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House of Commons Hansard #47 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was question.

Topics

Service CanadaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition brought to me by the residents of Bonavista North in my riding.

The petitioners would like to call to the attention of the House the community partnership office with Service Canada. The agreement in place is to help out smaller rural areas with Service Canada, but the partnership offices will no longer exist after the end of March 2012.

This is a vital service, especially for seniors and those most vulnerable, but now it will to be an outreach program with Service Canada in Gander, which is several hours away. The problem is that the government will be closing the processing centres as well for Service Canada and services will be diminished in these areas.

The community partnership that the petitioners speak of is a vital service and becoming increasingly vital now that these cuts and measures are about to come.

I thank the constituents in Bonavista North in the areas of New-Wes-Valley, Deadman's Bay, Badger's Quay and other areas of the riding of Bonavista North. I hope the House will find this in good position.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 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 questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member Mount Royal.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal ConstituentsPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

November 16th, 2011 / 3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a question of privilege raised by some very troubling circumstances. My riding office is receiving numerous calls in this matter and thus I am raising it now, as per the requirement that questions of privilege be raised at the first available opportunity.

It seems that constituents in my riding of Mount Royal have been receiving calls from a telephone number identified as “campaign research”, asking my constituents if they intend to support the Conservative Party in the impending, if not imminent, byelection.

The very fact that I am standing here in this place and otherwise discharging my responsibilities clearly illustrates that there is no vacancy in the electoral district of Mount Royal and thus no pending byelection. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, it is you who informs the House of such vacancies.

However, as personally disconcerting as this matter is, it has, more important, serious consequences for the work of a member of Parliament and indeed should be a matter of concern for all members of the House.

Accordingly I raise this question of privilege as I believe this matter constitutes a prima facie breach of my parliamentary privilege and prejudices the work of the House and this institution. If the Speaker so agrees, I would move the appropriate motion at the appropriate time.

It is long established, and O'Brien and Bosc so notes it on page 113. I am quoting from a ruling by Speaker Bosley, although it is sometimes mis-attributed to Speaker Fraser. The ruling is as follows:

It should go without saying that a Member of Parliament needs to perform his functions effectively and that anything tending to cause confusion as to a Member's identity creates the possibility of an impediment to the fulfilment of that Member's functions.

Here is the key point, Mr. Speaker. I continue:

Any action which impedes or tends to impede a Member in the discharge of his duties is a breach of privilege.

Further, as per speaker's ruling of May 3, 2006, and found in Hansard Debates, and reiterating a line of similar Speakers' rulings, Speakers have consistently upheld the right of the House to the services of its members free from “intimidation, obstruction and interference”. That is why I say this is a matter of concern not only to myself and my constituents but to the House as a whole.

While there may be additional issues of misusing an electoral list and other conduct beyond the purview of the Speaker and the parliamentary process, this practice inhibits and impedes the exercise of my parliamentary functions or, indeed, of any member of Parliament so targeted.

For example, beyond the phone calls, emails and requests for meetings as a result of these calls, which themselves are an encumbrance, it causes confusion among the electorate. It impedes me in the discharge of my functions, which as O'Brien and Bosc quoted earlier states, constitutes a breach of privilege.

Constituents are asking my office and myself when will this imminent, but as I said, non-existent byelection, in fact be occurring? Calls have come in asking, and constituents are surprised, if not shocked, by this, whether I am still serving. Such questions cause damage to my reputation and credibility and would do so to any member of the House.

Just 10 or so days ago in a householder circulated to my constituents, I outlined, as members of the House do when sending these householders, various initiatives in Parliament. I made reference to items I hoped to see adopted in the House. Accordingly how are my constituents supposed to reconcile my reference to things I am fighting for in Parliament with what they hear “The member is, or has, stepped down?”

The insinuation therefore that I am abandoning my MP role here is at variance with the truth. I am saying this at the risk of sounding self-serving just to put the facts on the record, but I may have more motions on the order paper than any other member of this place. I seek to take my responsibilities as a parliamentarian very seriously, be it in committee, where now before the justice and legal affairs committee I have some 50 amendments with respect to the proposed omnibus crime bill, or in parliamentary debate, where like many other members in the House I remain an active member in take note debates, or just to use today as a case study, like other members in the House, I posed a question in question period and earlier made a statement.

However, the key point is that work, as it would be with regard to the work of any member in the House, gets overshadowed and overtaken if my constituents are made to think that I am not even here or am about to leave.

Mr. Speaker, I refer your attention to page 112 of O'Brien and Bosc on this matter. In the past, Speakers have found prima facie breaches of privilege related to the damaging of a member's reputation. Therein are references to two Speaker's rulings, one of April 2005, in relation to a matter raised by the then-member for Windsor West, and one in October 2005 on a question from the then member for Bourassa.

These rulings dealt with mailings that contained false and misleading information to constituents or that misrepresented their source. While, and I understand well, the Speaker cannot intervene on matters of debate and on disputes as to facts, these rulings demonstrate that prima facie breaches occur, and this is the important point, as you know only too well, Mr. Speaker, when the cumulative effect of such misrepresentation of facts either causes confusion as to the identity of the member or attacks one's reputation such as to damage his or her credibility in a serious way in the minds of the electorate.

Simply put, I have made no announcement about stepping down as the member of Parliament for Mount Royal. While others might, and I would hate to cast aspersions on my ageism, think that I am stepping down, there is in fact no byelection planned or pending. Any suggestion otherwise falsely offers a critique that I am not present here in Ottawa and working for my constituents in an ongoing way on matters of concern to them and on matters of concern to the House.

Indeed, misinforming my constituents can create difficulties for any MP. I draw to the attention of the House comments of the Speaker on December 1, 2009, regarding a privilege matter I then raised and which the Speaker agreed in the sense of finding a prima facie breach of my privileges in the matter of false and misleading mailings then sent to my riding. In his comments the Speaker, Mr. Milliken, said:

The privilege here was that a member's ability to do his or her job was interfered with by sending this material into his or her constituency. In this case, it was the member for Mount Royal's constituency.

The material was not accurate and caused problems for the member in doing his job as a member of Parliament....Hon. members know that members raising questions of privilege are not normally trying to settle whether a statement is true or not. It is a matter of whether their privileges as members have been breached.

Indeed, even if one views the question of whether there is a pending byelection as a dispute over facts, though clearly there is no dispute over facts as there is no pending byelection, the spreading of such false information, and this is the important point, is a breach of my privileges and interferes with the discharge of my function, as it would be a prejudice to any of the members of the House involved in such conduct and, indeed, may prejudice the institution of Parliament itself.

Simply put, how am I, or any member, to effectively represent a constituency if the constituents are led to believe that the member is no longer their elected representative? How can one correct the confusion and prejudicial damage that has been done in the minds of those who may think I am no longer their representative in Parliament or no longer discharging my duties?

In short, telling my constituents that I am resigning and that there is a byelection imminently occurring is not only patently false, but the clear and important point here is that it violates my privileges as a member and should be regarded by all members in the House as an unacceptable practice for this institution and its members. The particularly relevant part is that while this occurred in my riding of Mount Royal, nothing is to stop this from occurring in another riding and this practice ends up being an affront to all who serve in this place.

If you require more information on this matter prior to ruling, Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to table appropriate documentation before the House. As I noted before, if you agree that this is a prima facie breach of privilege, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion to refer this matter to committee which, with its investigative powers, could get to the bottom of this and recommend appropriate sanctions in the circumstances where appropriate.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal ConstituentsPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to support the member's motion for your determination that this is a clear prima facie breach of his privileges as a member of this House. It is the same type of abuse that any one of us could be exposed to.

One point I want to make is that at some point down the road, once it goes to committee, the committee will use its investigative powers, and we are potentially not able ultimately to determine the source or sources of this conduct. That is not an issue that should be of concern for your ruling. Your ruling is simply on whether, on the face of it, it is clearly a breach of his privilege.

It is a breach to any one of us if that type of conduct is allowed to stand. It is important for his constituency to be advised that this House, through you, Mr. Speaker, has made a determination that it is a breach of his privilege. That finding and ruling on your behalf is quite crucial to redress some of the loss and abuse that he has suffered in his relationship with his constituents, so it is quite important that the ruling be made.

I would suggest it is also important that the ruling be made fairly rapidly.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal ConstituentsPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I know nothing of the activities that the hon. member has complained of, though it is quite evident and the government is certainly willing to admit that he is in fact here today in Parliament. That, I think, is evident to everybody.

However, it does bring to mind a dilemma that was faced by Sir John A. Macdonald over several decades, when George Brown, holding the editorial pen of The Globe, repeatedly wrote that he was about to resign. Though that did go on for several decades, I do not ever recall a point of order being made or a point of privilege being made at that time.

However, if we do see fit to make further submissions, we will advise you.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal ConstituentsPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. members for their interventions. The Chair will take this under advisement.

(Bill C-16. On the Order: Government Orders:)

November 15, 2011 — Consideration at report stage of Bill C-16, An Act to amend the National Defence Act (military judges) — The Minister of National Defence.

The National Defence ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I would ask for unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practices of this House, Bill C-16, An Act to amend the National Defence Act (military judges), be deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

The National Defence ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to move this motion?

The National Defence ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The National Defence ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

The National Defence ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The National Defence ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to, bill concurred in at report stage, read the third time and passed)

Bill C-13--Time Allocation MotionKeeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That in relation to Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget as updated on June 6, 2011 and other measures, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the report stage and one sitting day shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill and, fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government business on the day allotted to the consideration of the report stage and on the day allotted to the third reading stage of the bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of the order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-13--Time Allocation MotionKeeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period.

I invite all hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places so the Chair has some idea of the number of members who wish to participate.

If we keep our questions and answers to about a minute each, we should be able to accommodate many members. As has been our accustomed practice, preference will be given to opposition MPs. Although government members will have the opportunity to ask questions, the Chair will recognize more opposition MPs to allow them a chance to question the government.

Bill C-13--Time Allocation MotionKeeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, here we go again. It is the sixth time in 33 days since we came back in September that the government has moved for time allocation. It is the second time the government has done it on this bill, a bill that is 644 pages long. We have had an absolute minimum number of hours for debate here at second reading, in committee and then back here in the House for report stage and third reading.

It is particularly offensive when we see what has just happened. A few minutes ago the government House leader had all parties' support to run a bill through this House on consent. It was a straightforward bill, deserving of support from all sides. It had support from all sides. That is the third time that has happened in this session of Parliament.

There is no pattern at all in this Parliament of opposition parties acting in an obstructive way. What we are simply asking for, and what we are entitled to, is a reasonable amount of time to debate bills. Again, it is 644 pages and it is a budget bill.

I think it is important that I make the point that follows. I am going to quote from O'Brien and Bosc, House of Commons Procedure and Practice. It states:

The cardinal principle governing Parliament's treatment of financial measures...

I will divert from the quote. There are 644 pages of financial measures in this text.

...was that they be given the fullest possible consideration in committee and in the House.

I am going to quote again, from Bourinot's Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada. It tells us that:

...no member may be forced to come to a hasty decision, but that every one may have abundant opportunities afforded him of stating his reasons for supporting or opposing the proposed grant.

Again, that is the financial one.

In this light, how can the government House leader possibly justify closing off debate in this way on a budget bill?

Bill C-13--Time Allocation MotionKeeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is perhaps the most debated budget bill in my lifetime, or certainly in my memory.

The budget was introduced in March. The first efforts by the opposition to obstruct the bill were actually to bring down this Parliament and to have an election called. In that election, the essence of our platform and the main subject of debate among the voters was in fact this budget.

It was debated by all Canadians for an entire election. What did Canadians say at the end of that election? They liked that budget so much and wanted the government to do it so much that they gave the government a majority, the first majority government in Canada in four Parliaments.

As a result of that mandate, that request from Canadians that we implement the budget that they debated in that election, we have moved forward with it.

This is the 2011 budget we are talking about. It was introduced in March. If the hon. members opposite have their way, it would not even be passed into law in 2011. We would be having it in 2012. In fact, we might have the 2012 budget before we have the 2011 budget implemented. That is the way the opposition would do it.

This is at a time when we have, on the global stage, economic challenges unprecedented in my lifetime. We have very significant global challenges that need a response and that need the low-tax plan for jobs and growth that we are implementing through this budget implementation bill. That is why we have to do it. We have to deliver on the commitments we made to Canadians to get Canada's economy moving.

Bill C-13--Time Allocation MotionKeeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government House leader's arguments are absolutely, totally bogus.

There is no justification whatsoever for a majority government to use its majority to try to limit the ability of the opposition to hold the government accountable. An election cannot be used as a card to give the government full rights to bring in time allocation any time it wants. That is just not right.

I believe that Canadians as a whole would not support this new majority government's attitude of arrogance and its feeling that it has the right to prevent the exchange of accountability inside the House of Commons today.

We have this motion today because the government, and in particular the government House leader, have failed to negotiate in good faith to expedite the passage of bills.

The opposition has shown good will. Bills have passed. As just mentioned, a bill passed just prior to this motion. We have shown how quickly we can do things.

My question to the government House leader is this: does he not see the value of having good, solid negotiations with opposition House leaders and opposition members so that we can facilitate good, healthy, accountable debate inside the chamber before continually bringing in time allocation motion after time allocation motion? Does he not see the merit in negotiation?

Bill C-13--Time Allocation MotionKeeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, what this government values and what Canadians valued in the last election was a government that is prepared to take action to help the Canadian economy. That is what we are doing with this bill: taking action that is required at this challenging time in the global economy.

Let us consider some of the actions that my friends opposite have voted against and now wish to delay with further debate: a hiring credit for small business to ensure and support hiring and the creation of new jobs; tax support for clean energy generation; a tax credit for volunteer firefighters; a new family caregiver tax credit; enhancing the Wage Earner Protection Program Act; a tax credit for children's involvement in music and dance lessons to help local economies; the extension for a further two years of the accelerated capital cost allowance to allow manufacturers and businesses to invest in new equipment to make them more competitive, so that they can compete and create jobs against the rest of the world at a time when we really need to do that.

These are the measures that the other parties are saying should not be allowed to pass. These are the measures that they wish to delay and obstruct further. It was not good enough that they forced an election and tried to prevent these measures from being put in place; now they want to prevent them from being put in place at all this year, when we need them in place before the next taxation year and budget year take effect.

Bill C-13--Time Allocation MotionKeeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, what the House leader just said is absolute rubbish. We have never seen a government that has been this arrogant in using the sledgehammer of closure repeatedly over 33 days. It has now used it six times over 33 days. Even the Brian Mulroney government was not that arrogant. Even the Liberals at their worst did not invoke closure all the time.

Mr. Speaker, as you well know, the Conservatives promised during the election campaign to be moderate. There is one other thing they promised with this new bill that we have only been debating for a few hours at report stage: they promised that they would not include the Canadian Securities Regulation Regime Transition Office and would wait for the Supreme Court judgment. Over the last few hours, we have been exposing the lie. They went to the public promising something that they have not delivered, and that is the real reason for this closure. They are closing down now, for the sixth time in 33 days, a whole variety of legislation. They simply do not respect the parliamentary democracy that we live under.

I was attending Remembrance Day ceremonies, like so many other New Democrats. We are proud of the veterans who fought. Many of them died; many of them gave their lives, limbs and mental health, often to preserve parliamentary democracy, and now we are seeing the government rip it up. The government is showing no respect for Parliament, no respect for the chance to debate and no respect for the opposition's ability to bring forward the fact that it has broken its election commitments and promises.

Is that not the real reason the government is invoking closure yet again in this Parliament?

Bill C-13--Time Allocation MotionKeeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member had any respect for Parliament, he would understand that we have not once moved closure. We are talking about time allocation, whereby we allocate a certain amount of time for the debate of bills.

Bill C-13--Time Allocation MotionKeeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

An hon. member

It's a form of closure.