology is perhaps not enough. We are proud of the ruling made by the Speaker. I have been a member of another parliament, and I know that the rights and privileges of parliamentarians are sacred. We were all elected. We very often have differences of opinion. We sometimes make somewhat disparaging remarks and you are right to call us back to order, Mr. Speaker. I sometimes cannot contain myself when confronted with the slanderous remarks from the other side of the House, but we respect the fact that everyone here was elected by the public and was chosen to represent them. Our privileges are our rights as parliamentarians.

As vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Finance, I get the impression that my rights and those of the people of Hochelaga who elected me and the people who elected the 13 members of the committee have been violated. That is why the Speaker's ruling is special; the Speaker is showing respect for all the witnesses who have appeared since the beginning of the fall and who will appear in the future.

Next year, when we ask someone from Nova Scotia, Quebec, Winnipeg, British Columbia or Prince Edward Island to come and tell us what they think about the upcoming 2012 budget, they will say that there is no point, since anyone can hit the send button and send that information anywhere. Is that serious?

That is why this ruling is so important. I have been a member of this Parliament for one year, and I am very proud of this ruling. Obviously, the members of the Bloc Québécois are in favour of the motion by the member for Outremont. I should point out that that does not happen often.

I am sure that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs will ensure that these actions are punished—that word is justified—because our reputation, our loyalty, our rights and our privileges are at stake.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeOral Questions

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be supporting the motion. However, I want to say to the member that what has happened here has disrupted the work of the Standing Committee on Finance. It has undermined the trust of the members amongst themselves. It apparently has obstructed the tabling of the finance committee's report in the House. It has disrupted the work of this House today. It has totally pre-empted the order paper.

As well, the procedure and House affairs committee, if it does report, may recommend further disciplinary measures based on contempt.

Given all of that, could this still be a teachable moment? Could it be a teachable moment not for members but for staff and for the lobbying profession that works on the Hill?

The hon. member probably feels quite bad. If the facts as we know them up to now are true, she probably feels quite bad about what has happened.

Given that in many cases in the past a leak has been a one-off to a journalist, and given that we now think we know most of the facts, would the member agree that this could be and should be a teachable moment for us?

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeOral Questions

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, it will be up to the committee to decide. Unfortunately, it is currently sitting. It is continuing as though nothing has happened. Clearly, there are other members that sit on this committee but, in my opinion, they could have desisted. Nevertheless, the committee is currently sitting and we have to decide what to do with our report, which has two parts. The first part provides the context while the second makes recommendations. If we were to publish only the context, we would be publishing a truncated version of the report. But, how are we going to be able to discuss all of the recommendations? This is an issue that must be addressed by the committee members.

We have already discussed meeting with lobbyists, since we have already met with some. It bothered me to meet with, for example, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who was speaking to us about economic variables, and two or three private economists, one of whom was apparently a lobbyist, at the same time. Everything was a bit mixed up. I think there is a lesson to be learned here. Lobbyists do have a job to do but, as parliamentarians, we should meet with individuals and organizations mandated by the public rather than by special interest groups.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeOral Questions

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeOral Questions

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeOral Questions

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion.

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

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeOral Questions

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeOral Questions

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

(Motion agreed to)

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.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 four petitions.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, entitled “Recruitment, Intake and Integration: What does the Future Hold for Immigration to Official Language Minority Communities?”

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the report.

HousingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to introduce another set of petitions signed by folks in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver and elsewhere in Canada who are supporting the need for a national housing strategy.

The petitioners want to see the government play an increased role in not-for-profit housing, housing for the homeless, access to housing for those with different needs, including seniors and persons with disabilities, and sustainable and environmentally sound design standards for new housing.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to ensure swift passage of my private member's bill, Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians.

Animal WelfarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present a petition signed by hundreds of my constituents from Windsor and Essex County. They are calling for stricter animal cruelty legislation to be passed and for fines and penalties to be improved.

The petitioners note that we are among the worst regarding penalties and fines and for bringing to justice those with criminal behaviour. We have had a series of abuses in the communities. The petitioners are very clear that they want to see Canada modernize this legislation.

It is important to note that animal abuse is also connected to human abuse. The petitioners would like to see the government do something on this issue.

Democratic RepresentationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting today a petition signed by Quebeckers who refuse to see the weight of Quebec in this House be reduced.

The Conservative government introduced in the House Bill C-12, to increase the number of seats from 308 to 338. But this increase would only be for Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, which would mean that Quebec's weight would be reduced from 24% to 22%. We know that, in 1867, Quebec's weight was 36%. Yet, Quebec was recognized as a nation by this House. Clearly, this is one way to muzzle our nation, and also to fight the Bloc Québécois, because this is the only way this government has found to try to secure a majority.

The petitioners ask that a minimum representation threshold of 25% of seats be set for Quebec, so that our nation is represented adequately in accordance with its political weight.

Veterans AffairsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today.

The first petition is from a group of Canadians of all ages and from all walks of life. They state that they genuinely support and value the contributions of our veterans. They regard a veteran as a veteran, regardless of where or in which deployment the veteran may have served.

These petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to extend the mandate of veterans hospitals and include veterans who have served in conflicts and peacekeeping operations since 1953, to eliminate the clawback of veterans pensions, to eliminate the reduction of veterans pensions at age 65, to change the widows benefit to a non-taxable benefit, to create a veterans advisory panel that will provide input on the selection of future ombudsmen for Veterans Affairs, and to ensure that Veterans Affairs Canada remains as a stand-alone department.

Aboriginal AffairsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from those who support the Native Women's Association of Canada.

The Sisters in Spirit campaign has identified nearly 600 missing and murdered aboriginal women whose cases go back as far as 1970. The equivalent number in the whole Canadian population would be 18,000 missing or murdered women.

These petitioners believe that the research conducted by NWAC has convinced Canadians that violence against aboriginal women must be stopped and that we need to find the strategies, resources, and tools to stop women from disappearing. They call upon Parliament to ensure that NWAC receives sufficient funding, as was promised, to continue its important work protecting women through its Sisters in Spirit initiative and to invest in initiatives recommended by NWAC to help prevent more women from disappearing.

Child PornographyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today.

The first is from members of my riding who are seeking to end the Internet being used as a place for crimes against children when it comes to pedophilia and the distribution of pornography.

Multiple SclerosisPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition comes from literally hundreds of MS sufferers and their families from across my riding and Niagara. They talk about CCSVI, the opportunity to be tested, and the opportunity for clinical trials.

I remind the House that just a couple of weeks ago, a gentleman from St. Catharines, which is part of my riding, died in Costa Rica. He had surgery performed in Costa Rica, came home with complications, went back to Costa Rica, and died on the operating table. I am convinced that if clinical trials had been the case here, this would not have happened to that gentleman.

The petitioners are asking for clinical trials to be set up to allow them to be treated at home.

AfghanistanPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petition is signed by dozens of Canadians calling on the government to end Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan.

In May 2008 Parliament passed a resolution to withdraw Canadian Forces by 2011. The Prime Minister, with agreement from the Liberal Party, broke his oft-repeated promise to honour the parliamentary motion. Furthermore, he refuses to put it to a parliamentary vote in the House.

Committing a thousand troops to a training mission still presents a danger to our troops and an unnecessary expense. Our country is faced with a $56 billion deficit, and the military mission has cost Canadians more than $18 billion so far. This money could have been used to improve health care and seniors pensions right here in Canada.

The polls show that a clear majority of Canadians do not want Canada's military presence to continue after the scheduled removal date of July 2011. Therefore, the petitioners call on the Prime Minister to honour the will of Parliament and bring the troops home now.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

November 29th, 2010 / 4:45 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 434, 435, 437, 439, 440, 465, 475, 476, 505, 518, 520 and 522.