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House of Commons Hansard #118 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fraud.

Topics

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:10 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, if Questions Nos. 531, 532, 533 and 539 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 531Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

With respect to the government’s Economic Action Plan: (a) for each project or program that received funding, (i) what was its name, (ii) what was its location, specifying the city, riding, and province, (iii) what was its total cost, (iv) what was the federal contribution, (v) what amount of the federal contribution has been delivered to date, (vi) how many full-time jobs did it create, (vii) how many part-time jobs did it create, (viii) what company or companies were contracted in association with the program or project, specifying the amount of funding each received for its services, (ix) were the contracts awarded in association with the project or program sole-sourced or open to competition, (x) will it meet the government’s completion deadline and, if not, why; (b) was the government’s approval of any project or program subsequently withdrawn and, if so, why; and (c) were any of the projects which the government had approved for funding subsequently cancelled and, if so, why?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 532Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

With respect to the government’s use of consultants and employment agencies: (a) what was the total amount spent on consultants and employment agencies during fiscal year 2009-2010; (b) what is the projected total amount that will be spent on consultants and employment agencies during fiscal year 2010-2011; (c) how much did each department or agency spend on consultants and employment agencies during fiscal year 2009-2010; (d) which consulting firms and employment agencies received contracts from each department or agency during fiscal year 2009-2010; and (e) for each contract in (d), (i) was it sole-sourced or awarded following an open competition, (ii) what was its value or amount, (iii) for what services was it granted, (iv) what was its duration?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 533Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

With respect to the renovations being undertaken on Parliament Hill: (a) in what year did the current round of renovations begin; (b) what is the total amount spent on the current round of renovations to date; (c) what is the projected completion date of all renovations; (d) what is the projected final cost of all renovations; and (e) since the current round of renovations began, what firms have received contracts to perform work on Parliament Hill, identifying (i) the amount of the contract, (ii) the services to be provided under the contract, (iii) the start and end dates of the contract, (iv) whether the contract was awarded through open competition or sole-sourced

(Return tabled)

Question No. 539Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

With regard to Health Canada funding and the allocation of full-time equivalents (FTEs): (a) what is the number of FTEs allocated by the Department in each province and territory, including the Department's headquarters in the National Capital Region, each fiscal year since 2006-2007, up to and including the current fiscal year; (b) how much funding was spent to support operations in each province and territory, including the Department’s headquarters in the National Capital Region, each fiscal year since 2006-2007, up to and including the current fiscal year; (c) what is the number of FTEs allocated in each province and territory with respect to the delivery of First Nations and Inuit health programs and services, each fiscal year since 2006-2007, up to and including the current fiscal year; (d) what are the names of the projects and how much money was committed to each of those projects by Health Canada as part of the Economic Action Plan; and (e) why, as stated in the 2010-11 business plan, is the Department projecting a decrease in FTEs for 2011-2012 and a further decrease in 2012-2013?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

4:10 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, I ask that all notices of motion for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded divisions, government orders will be extended by 23 minutes.

The hon. member for Parkdale--High Park is rising on a question of privilege.

Statements by MembersPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege in the House to ask the Speaker's consideration of an appropriate response to a new form of attack on the essential privileges of members in this chamber.

As O'Brien and Bosc make clear on page 59 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, parliamentary privilege is simply “the independence Parliament and its Members need to function unimpeded”.

There are certain powers that need to be exercised by this House to protect us from undue interference so we carry out our functions.

I raise two related points. One is that information conveyed on December 10 and December 14 by members of the government was fundamentally inaccurate and undermining of my function as a member of Parliament. I will show that in brief.

The other is that the government is abusing the freedoms and rights of members by abusing its function as the executive to validate manifestly false allegations with the sole purpose of bringing discredit to certain members who are attempting to bring it to account.

Our freedom of speech is fundamental. Freedom of speech is defined as the fundamental right without which we would be hampered in any performance of our duties, permitting us to speak in the House without inhibition to refer to any matter and express opinion as we see fit, to say what we feel needs to be said in furtherance of the national interest and aspirations of our constituents.

On several occasions there have now been repeated and coordinated attacks by ministers and other members, of an unsubstantiated personal nature, and I cite the attacks from the Minister of Public Safety towards the member for Ajax—Pickering and the attacks on the member for Scarborough—Rouge River.

As well, this new form of undermining of our privileges comes when the government purports to use the special knowledge that accrues to it in its role in the executive branch to disparage the performance of MPs and create a new form of threat designed to intimidate members in the conduct of their duties.

If this is allowed unimpeded, this form of official obstruction and interference will greatly diminish the function of this House. It is designed to prevent members from bringing the government to account, one of our fundamental functions.

If the House does not adjudicate this, then our abilities will be greatly diminished. I submit that this is in the same vein but of a different order from the ruling made by the Speaker yesterday, and based on his previous statement where he spoke to:

...if a Member who feels that his or her reputation has been maligned by the comments of another Member raises a question of privilege, the Speaker must determine if such remarks “constitute such a grave attack as to impede the hon. member…in the performance of his duties” (Debates, May 28, 2008, p. 6171).

I certainly allege that these are put forward as remarks of that nature, as I will briefly explain, but in addition the government has made reference in my particular case, on several occasions, to my comportment at two international conferences where I represented the House as part of a pairing system to enable Canada to have representatives abroad during the minority Parliament, as official opposition critic and as a member of the Canadian delegation.

I submit that the government is in effect reporting back to this House in its executive function when it characterizes the conduct and outcomes of such delegations. Both the minister and parliamentary secretary indicated in several statements that are not supportable but are, importantly, designed to help them avoid scrutiny, which they would otherwise have to submit to in this House.

I also refer again to the Speaker to say that on page 77 of O'Brien and Bosc:

We have parliamentary privilege to ensure that the other branches of government, the executive and judicial, respect the independence of the legislative branch of government, which is this House and the other place. This independence cannot be sustained if either of the other branches is able to define or reduce these privileges.

Mr. Speaker, I think you can find that there is a deliberate pattern of behaviour. Specifically, on Friday, December 10 and again on Thursday, December 14, several statements were made. They involved private members from Ottawa—Orléans and Kitchener—Conestoga, as well as the minister and the parliamentary secretary.

In those statements, information was put forward that the government itself knew manifestly not to be the case. For example, they spoke of my attendance at the climate change talks in Cancun. They referred to my leaving early. They said that halfway through the conference the Liberal Party representative went home. They also talked about wasting taxpayers' dollars.

In point of fact, it was the government that gave so little notice of attendance for that conference. Also a second allegation was raised by the parliamentary secretary that in Nagoya, which is a conference approximately two months ago, I was not actively participating. The government knew differently, as I will demonstrate, and yet the members deliberately brought this forward in question period, in statements and also in committee.

The government knew specifically, for example, when it gave notice of one week for me to attend Nagoya in order to facilitate the attendance of the then minister, that I hold a monthly public meeting in my riding and it was too late on that short notice to cancel that meeting. In fact it had already been widely advertised including drops to 5,000 households, which is the practice in our riding. Not only did I attend, but I managed to get credentials that were denied by the government to me as a member of the delegation to attend high level sessions. I was not invited to meetings or briefings of the delegation, contrary to the information provided opposite.

The main point is that I attended 22 meetings. I spoke directly to the minister, who I met at some of those meetings. I was only able to attend because of my own initiative working with international parliamentary delegations. I met for an hour and a half with the president of the World Bank, with other parliamentarians. We secured an undertaking at the World Bank to modify its process on natural capital, an announcement that was made at the conference, which created a legislative track as a direct result of that meeting.

I also met with and spoke to the prime minister of Japan and the environment minister of Japan, and the minister was present for some of those discussions, although not party to them. It is, I believe, a deliberate effort on the part of the government to interfere with my abilities as a member to hold it to account in this House, in its misrepresentation of these facts otherwise. So, I attended 22 meetings and events in Nagoya, Japan.

I would note that for two successive days I attended the Government of Canada seats in the high level discussions, which were vacant. There was no one there from the 30-plus delegation, which the Minister of the Environment brought there, listening to the other countries' statements. I believe it is important to understand that the government underperformed and was criticized. It won an international booby prize called the Dodo for interfering with those talks and that is directly related to why the government is now in an organized fashion undermining my privileges as a member by bringing up allegations that are absolutely and patently not true.

With respect to Cancun and the climate change talks in Mexico, the minister was personally aware because I made a request directly through him to attend earlier. The minister was fully, directly informed and when he said opposite facts here, he knew that I was there for six days while he was there for only four. He knows that I attended a conference with 50 representatives from 16 countries and that I went to 37 different meetings in performance of my duties.

Mr. Speaker, I would say to you very simply that the freedom of speech in the House cannot withstand the intimidation of organized efforts by the government as the executive. This is not the freedom of speech of members opposite but, rather, of the executive. It can be shown, and I will make submissions, that it is coordinated through committees and question period in the House. If it is permitted, that question period and committees and the functions of S.O. 31s and so on are able to be manipulated in a systematic way to attack individual members of the House, that is tantamount to relieving them of their privileges of freedom of speech without obstruction and without interference.

I would submit that the nature of that cannot be allowed to go forward and that the members are defenceless on their own. In a spate of systematic attacks, which have taken place not just in my case but on other members, and again I will put in submissions to the Speaker, we cannot individually respond to each one of those attacks. Again, the point I make is that this is the executive expressing itself, not respecting the rights and privileges of members.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for your ruling on that and to understand that in both cases of what was alleged related to my behaviour or comportment, it was the government itself that was on the defensive. It won six fossil awards and in fact was seen to be the colossal fossil, the worst performing nation, and it was those things it tried to prevent coming up in the House. If you do find a prima facie case of privilege, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion.

A message was delivered by the Usher of the Black Rod as follows:

Mr. Speaker, Her Excellency the Governor General desires the immediate attendance of this honourable House in the chamber of the honourable the Senate.

Accordingly, the Speaker with the House went up to the Senate chamber.

And being returned:

December 15th, 2010 / 4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber His Excellency the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill S-3, An Act to implement conventions and protocols concluded between Canada and Colombia, Greece and Turkey for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income--Chapter No. 15

Bill S-210, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament)--Chapter No. 16

Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts--Chapter 17

Bill C-3, An Act to promote gender equity in Indian registration by responding to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia decision in McIvor v. Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs)--Chapter 18

Bill S-215, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (suicide bombings)--Chapter 19

Bill C-464, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (justification for detention in custody)--Chapter 20

Bill C-36, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products--Chapter 21

Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act--Chapter 22

Bill C-28, An Act to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating certain activities that discourage reliance on electronic means of carrying out commercial activities, and to amend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Telecommunications Act--Chapter 23

Bill C-58, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2011--Chapter 24

Bill C-47, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures--Chapter 25

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 Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Canadian Council on Learning; the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway, Public Safety.

Statement by MembersPrivilegeRoyal Assent

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

We are resuming the question of privilege. I understand the hon. parliamentary secretary is rising on the same question of privilege.

Statement by MembersPrivilegeRoyal Assent

4:35 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, I have a brief response to the question of privilege raised by the member for Parkdale—High Park. I have two very quick points for the hon. member opposite.

First, when the member speaks of rights of members being infringed because of actions and comments in S. O. 31s of members on the government side, I would point out that free speech applies to all members in this place.

With particular reference to the member's comments regarding his own attendance at the summit in Cancun on the environment where he criticized the government for making statements in this place stating that the member himself left the summit halfway through, Thursday to be exact. He stated that was an unfair use of the government's executive powers. He also stated that it was unfair and basically untrue since he informed the Minister of the Environment that he would be leaving early.

I have before me a letter of invitation from the Minister of the Environment to the member for Parkdale—High Park stating quite clearly that the conference runs from Tuesday, December 7 until Saturday, December 11, 2010 and that his travel and accommodations would be picked up to attend the said conference.

While the member himself may feel somewhat aggrieved and perhaps even be sensitive to the fact that he left early, that is exactly what happened. Statements made in this place were factually correct. In other words, the member left before the conference had concluded when he had been invited to attend the entire conference.

While he may be sensitive to the comments made in this place, he should not be rising on a question of privilege saying that his own privileges had been infringed because, in fact, they were not. The statements were factually correct.

I would comment further but I know the time is running short and we have other business to conclude. In my opinion and in the government's opinion, this could be a matter of debate as opposed to a privilege, and I would ask that you, Mr. Speaker, rule accordingly.

Statement by MembersPrivilegeRoyal Assent

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to cite from the ruling you made yesterday in which you stated:

I would like to draw the attention of the House to page 618 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, where we are clearly reminded that:

The proceedings of the House are based on a long-standing tradition of respect for the integrity of all Members. Thus, the use of offensive, provocative or threatening language is strictly forbidden. Personal attacks, insults and obscenities are not in order.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 614, goes even further in stating that:

Remarks directed specifically at another Member which question that Member's integrity, honesty or character are not in order. A Member will be requested to withdraw offensive remarks, allegations, or accusations of impropriety directed towards another Member.

Speaker Milliken went on to say:

This is why my ruling of November 14, 2010, at page 3779 of the Debates, I stressed that:

When speaking in the House, Members must remain ever cognizant of these fundamental rules. They exist to safeguard the reputation and dignity not only of the House itself but also that of all Members.

Furthermore, he noted on page 3778, I noted, as have other Speakers:

...that the privilege of freedom of speech that members enjoy confers responsibilities on those who are protected by it, and members must use great care in exercising their right to speak freely in the House.

My point is that the government is engaging in an exercise of coordinated attacks, not by individuals using their freedom of speech but by the executive branch.

This goes directly to the point by the member opposite. I attended the proceedings in Mexico for six days, as invited by the government, but circumstances required me to go back one day sooner on a 14 day conference, not halfway, as the minister fully knew. This was explained ahead of time to the government because I had a pre-scheduled meeting. The government did not see fit to give us notice that we would actually be attending in Cancun.

The government causes the problem and then seeks to exploit it in a pattern that speaks exactly to the rulings of Speaker Milliken. I have already referenced this on page 77 but I want to emphasize that the executive branch cannot interfere with the rights and privileges of members.

I will make submissions so that the member opposite is either not confused or does not try to confuse the facts. I did attend for two days longer than the minister in question and was there at approximately 37 different meetings. Members of the House stood and talked about the waste of taxpayer dollars and impugned my integrity in a deliberate pattern involving members without responsibility, but assigned to do so by the government.

The minister knew this was a 14-day conference and he knew that I had only left at noon on the second last day. In fact, I attended and saw him at the conference that morning. That is the part of the issue that we need the Speaker, on behalf of the House, to adjudicate today. If the House cannot protect us from an organized campaign on the part of the government that comes directly to our integrity to be able to speak in this place, then my freedom of speech and that of each hon. member is compromised.

Mr. Speaker, I will provide submissions showing how, on both the December 10 and 14, a variety of government members of the House did exactly that. They used information that I can demonstrate they knew full well was not an accurate representation, and they did it, using the voice of the executive branch. They organized the conference, they say that they attended the conference and they purported to give this House information that was official. That is the executive branch interfering with the understanding of the House and the interpretation of people elsewhere around my integrity in this case, but for any member of the House.

Similar attacks have been orchestrated on other members of the House. I want to ensure that the point is not lost. This is not an argument about what happened or what got done in terms of the climate change talks. I appreciate the proceedings may not include us when we are part of a Canadian delegation. However, back in this House, how can any member be intimidated and then not contradict the government or talk about its performance, when in fact the government shows repeatedly that it is prepared to indulge in these campaigns of undermining our ability to speak here?

Using the references I have cited, I believe this is fundamental.

Mr. Speaker, I would simply say that for both those comments on the Nagoya Conference and on Mexico, I look for your action and, if you do find a prima facie case of privilege, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Statement by MembersPrivilegeRoyal Assent

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to make two brief contributions to this intervention, but before I do that I want to say that, at least from my perspective and I think the perspective of my friend from Parkdale—High Park, this intervention is being made not as government versus opposition versus government. It is actually referenced and focused on Parliament as an institution.

Some day, the men and women on that side of the House may be on this side of the House, and there is a distinction. The men and women on that side of the House are in government. My two remarks are focused on this.

Just as an individual member does not have, cannot have and should not be permitted to have a licence to malign another member under our rules, and everyone here understands that, should that occur in proceedings, which sometimes happens intentionally or inadvertently, the member who is purportedly maligned is able to get up and set the record straight and, hopefully, if a mistake was made, an apology occurs, et cetera.

However, in this case, I want you, Mr. Speaker, to take note that the question of privilege raised here is with reference to the government, not to a member, using its position in question period as a forum to allegedly malign or misinform.

Question period is intended to be an opportunity for the opposition parties or individual members to ask questions of the government. It is not to debate but to ask questions, to actually impose a procedural accountability. Recently, however, there have been many instances, and I will refer to one that happened two or three weeks ago, where, in question period, one of the ministers rose and responded to a question and referred directly to an individual member of the Bloc Québécois. I am not sure I even recall all of the elements of it but it was intended specifically to malign, in some way, a member of that political party in a way that had either zero relevance to the question raised or only marginal or indirect relevance. I thought that was grossly unfair and it happened on more than one occasion.

The one big point I am making is that, just as an individual member cannot be allowed to use freedom of speech in this House to malign, so cannot the government be allowed to use its position in question period to do the same types of things. If it can do that, if it is a free-for-all at question period, if the answers to questions can be totally irrelevant and, at the same time, malign another member, that is the same thing as saying that it is okay for the Crown to undermine a function of Parliament. It is a free-for-all for the government to go right ahead and undermine every member of the opposition it possibly can because that will fulfill its political objective. We cannot let the government do that.

Mr. Speaker, you and the other speakers will say, “If the House does not have confidence in the government, defeat it. We will have an election”. That might be possible today in this Parliament, but what if a government has a majority? Most of the time in this country, our government has had a majority in the House and the opposition members cannot defeat the government. Therefore, if this problem that we are trying to outline here continues to exist and maybe even grow, we will have a situation where the government, the Crown, in majority, has built itself the right in this House to undermine, to malign and actually disrupt and obstruct members of the opposition in doing their job of scrutinizing the government.

Sometimes men and women on this side of the House ask some very tough questions that are worded in some very sharp and pointed ways that offend the government. It is not personal, it is essentially opposition parties doing their job. However, to allow the government to do the same thing and undermine individuals can only end in undermining the functions of the House.

The complaint is on a member who says, “I have been maligned and I think I am being institutionally maligned by a government that has taken on as part of its function the business of gathering information, which, if stated in a certain way in question period or whenever the heck government members get the floor, can only result in the maligning and intimidation of a member of the opposition”. There is the implied threat that if the member gets up, the member will be attacked by one of the government's attack dogs and the entire federal government is working on this as part of its agenda. That is something that Parliament cannot allow. If it goes macro and becomes institutionalized in this place, our effectiveness as a Parliament on behalf of Canadians will be undermined.

I do not know exactly how you, Mr. Speaker, are going to be able to deal with this because it is perhaps a novel point. The question of members maligning other members intentionally or inadvertently arises from time to time and we can all collectively apologize and go to confession for that. However, when the government starts to do it, it is a new ball game and a different type of issue.