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House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was judges.

Topics

Multiple SclerosisPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition regarding chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI. Over 15,000 procedures have now been performed in over 60 countries. In May 2010, my colleague from St. Paul's and I brought the fight for clinical trials and the registry for CCSVI to Parliament. Almost a year later, in March 2011, the government announced a registry, although it would not start until July 2012. In June 2011, at last the government announced clinical trials.

I want to be very clear. All we have right now is announcements. What we need is action. Canadians with MS cannot afford to wait.

The petitioners call for the Minister of Health to consult experts actively engaged in diagnosis and treatment of CCSVI to undertake phase 3 clinical trials on an urgent basis with a large patient participation in multiple centres across Canada and to require follow-up care.

Training at Flight SchoolsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by 2,000 of my constituents. These signatures were collected by Longueuil's Comité anti-pollution des avions. The petition is calling for a ban on training flights over residential areas. The petition is just one indication of the importance of this issue, which affects Saint-Bruno as much as it does Saint-Hubert.

I intend to demonstrate goodwill and work with all those affected to find a solution for the well-being of my constituents.

International AidPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of presenting this petition. It is the first one of its kind that I have presented. It is a petition to the Government of Canada highlighting Canada becoming a global leader in aid effectiveness.

In 2009, $4.73 billion went into aid, but some of my constituents want the Government of Canada to be more proactive on transparency, creativity and accountability, doing things such as calling on the G8 to standardize tracking and reporting major international commitments. They also call for an innovation fund worth $200 million per year and new and riskier approaches to development so that there would be proactive element to this, as well as being very transparent. Certainly CIDA projects have been completely transparent in the last few years.

I want to congratulate the petitioners in the towns of Grand Falls—Windsor, Twillingate and Summerford for sending me this petition.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:10 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, the following question will be answered today: No. 143.

Question No. 143Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

With regard to the Service Canada Employment Insurance (EI) modernization plan: (a) what are the itemized costs incurred for operating the EI Processing Unit in Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador (NL); (b) what are the itemized costs incurred for operating the EI Processing Unit in St. John’s, NL; (c) what are the itemized costs for transferring the EI Processing Unit from Gander to St. John’s including, but not limited to, severance pay, relocation allowances, building costs for the new facility (Pippy Place); (d) what are the itemized costs for transferring the EI Processing Unit from Grand Falls-Windsor to St. John’s; (e) how many employees are working in each EI Processing Unit in NL, including the units in (i) Gander, (ii) Grand Falls-Windsor, (iii) St. John’s; (f) what are the itemized cost savings realized by consolidating all NL EI Processing sites in St. John’s; (g) what criteria were used in deciding that St. John’s is the most appropriate and cost-effective location for an EI Processing Centre in NL, as opposed to Gander; and (h) what is the estimated time frame for the closing of the EI Processing Units in Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor?

Question No. 143Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), the costs are as follows: salary, $1,607,417; non-salary, $207,352.

With regard to (b), the estimated expenditures for the EI processing unit in St. John’s are as follows: salary, $3,046,616; non-salary, $636,604.

With regard to (c), itemized costs related to the consolidation of EI processing sites are not yet available. Service Canada is working with regions to determine relocation, accommodation and other associated costs. The overall transition, including the allocation of resources, will be business-driven, aligned with Service Canada’s automation agenda.

With regard to (d), please refer to the response provided above for (c).

With regard to (e), as of September 20, 2011, Gander had 32 employees; Grand Falls-Windsor is not a designated EI processing site; St. John’s had 58 employees; Corner Brook had 12 employees; and Happy Valley-Goose Bay had 9 employees.

With regard to (f), Service Canada has made considerable progress in modernizing how EI is processed, resulting in significant savings.

Processing costs have been reduced as a result of our automation agenda by almost 30% since 2003. Current EI modernization plans will yield over 15% in further cost savings over the next three years.

Specific itemized cost savings realized by consolidating all NL EI processing sites to St. John’s are not yet available. These savings will be confirmed as site-specific decisions related to workforce, accommodation and timing have been determined.

With regard to (g), each of the 22 sites was chosen following a careful review in which both national and regional perspectives were taken into consideration. This is a national program, and many factors were considered, such as, among others, existing labour force, skill availability, bilingual capability, and real estate.

With regard to (h), no dates have been set to formally close the existing EI processing centres. The transition from 120 to 22 sites will happen gradually over the next three years.

The overall transition will be business-driven, aligned with Service Canada’s automation agenda.

A workforce management strategy is in effect to assist with planned personnel changes, which will include anticipated attrition, retirement, reassignments and training.

Opportunities for transitioning into other business lines will also be available for some EI employees currently working in sites with other lines of business.

This will mean that positions in the consolidated centres will be filled as vacancies are created in the sites that will not be EI processing centres.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

November 4th, 2011 / 12:10 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. 140, 141 and 144 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 140Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

With respect to development of the oil sands, its impacts on the environment and surrounding communities, and the economic effects of these impacts: (a) what, if any, steps has the government taken to establish air emission limits or air quality standards to achieve the World Health Organization’s Air Quality Guidelines to protect air quality and human health; (b) what, if any, steps has the government’s sector-by-sector approach taken to regulate carbon emissions in the oil sands to ensure the oil sands industry makes appropriate reductions in its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to contribute to Canada’s GHG emission reduction goal of 17% below the 2005 level; (c) what, if any, studies has the government undertaken to examine the effect of the oil sands expansion on (i) GHG emissions, (ii) Canada’s ability to meet its GHG emission reduction goals, (iii) Canada’s contribution to the goal of staying below a 2°C increase in global average surface temperature, relative to the pre-industrial level, as articulated at the G8 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy and at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations through the Copenhagen Accord in December 2009 and the Cancun Agreements in December 2010, (iv) the full suite of sustainability criteria, including environmental, economic and social sustainability, and (v) what were the results of any studies identified in (c)(i), (c)(ii), (c)(iii), and (c)(iv); (d) what, if any, studies has the government undertaken to examine (i) the scope of oil sands expansion if the oil sands sector is not required to deliver its proportional share of GHG reductions, (ii) the impacts such a decision would have on other sectors’ allowable GHG emissions, (iii) whether other sectors of the Canadian economy would have to do more than their proportional share to reduce emissions, (iv) what were the results of any studies identified in (d)(i), (d)(ii), and (d)(iii); (e) what, if any, studies has the government undertaken to assess safety, risks and effectiveness of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and what were the results of any identified study; (f) what, if any, studies, has the government undertaken to assess safety, risks and effectiveness of enhanced oil recovery and what were the results of any identified study; (g) what, if any, studies has the government undertaken to examine the possible impact of CCS technology on GHG emissions in the oil sands, (i) what are the government’s projections for the level of reductions that is feasible with CCS, (ii) what are the government’s projections for how CCS technology would impact oil sands emissions by 2020 and by 2050, (iii) does the government project that an oil sands industry equipped with CCS technology would be able to meet the specific reductions targets established by the government for 2020 and 2050; (h) how does the government plan to address emissions that cannot be reduced by CCS, such as (i) emissions from smaller in situ projects, (ii) mine fleet emissions, (iii) tailings fugitives; (i) what, if any, steps has the government taken to set an economy-wide price on carbon, rather than a sector-by-sector regulatory approach, as a means to reducing GHG emissions from the oil sands; (j) what, if any, steps has the government taken to adopt regulations to require all new oil sands facilities that began operations in 2010 or later to implement full-scale CCS by 2015, and will projects for which CCS is not an option still be approved by the government, whenever such approval is required for the project to proceed; (k) what, if any, steps has the government taken to quantify and eliminate air and water pollution discharge from tailings ponds by 2020 through Section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act (i) by identifying substances associated with tailings ponds as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), and (ii) what would be the projected impacts on the environment, human health, industry, and migratory birds of such legislative measures; (l) what, if any steps has the government taken to implement its phase ll monitoring plan (i) when will data collection of begin, (ii) when will data be available for inclusion in decision-making processes, (iii) will monitoring programs be reformed in advance of any new oil sands expansion; (m) what steps is the government taking to ensure sufficient capacity exists to (i) implement the Northwest Territories Water Strategy, (ii) help reform water monitoring in the Mackenzie River Basin; (n) what, if any, steps has the government taken to develop a federal emergency response plan to strengthen the Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement in case of a failure of a tailings lake dyke; (o) are Mackenzie River Basin residents in particular and Canadians in general financially protected from a major industrial accident such as the failure of a tailings dyke and, (i) if so, why are both groups protected, (ii) if not, why, and does the government plan to implement measures to ensure these groups are protected; (p) what, if any, studies has the government undertaken to identify critical habitats for woodland caribou in north-eastern Alberta, and what were the conclusions of each study, including the results of consultations with First Nations on conservation of woodland caribou; (q) what, if any, studies has the government undertaken to determine the level of oil sands development that is consistent with caribou conservation in Alberta; and (r) does the government plan (i) to conduct a comprehensive health study of the impacts of oil sands development on surrounding communities, (ii) to identify and implement measures to reduce any health impacts discovered in such a study?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 141Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

With respect to climate change and international and national security: (a) what does the government project are the potential impacts on currently stable regions of the world of such climate change-related phenomena as, but not limited to, (i) rises in sea level, (ii) increases in extreme weather events, (iii) increases in the spread of infectious disease, (iv) increases in environmental refugees; (b) what does the government project will be (i) the consequences of the impacts identified in (a)(ii), (a)(iii), and (a)(iv) on domestic military missions, (ii) the consequences of (a)(i), (a)(ii), (a)(iii), (a)(iv) and (b)(i) in terms of the military’s capacity to respond and the availability of troops for missions not related to conflicts induced by climate change-related phenomena; (c) what does the government project will be the potential impacts on already-weakened states of such climate change-related phenomena as, but not limited to, (i) sea level rise, (ii) extreme weather events, (iii) the spread of infectious diseases; (d) what does the government project will be the extent of the effects climate impacts could have on already-weakened states, including, but not limited to, (i) expanded ungoverned spaces, (ii) further weakened and failed states, (iii) increased conflicts, (iv) increased migrations; (e) what does the government project will be the impact of the effects identified in (d) on Canada’s national security; (f) which nations does the government project will be most affected by climate change, (i) what is the government’s assessment of each such country’s capacity to adapt or cope, (ii) what, if any, action is Canada taking to strengthen the capacity of weak governments to better cope with societal needs projected to arise as a result of climate change-related impacts, (iii) what is the government’s assessment of possible security risks if Canada does contribute to international efforts related to (f)(i) and (f)(ii); (g) has DND or the Canadian military conducted any studies of how climate change can have a multiplier effect on instability in unstable regions of the world and, if so, what were these studies and their results; (h) what are the studies, along with their dates and results, undertaken by the government concerning the possible national security risks of climate change, and what specific observations were included in these studies concerning the impacts the research might have for government efforts pertaining to, but not limited to, (i) the encouragement of regional cooperation, (ii) the improvement of international confidence, (iii) the improvement of public relations; (i) what, if any, departments have participated in an inter-departmental process to develop a policy to reduce national security risks resulting from climate change and (i) if departments have participated in such a process, have all agencies involved with climate science, treaty negotiations, economic policy, and national security been involved in the process, and what were the results, (ii) if departments have not participated in such a process, why not; (j) what, if any, strategies has the government developed, including the dates of each completed strategy, concerning the integration of the national security consequences of climate change into national security and national defence strategies, and if the government has developed such strategies, (i) do the strategies examine the capabilities of the Canadian military to respond to the consequences of climate change, (ii) do the strategies include guidance to military planners to assess climate change risks on future missions, (iii) do the strategies provide guidance for updating defence plans based on new assessments; (k) for each strategy identified in (j), what are (i) the details of any testing of the strategy that has been conducted, (ii) the details of the implementation of the strategy, including, but not limited to, working with allies and partners to incorporate climate mitigation strategies, capacity building, and relevant research and development; (l) what are the government’s plans as concerns its engagement in global partnerships intended to help less developed nations build the capacity and resiliency to better manage climate impacts; and (m) what, if any, conferences has DND undertaken with respect to climate change and national security, if no such conferences have been undertaken, why not, and, if any such conferences have been undertaken, (i) who participated, (ii) what topics were covered, (iii) what findings were made, (iv) what recommendations were made, (v) what follow-up has occurred?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 144Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

With regard to Service Canada programs and services within the riding of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine: (a) what is the current baseline for service; (b) what value-for-money studies, reviews or summaries have been undertaken relating to Service Canada programs; (c) what are the recommended changes in Service Canada programs in Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine; (d) what is the level of spending on Service Canada operations in the riding for this year and 2010–2011; (e) what is the planned level of spending on Service Canada operations in the riding for 2012–2013 and 2013–2014; (f) what are the numbers for Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) for this year and 2010–2011 in the riding; (g) what are the planned numbers of FTEs for 2012–2013 and 2013–2014 in the riding; (h) how many clients did Service Canada serve in the riding this year and 2010–2011; (i) what is the number of inquiries per FTE for this year and 2010–2011; and (j) what is the demographic make-up of the clients served in the riding this year and in 2010–2011?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 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

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Bill C-317—Income Tax Act—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh concerning ways and means proceedings on Bill C-317, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (labour organizations) standing in the name of the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh for having raised this matter, as well as the bill's sponsor, the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, for their interventions and the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga for his comments.

The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh pointed out in his remarks that the purpose of Bill C-317 is to require that labour organizations provide specific financial information to the minister for public disclosure. The member also pointed out that failure of a labour organization to comply with this new requirement could result in a labour organization losing its tax exempt status, noting, as well, the subsequent impact this would have on dues-paying members of that organization.

He characterized the effect of Bill C-317 in the Debates, on October 18, 2011, page 2171, as follows:

—the income tax exemptions that apply to labour organizations and the reduction of taxable income as a result of writing off the dues paid by their members would easily qualify as alleviations of taxation. Further, the provisions of Bill C-317 would repeal those alleviations by terminating the labour organization's Income Tax Act exempt status.

The member for Windsor—Tecumseh explained that any labour organization not in compliance with the financial disclosure requirements outlined in the bill would no longer enjoy the tax exempt status as provided for in section 149(1)(k) of the Income tax Act. He argued that this would have the effect of taxing a person, or in this case an organization, that was not already a taxpayer. He concluded therefore that Bill C-317 should have been preceded by the adoption of a ways and means motion.

In his submission, the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale in the Debates, on October 25, 2011, page 2438, contended that the purpose of Bill C-317 was limited simply to providing a mechanism for the public disclosure of union finances and only augmented the existing types of information that the Canada Revenue Agency was already empowered by its mandate to compel organizations or taxpayers to provide.

He also referred to a ruling from the 40th Parliament on Bill C-470, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (revocation of registration). He found a parallel between Bill C-317 and Bill C-470. Where it had been argued that charitable donations were discretionary so that Bill C-470 did not affect any existing alleviation of tax, the hon. member argued that in the case of Bill C-317 payers of union dues could exercise their discretion by opting to join a union or labour organization that adhered to the financial disclosure provisions of Bill C-317 and, thus, maintain the tax exempt status of their dues.

Before analyzing the arguments presented, it is important to take into consideration the context of this discussion as it is worth noting that the financial procedures of the House are based on long-established and strictly observed rules of procedure, procedures that are based on the concept of the financial initiative of the Crown. This concept is clearly presented in Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice, 23rd edition, at page 848:

—it is for the Commons, acting on the sole initiative of Ministers, first to authorize the relevant expenditure (or 'Supply') and, second, to provide through taxes and other sources of public revenue the 'Ways and Means' deemed necessary to meet the Supply so granted.

The role of the Speaker in the present situation is to determine if Bill C-317 is a legislative initiative which imposes a tax or other charge on the taxpayer and therefore would have required the prior adoption of a ways and means motion by the House.

In order to respond to that question, it may be useful to examine more closely the different precedents cited by the members who intervened on the present case.

During his initial point of order, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh referred the Chair to the ruling of November 28, 2007, on Bill C-418, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deductibility of remuneration). In that ruling, at pages 1463 and 1464 of the Debates, the Chair made reference to Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice, 23rd edition at page 896, where it explains, “the repeal or reduction of existing alleviations of taxation” must be preceded by a ways and means motion.

The Chair concluded that Bill C-418 removed an existing tax exemption which then resulted in an increase in the tax payable by certain corporations. In the Chair's view, this constituted a reduction of an alleviation of taxation and therefore required that it be preceded by a ways and means motion. I would ask hon. members to retain the phrase, “alleviation of taxation”, as I will return to that concept shortly.

First, let me address the differing interpretations of how an individual union member’s rights are affected by Bill C-317. The member for Windsor—Tecumseh argued that union members do not have the automatic individual right to stop paying dues to an organization that no longer enjoys a tax exempt status. The member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale countered that, in his estimation, union members would have the ability to select a labour organization that complies with the provisions of C-317 to ensure that they maintain their tax exemption. While this is more a question of labour law than procedure, the Chair is aware that members of a labour organization cannot easily change which union they belong to nor can they simply withhold paying their union dues except in extremely limited situations provided for in the law. As pointed out by the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, this is in stark contrast to donors to a charity who may choose whether they wish to contribute, the organization they wish to contribute to and the timing of any such contribution.

The Chair must agree with the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh that the non-compliance of the labour organization would also remove a current income tax deduction for the dues-paying members of the union. For the Chair, there can be no doubt that this also can be characterized as the removal of an existing alleviation. For this reason alone, Bill C-317 would need to be preceded by a ways and means motion.

Let us return to the larger context. The Chair appreciates the point made by the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale that the Canada Revenue Agency already enjoys the authority to compel the financial disclosure of certain financial information. However, it is not the power of the CRA to require the disclosure of certain information that is at issue.

It is true, as the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale claims, that Bill C-317 changes the reporting requirements for labour organizations. However, contrary to what the member asserted, that is not all it does. In stating that non-compliance with these new requirements makes a labour organization ineligible for tax deductions available to labour organizations, Bill C-317 potentially removes an alleviation of taxation and in so doing, the bill potentially creates a new statutory authority that removes what is currently an unqualified exemption.

Perhaps the distinction can be better understood by looking again at the example offered by Bill C-470 in the third session of the 40th Parliament. That bill changed the definition of a class of taxpayers, specifically registered charities, but the alleviation of tax for registered charities as a class of taxpayer remained unchanged. By contrast, Bill C-317 does not change the definition of a labour organization. It demands disclosure of certain types of information, failing which disclosure, the bill provides that the tax alleviation in place for labour organizations will no longer apply to non-complying labour organizations.

This is a subtle difference, but it is a crucial distinction for the Chair.

The ruling on Bill C-470 determined that the bill altered the conditions and requirements for an organization to be classified by the minister as a registered charity but did not alter the class of taxpayer. In more basic terms, Bill C-470 proposed to alter the definition of what constituted a registered charity but did not change the tax exemptions for registered charities. In the ruling on C-470, delivered on March 15, 2010, and found on pages 419 and 420 of the Debates, I stated:

It seems to me that the bill instead seeks to provide a new criterion that would allow the minister to determine into which existing class of taxpayer an organization falls. The existing tax regimes and the existing tax rates are not affected.

However, unlike Bill C-470, Bill C-317 does not attempt to alter the conditions or requirements for an organization to be classified as a labour organization.

According to the provisions of Bill C-317, under the Income Tax Act, a labour organization would remain a labour organization, whether it complied with the proposed disclosure requirements or not. If enacted, Bill C-317 would thus create a situation whereby labour organizations can be differentiated into two distinct categories, those that comply with the financial reporting mechanism and those that do not.

In the Chair's opinion, this new category of labour organization would constitute a class of taxpayer that does not currently exist. Labour organizations in the newly created class, that is those that do not meet the financial reporting requirements outlined in the bill, would see the removal of their current tax-exempt status. Put simply, Bill C-470 did not alter the tax-exempt status of registered charities, whereas, in contrast, Bill C-317 proposes to alter the current tax-exempt status of labour organizations.

As a result of this determination, I find that Bill C-317, by distinguishing between certain labour organizations, creates a new class of taxpayer and that this new class of taxpayer would then be subject to a removal of an alleviation of taxation.

For the reasons stated, I must, therefore, rule that Bill C-317 should have been preceded by a ways and means motion. Consequently, I also rule that all proceedings on the bill to date, namely introduction and first reading, have not respected the provisions of our Standing Orders and are, therefore, null and void. Accordingly, the Chair directs that the order for second reading of the bill be discharged and the bill be withdrawn from the order paper.

However, I am reluctant to deny the member what is likely his only opportunity in this Parliament to have an item on the order of precedence.

As members are well aware, Standing Order 94(1) provides the Speaker with the authority to “make all arrangements necessary to ensure the orderly conduct of Private Members' Business”.

In light of the unique nature of this particular situation, the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale will be permitted to substitute another item onto the order of precedence. The substitution shall be done pursuant to the spirit of Standing Order 92.1, which allows a member 20 sitting days to substitute another item of private members' business for the item that has been discharged and withdrawn. Should the member choose not to replace the item within the next 20 sitting days, his name will then be dropped from the order paper.

I thank the House for its attention.

Tabling of Document by President of the Treasury BoardPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, something happened in the House at the end of question period, which is really serious with regard to the state of our democracy. A public servant just quit over what he felt was principle when the President of the Treasury Board asked to have tabled in the House the fact that he had given a donation to a political party. It happened to be our party, but it could have been any party.

That goes against everything that we stand for in this democracy. It is fear and intimidation. It can put the chill of fear into public servants and individuals in Canada donating to a political party that a minister will use that against them. By implication, it can be damaging to a person's reputation. In my view, it goes against freedom of choice, freedom of speech and freedom of political affiliation. The government has access to information on Canadians all over the place, whether it is their tax matters, health matters or whatever it may be. This is unbecoming of a minister to do. I do not have a clue what rule to apply here, but I think what that minister has done is wrong.

We know that during the election the Conservatives used Facebook and Twitter to prevent people from coming to certain meetings. This is the kind of stuff that we would expect to see in Russia, where people are spying on others and where fear and intimidation are used to prevent people from doing certain things.

I think what the President of the Treasury Board did in the House, by naming a person's individual political affiliation to try to make a point and destroy his reputation, because he resigned on principle, is absolutely and utterly wrong in this country called Canada.

Tabling of Document by President of the Treasury BoardPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor ConservativeMinister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, the information that was provided is public information. One can go to a website and find information on all donations. One can find that I actually donated to the Conservative Party. I will publicly admit this.

We are not talking about any confidential government information. It is publicly available information. I see no problem or offence committed in giving out publicly available information.

Tabling of Document by President of the Treasury BoardPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. What happened after question period is shameful, especially since it came from the President of the Treasury Board. Frankly, that individual is in no position to lecture anyone, considering everything that is going on and the money he used to line the pockets of his friends in his riding during the G20 and G8 summits. What is even more shameful is that they are attacking a public servant, someone who worked for the well-being of the community for 30 years.

Fortunately, nothing in our democracy prohibits someone from donating any sum of money to a political party, in accordance with the Canada Elections Act, even if that person is a public servant or senior official. Ever since this government came to power, it has created a climate of fear. I began working as a member's assistant in 1993 and, until the Conservatives came to power, never, ever did any public servants tell me that they could not answer, that they did not know anything, that they might call me back and that it would be better to go through political channels rather than through the public service. This began precisely when the Conservatives came to power. This government suddenly created a climate of fear and began scaring public servants. It is trying to prevent them from doing their jobs. What this government is doing publicly today is unfortunately more of the same.

Tabling of Document by President of the Treasury BoardPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have already heard from the member for Winnipeg North just before we went into routine proceedings. If he has something new to add, I will hear him now very briefly.

Tabling of Document by President of the Treasury BoardPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government representative stood up and indicated that he, too, has contributed to the Conservative Party.

What he is really doing is trying to minimize the severity of what actually took place after question period. Although I do not know him personally, there is a 30-plus year career civil servant who has taken a stand on a very important issue that all Canadians are concerned about.

The government has sent out a message to the civil service. This is where it starts to get on to our privileges as members of Parliament. We rely, in part, on civil servants being able to provide information, whether it is in committee or elsewhere, freely. The government message here is that if they say or do or take any actions against the government, it will come down with a heavy arm.

In this case, it was meant to intimidate and discredit the actions of that particular career civil servant. I believe the government, at the very least, owes the civil servant a formal apology. In fact, I would suggest that it is an issue that you, Mr. Speaker, should take under advisement and come back to this House in terms of the ramifications of the point of order that was raised by the President of the Treasury Board.

I take it very seriously. The government is trying to silence—

Tabling of Document by President of the Treasury BoardPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I will just stop the hon. member there so that we do not get into a whole debate on a point of order.

I will hear the hon. Chief Government Whip and then I will take it under advisement and come back to the House if necessary.