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House of Commons Hansard #61 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fair.

Topics

Ocean Choice InternationalOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, our hearts and prayers go out to the people who have been laid off and their families, particularly at this time of year.

Service Canada does have programs to work with the provinces and employers to help the people who have been laid off get access to all the benefits to which they are entitled as quickly as possible and to help them get trained so that they can pursue other opportunities to support their families in the future. We look forward to doing that.

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Veterans Ombudsman made the case that veterans should receive the same amount for funeral costs as serving Canadian Forces members. However, today we learned that the Conservatives will cut $4 million from the last post fund.

Page 30 of the Conservatives' 2008 campaign platform said that they would “increase funeral and burial assistance rates for veterans to bring the rates for veterans in line with those of active duty Canadian Forces and RCMP officers”.

Why promise to increase support for funeral costs and then today cut $4 million? Why betray veterans?

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Mississauga—Brampton South Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, funeral and burial assistance is provided to veterans regardless of their rank or decoration. In fact, it was the previous Liberal government that cut assistance for funeral and burial costs by half. Our government has provided an additional $3 billion over six years for veterans' benefits and services. We will continue to work with the loved ones and families to address their priorities and their concerns.

Royal Canadian Mounted PoliceOral Questions

December 6th, 2011 / 2:50 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, when a female RCMP officer came forward with serious allegations of sexual harassment, it took two years for the force to even acknowledge the complaint. Every day we are hearing more and more alarming stories of harassment, yet we see little or no action in response. This is yet another example of problems in the RCMP under the Conservative government's watch.

On this day, will the minister commit to a full-scale investigation of harassment inside the RCMP?

Royal Canadian Mounted PoliceOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, actually, yes I will. In fact, I have been saying that for the past two weeks.

I am extremely concerned about these troubling reports. That is why, in consultation with the new commissioner, Commissioner Paulson, I have asked the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to investigate allegations of systemic failures to deal appropriately with sexual harassment in the RCMP.

It is imperative that all of us recognize that members of the RCMP be free to face the daily and expected challenges of a day's work without harassment.

Royal Canadian Mounted PoliceOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the RCMP is abandoning its own officers. How can the police force protect Canadians if it cannot protect its own staff? Substantive change is needed at the RCMP. Whether it is the issue of how sexual harassment complaints are handled or of internal supervision by civilians, the system is completely broken. The RCMP is broken and its mechanisms are hurting the men and women who proudly serve Canadians.

When will the government do something to correct this extremely embarrassing situation?

Royal Canadian Mounted PoliceOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I for one am very proud of the men and women in the RCMP. That kind of generalized statement does nothing to assist the hard-working men and women in the RCMP.

We have taken a number of steps, both in the new contract that we signed with the province and also with the new commissioner to ensure that there is a complete investigation of what may be systemic failure to deal appropriately with sexual harassment within the force.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, our government is deeply concerned at the ongoing violence in Syria. Sanctions on the Syrian government by the Arab League are expected to result in the suspension of many commercial flights later this month. Foreign Affairs consular services has recently updated the travel advisory for Syria.

Would the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs responsible for consular services please update the House on this travel advisory for Canadians?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Calgary Nose Hill Alberta

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy ConservativeMinister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs)

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for her great work in protecting the safety of citizens, particularly women and girls.

Our government stands with the Syrian people in their quest for greater freedom and democracy, but the situation there remains very dangerous. The travel advisory was recently updated to urge Canadians in Syria that they should leave now while there are still commercial means available. Canadians who remain in the country need to know that our embassy's ability to provide consular assistance will be extremely limited. Those looking for more information should consult travel.gc.ca.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government's answers with respect to the use of the plane by the Minister of National Defence keep changing. The September answers were that he was on a previously planned search and rescue operation. In the answers that we have heard from the minister and the Prime Minister today, and in the answers yesterday, the words “search and rescue operation” appear nowhere.

My question for the Prime Minister is simply this. Was the Minister of National Defence, or was he not, on a search and rescue operation on his trip in Newfoundland, yes or no? What kind of a trip was he on?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I have answered this question a number of times. I left time off to go back to work.

Canadian Food Inspection AgencyOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, recently released video of a horse-slaughter facility in Saint-André-Avellin, Quebec offers a shocking insight into Canada's failing animal welfare system. The disturbing footage shows that at least 40% of the horses in the stun box were not rendered immediately unconscious after using 11 bolt pistol shots to stun one animal.

Horses are not raised for human consumption and are routinely administered drugs banned in the food supply. Phenylbutazone can cause aplastic anemia in children.

When will the minister put a stop to this violent industry and start to address the serious health concerns?

Canadian Food Inspection AgencyOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, CFIA is reviewing this video. CFIA inspectors are present daily to verify that animal welfare requirements are met, but our government has taken steps to give the CFIA more tools to impose tougher fines and to improve animal welfare. For example, we have more than doubled the fines from the $4,000 limit to $10,000 for infractions and we have extended the amount of time CFIA can consider multiple offences from three years to five years.

I will finish with a quote from Connie Mallory, the Ontario SPCA chief inspector, who states, “The steps the government have made today are encouraging action for Animal Welfare”.

Status of WomenOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, today women and men from Canada will be gathering to commemorate the tragic events that took the lives of 14 young women in 1989. Equally as tragic, many women and girls continue to suffer violence today.

Could the Minister for Status of Women provide comment on this important issue?

Status of WomenOral Questions

3 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose ConservativeMinister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, it was a very tragic event, but we must also use it as a way to continue to take action. At Status of Women Canada, we have doubled our funding for women's programming and now 60% of our funding goes to projects to end violence against women. We also know that one woman in six has experienced rape on university or college campuses. Therefore, last week we launched a new program to fund projects to end violence against women on university and college campuses. Importantly, we are asking students for their input.

We will continue to act to end violence against women.

Women Living in PovertyOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, poverty prevents entire families from achieving their full potential and directly increases instances of violence against women. Today, 1.6 million women live in poverty in Canada. When the government refuses to tackle pay equity, refuses to create a national affordable housing strategy and withdraws funding for a national child care program, it puts women in danger.

Why is the government not doing anything to help women get out of poverty?

Women Living in PovertyOral Questions

3 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, our government has done a great deal to help women get out of poverty. For example, we introduced the working income tax benefit to do just that. When women work, they can keep more money. We also introduced special benefits for self-employed workers, the majority of whom are women. We also supported job creation through our economic action plan, and it is working.

École PolytechniqueOral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, Quebec remembers. It remembers a massacre perpetrated with a firearm at École Polytechnique. It remembers the 14 young women who died and those who miraculously survived. Unfortunately, this insensitive and stubborn government is seeking to kill gun control by abolishing a firearms registry that saves lives. This government will be morally responsible for the consequences of that decision.

Since this government does not care about the victims and is truly obsessed with abolishing the long gun registry, will it transfer to Quebec the data it has already paid for?

École PolytechniqueOral Questions

3 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, it is true that this government and this country remember. We remember the terrible tragedy that occurred on December 6, 22 years ago already. We want to ensure that the violent and tragic events that occurred 22 years ago never occur again.

We may never fully understand what happened that day, but together in this House we can ensure that it never happens again. We are working on it.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of Mr. Thomas Rachel, German Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Education and Research.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Disturbance in Gallery and Decorum in the House—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on two points of order raised concerning disturbances in the chamber.

The first is the point of order raised on November 24, 2011, by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the government House leader regarding the disturbance in the gallery on November 23, 2011. Second, there is the point of order raised by the hon. member for Toronto Centre regarding a disturbance on the floor during the taking of a vote on November 28, 2011, and the ensuing gallery disturbance.

I would like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader and the member for Toronto Centre for raising these matters. I would also like to thank the Right Hon. Prime Minister, the hon. Minister of State and Chief Government Whip, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, the Chief Opposition Whip and the members for Malpeque, Churchill and Acadie—Bathurst for their contributions.

The events that have given rise to the first of these points of order are the following. On November 23, following the recorded division on the motion to allocate time at the report and third reading stages of Bill C-18, Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, a disturbance occurred in the gallery when a protestor held up a sign and shouted loudly. Proceedings in the chamber were interrupted while the individual concerned was removed by security personnel and, while this was happening, certain members of the opposition were cheering and encouraging the protestor.

The following day, the parliamentary secretary rose to say that the protester had been sponsored by the hon. member for Churchill and went on to allege that the member for Churchill, along with her colleagues, had known that the protest was going to take place. He argued that this foreknowledge was apparent since several members had cameras ready, and were cheering and encouraging the protester. He stated that these actions by opposition members were an affront to the dignity of the House and diminished respect for our parliamentary institutions.

In response, the chief opposition whip acknowledged that the member for Churchill had provided at least eight people with passes to the gallery but stated categorically that the member for Churchill had no advance warning of the protest, was in no way responsible for it and, on the contrary, she regretted that it had occurred. The member for Churchill herself later confirmed this account when she intervened on the matter on November 28, at page 3684 of Debates.

On November 5, 2009, at pages 6690 and 6691 of Debates, Speaker Milliken had occasion to rule on a strikingly similar incident and, in doing so, referenced two other such incidents. In all three of those cases, it was alleged that a certain member had prior knowledge of, and was therefore complicit in, a disturbance in the galleries. Then, as now, the accused members denied involvement and Speaker Milliken accepted those explanations. Remembering the time-honoured tradition in this place that members are taken at their word and so in keeping with the precedents just cited, the Chair is prepared to consider this particular aspect of the matter to be closed. As for the actions of certain members while the November 23 incident occurred, the Chair will have more to say later in this ruling.

The second point of order I want to address arises out of events that occurred November 28, when the House was voting on third reading of Bill C-18, Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act. On that occasion, while their caucus voted, members on the government side applauded loudly in a sustained manner. When the result was announced, a large number of gallery spectators applauded as they rose to file out of the gallery. This time, it was members on the government side encouraging and cheering the disturbance.

Let me be clear that the public is welcome to view our proceedings from the galleries—indeed, such visits are, I believe, encouraged and members’ offices facilitate such visits all the time. However, it is a fundamental principle of public attendance in the House that the proceedings must be respected by those who come here to witness them first-hand. In the galleries, the public is here to observe. There is ample opportunity and appropriate public venues for demonstrations but the chamber of the House of Commons and its galleries do not constitute such a venue.

When members assist people who wish to attend the House by providing them with gallery passes, it is simply not acceptable for those people to take advantage of their access to disrupt a proceeding of the House. So, be it the actions of the single protestor on November 23 or the groups of applauding observers on November 28, the Chair has no hesitation in stating that these behaviours are not acceptable.

But our concerns cannot end there. The actions of members to encourage the behaviour of those who ought to have been simple spectators were as troubling to the Chair as were the disturbances themselves. The House of Commons chamber enjoys a reputation as a forum where matters of national significance are debated and strongly held views are expressed. Sometimes, as in the case of proceedings on the Wheat Board bill, emotions will run high. The Chair understands that. But this does not obviate the responsibility of all members to act in a manner that is befitting their role and worthy of this institution, setting an example of appropriate behaviour for others.

Rising to address the events of November 28, the member for Toronto Centre asked the Chair to define which types of demonstrations are permitted. It is unfortunate that such a question needs to be asked, but let me be clear with hon. members on all sides of the House, and with those who follow our proceedings. Demonstrations are not part of the accepted standard of decorum in this chamber, not in the galleries by visitors to the House, and not on the floor by members of the House. Even brief applause, which has been tolerated at times when a particular member rising to vote is being acknowledged for his or her contribution to an initiative, is never encouraged. In fact, Standing Order 16(1) states:

When the Speaker is putting a question, no Member shall enter, walk out of or across the House, or make any noise or disturbance.

I repeat “or make any noise or disturbance”. This role has traditionally applied until the results of the vote are announced. Clearly, sustained applause during a vote is out of order and should not happen again.

While we are on the subject, let me add that lately during votes we have witnessed a variety of carryings-on, including mischief-making by whistling, changing places to confuse the vote callers and other disruptive behaviours that are not in order. Too frequently lately, lack of decorum is evident during question period, for example, when members asking or answering questions are being drowned out by heckling, applause, or to use a colloquialism, hooting and hollering of one form or another.

Left unchecked, a deterioration in order and decorum risks impeding the work of the House and doing a disservice to members and to the voters who sent them here. All members must take great care in what they do and say here—they are personally accountable for their actions and for their words—so that they do not risk transgressing the accepted rules that exist to protect the dignity of this House and its members.

As your Speaker, I have been entrusted with preserving order and decorum, but I can only succeed with the serious and sustained co-operation of all members. I count on each individual member on all sides of the House for that co-operation.

I thank all hon. members for their attention to this matter.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-20, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act and the Canada Elections Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to once again rise to speak to Bill C-20 the fair representation act. I spoke in support of this bill about a month ago. I will continue to give it my strong support today.

As mentioned in my previous remarks on this bill, my riding is the largest riding in Canada, according to the last census. I am quite confident that the new population figures will confirm that my riding continues to be one of the largest in this country.

I am certainly proud to represent the fine people of Brampton West, and there are many of them. It is striking to see the differences in population between my riding and some others in this country. For instance, the population difference between my riding and the average national riding is large enough to warrant another riding.

The problem that we all face is not strictly about numbers but about principles. Representing as many people as I do is not the problem. The problem is that those people's votes do not carry the same weight as the votes of other Canadians. My constituents are not alone in this.

In fact, it is an odd twist of fate that over 60% of Canada's population now finds itself increasingly under-represented. The votes of over 60% of Canadians are worth increasingly less than the other 40%. My point is not to pit Canadian against Canadian. My point is that the principles behind the formula that make this odd twist of fate are out of step and must be rebalanced to provide fairness for all Canadians. That is something we should try to fix. This bill can fix this issue.

As I remarked last month, Bill C-20 is a fair and reasonable fix to voter under-representation in Canada. We committed in the last election to address this issue and bring forward legislation. This legislation would fulfill that commitment.

We made three distinct promises to Canadians during the last election with respect to fair representation. This bill would live up to every one of those promises. First, we committed to increasing the number of seats now and into the future to reflect the population growth in the faster growing provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta. Second, we committed to protect the number of seats for smaller provinces. Third, we committed to protect the proportional representation of Quebec. The vote of every Canadian, to the greatest extent possible, should have equal weight in the House. Without the passage of this bill, we will in fact continue to move away from that fairness.

The proposal that has been put forward by the NDP would also continue the current unfairness. Its proposal is to guarantee a fixed percentage of seats now and indefinitely into the future to one province, regardless of that province's population. I do not think that is fair, nor do Canadians think it is fair, to give one province special treatment that is not available to other provinces. We do not even think the proposal by the NDP is constitutional.

The fact is that the NDP proposal violates the principles of proportional representation in our Constitution. It would completely depart from the principle that a province's population should determine its seat count to the greatest extent possible and that, to the greatest extent possible, each province should be represented fairly and proportionally. Even more disappointing is that the NDP proposal would further penalize the provinces, such as my own, that are already seriously and increasingly under-represented. It would ensure that this under-representation continued into the future.

There is no getting around that. Fixing one province's seat percentage at a certain level that is above that province's percentage of Canadian population has the unavoidable result of causing the larger and faster growing provinces to be further under-represented. As I say, this is a disappointing position for the official opposition. It is a bad idea that, even if it were possible, sabotages the very principles that New Democrats purport in their bill. They argue theirs is fair, but it is clearly unfair to all of the other provinces.

The NDP plan would lead to far higher seat growth in the House. While we believe that there is an investment in democracy and in fair representation that needs to be made, that plan goes too far. It is unnecessary and it goes in the wrong direction.

Our bill, on the other hand, is principled. It has a national application for all provinces and it strikes a fair balance. The faster growing provinces need to be treated much more fairly. Failing to provide a fair level of representation to these rapidly growing provinces and regions is to deny, in particular, new Canadians and visible minorities their rightful voice in this chamber.

My riding is home to approximately 55% visible minorities. Their votes are significantly under-represented in this House. The NDP bill would exacerbate that situation. It is just not fair. With our bill we are moving towards much fairer representation for Canadians and for all growing provinces. As the minister has said, Canadians from all backgrounds in all parts of the country expect and deserve fair representation.

We have allowed the House to move too far away from representation by population and that cannot be allowed to continue. We are getting back to fairness with our bill. I encourage all of my colleagues to support this bill, regardless of what party or province they may come from.

The bill, the fair representation act, is a principled update to the formula allocating seats in the House of Commons. It is fair, it is reasonable and it is principled. It will achieve better representation for the faster growing provinces where better representation is so desperately needed. It delivers on our government's long-standing commitments. I am proud to stand in the House today and say that I fully support this legislation.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the member said that we should not pit one region against another, is he saying that is what they are doing in the rest of the world?

Why would Canada be the only parliament where fairness means forever adding seats and politicians? This is something that Canadians do not want. Why is it that, in the last 22 times that we changed Liberal seats from one province to another, which was a common practice in Canada, nobody said that it was not fair?

It is part of life. It is part of democracy. It is what we should do. Why not?