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House of Commons Hansard #62 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was wineries.

Topics

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, our government has taken strong action and sanctions against the members of the former Ben Ali regime, and this matter is under review by our officials.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Conservative Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government has acted to ensure that the residents of Attawapiskat have access to safe and warm shelter for the coming months.

We delivered urgent funding to renovate five houses and are working with Emergency Management Ontario and other partners to deliver necessities to the residents, like compost toilets, wood stoves and building materials.

Could the minister please update the House on our efforts to assist the residents of Attawapiskat?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Vancouver Island North B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan ConservativeMinister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, our priority is and always has been the health and safety of the residents of Attawapiskat. Unlike the NDP, we are focusing on a plan, not on scoring political points.

Our action plan to assist this community is already under way, and permanent homes will be delivered as soon as possible. I have written to Chief Spence with immediate solutions that include transforming community buildings into comfortable living spaces so that people can use them as a temporary home.

We are committed to the delivery of safe shelter and necessities to the community. I encourage the chief and council to work with our government--

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Newton—North Delta

Air IndiaOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, it has been 26 years since the devastating Air India tragedy. The victims' families are still waiting for justice and compensation from the Conservative government, but yet another hurdle is in their way. They must now provide more proof that they were related to the victims.

Is that a joke? What more can they do to show they were related? The families and the community just want this nightmare to end. Why is the government determined to extend this drama and humiliation?

Air IndiaOral Questions

3 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that the tragic Air India incident is a reminder that Canada is not immune from terrorist acts.

In fact, our government responded very quickly to years of neglect in looking into the matter, and we are following the commissioner's recommendations. In respect to the ex gratia payments, we are taking appropriate steps to ensure that the recommendation is followed and to ensure that we administer taxpayers' money appropriately.

Kyoto ProtocolOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, one by one the reasons given by the Conservatives to discredit the Kyoto protocol are proving to be nothing but diversions to conceal their poor performance on climate change. Now that developing countries say that they are ready to meet binding targets, the Minister of the Environment, who said that they were a vital requirement, is refusing outright to make a commitment, stating that this ideological decision was made some time ago.

Why is the government once again trying to sabotage environmental negotiations, if not to protect the big oil companies and Canada's appalling track record, which is worse than that of Russia, India, China and Brazil?

Kyoto ProtocolOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what my colleague opposite is referring to when he says that we have an appalling record when the International Institute for Sustainable Development says, and I quote:

...Canada is moving in the right direction on GHG policy.

and

...Canada's federal government is finally establishing the policy architecture to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We are taking a leadership role. It is time that the opposition parties start acknowledging that and start being proud of the role that our country has in the international community with environmental stewardship.

Kyoto ProtocolOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

That concludes question period for today.

The Chair has notice of a few points of order.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 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, very briefly, during question period, the member for Beaches—East York referred to the absence in this place of one of the members of the government.

I know that the member for Beaches—East York is new to this place. He may not be aware of the rules governing our members, but I believe he has been here long enough to understand that one is not to make mention of the absence or presence of any members in this place.

All I am looking for is some assurance that this will not occur again in the future.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, my comments were not meant to refer to the literal presence or absence of the minister here today. Rather, they were meant in a figurative sense.

Member for LethbridgePoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we commemorated the terrible massacre of 14 young women who were killed for anti-feminist reasons at École Polytechnique in Montreal 22 years ago. In the meantime, a video was being broadcast on the Internet and on television of the inappropriate and disgraceful gestures made by the hon. member for Lethbridge during a vote in the House on eliminating the firearms registry. He was making gun-shooting gestures with his hands. Not only has he not apologized in the House—and I do not believe he has apologized outside the House either—but in an article I found today in La Presse, he said it was just a subtle, little gesture. He is making a mockery of this and even says that his Conservative colleagues facing him were not offended.

I am asking the hon. member for Lethbridge to do the right thing and apologize for the gestures he made during the vote on November 1. Obviously in a democracy we are entitled to vote for or against abolishing the firearms registry. Everyone in the House respects that right. However, this is not about democracy, but about contempt. That type of gesture shows contempt for the victims, the victims' families and the House. I know that decorum is important to you, Mr. Speaker. We are not talking about subtle, little gestures. If the hon. member for Lethbridge refuses to apologize—and I will close on this—then someone from the Conservative government side should stand up, condemn those gestures and say that the hon. Conservative members and the Conservative government were indeed offended by the gestures made by the hon. member for Lethbridge. He should stand up and apologize.

Member for LethbridgePoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Hillyer Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the video was released yesterday on the anniversary of the tragic events at the École Polytechnique, and that is what is tragic.

The vote occurred five weeks before and had absolutely nothing to do with these tragic events. The gesture was not made towards anyone; it was not even made towards the colleagues I faced in the Conservative Party. It has nothing to do with the victims of violence.

If ending the long gun registry was a victory for violence, then this would be an offensive gesture. It is not a victory for violence. The long gun registry was ineffective and targeted peaceful, law-abiding gun owners.

I am sorry not just that this has been misinterpreted but that it has been misrepresented as being associated with the tragic events at École Polytechnique 22 years ago. The vote was five weeks before the anniversary. I remain committed to improving the safety of all Canadians and ending violence towards women.

Member for LethbridgePoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was really hoping that the member for Lethbridge would rise at least to apologize for his gesture. It is sad. True, it happened some weeks ago; however, the act is behind us.

When I got home yesterday, I had many messages from people across Canada who were offended by the gesture. This matter really got under people's skin, and we know what it stands for. It was definitely a very regrettable and very disrespectful gesture.

Mr. Speaker, I refer to the ruling you handed down yesterday concerning decorum in the House. When people vote, they are supposed to exercise restraint. They express their opinions through their vote and through their “yeas” or “nays”, but no one should be making any gestures that could be perceived as offensive. I am sorry, but imitating the firing of a handgun was definitely an offensive gesture. It is completely understandable that many people would misinterpret the gesture, which, unfortunately, has been seen around the world.

I would have liked my colleague to have the decency at least to let us believe that perhaps he had misunderstood something and to apologize to anyone who was offended. And, yes, people were definitely offended. The gestures were completely inappropriate and had no place in this House during a vote.

Member for LethbridgePoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I might be able to suggest a solution to the problem.

Frankly, I was disappointed to hear what the hon. member for Lethbridge had to say. Every hon. member has been in a situation where he was not pleased with how people interpreted some event or something he did. However, it is clear that many people were shocked by the gestures made by the hon. member during the vote.

There is a simple solution to the problem. Mr. Speaker, you made a ruling yesterday, a ruling that all of us in the House accept. You clearly said that any demonstration made by hon. members during a vote is unacceptable.

The hon. member could simply acknowledge that he did not recognize the importance of the solemnity of the vote, that he regrets his actions and he fully accepts the Speaker's ruling. That is the choice that is before the hon. member. He cannot say that he has nothing to say when he clearly did things that go against the ruling made yesterday by the Speaker of the House. That is the solution I propose.

Member for LethbridgePoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor ConservativeMinister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, the member for Lethbridge has pointed out that the vote occurred weeks before yesterday when the video was shown. Somebody maliciously set the video up for yesterday. However, regardless, if people anywhere are offended by that action, I apologize.

Member for LethbridgePoints of OrderOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Hillyer Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday you made a ruling on decorum during votes. It is true that I am new in the House. I have only been to about 100 votes or so. I have seen many members make different gestures while they vote. That was before the ruling.

You have made the ruling, Mr. Speaker, that we should not applaud during votes and I will accept that ruling. I will not be making gestures of any nature during votes, from this point on. I respect that. I think that the offence occurred because someone took this video in an inappropriate way and connected this gesture to the victims of violence. That is deeply regrettable. I—

Member for LethbridgePoints of OrderOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Member for LethbridgePoints of OrderOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. We are going to let the member for Lethbridge finish his remarks.

Member for LethbridgePoints of OrderOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Hillyer Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, if I had intended to offend victims of violence or anyone else, that would not only demand an apology but it would demand far more than just that. No offence was intended. No one who looks at the video and the timing of the video would think for a second that I intended any offence toward victims of violence. The people who caused the offence are the people who connected the video on the wrong day, and that is terrible.

I am sorry that I did not follow the ruling that you, Mr. Speaker, have made since then. I will not make gestures anymore. I have nothing but sympathy for victims of violence. I continue to remain committed to ending violence toward women and all Canadians.

Member for LethbridgePoints of OrderOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

We can consider the matter closed. The member has indicated that he will respect the Speaker's ruling going forward. He certainly seems to have indicated regret that anybody may have taken offence.

I thank all hon. members in advance for respecting the ruling I gave yesterday on overall decorum and comportment not only during votes, but also during question period when members are both putting questions and trying to answer them.

The hon. member for Mount Royal is rising on the question of privilege he raised some time ago.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal ConstituentsPrivilegeOral Questions

December 7th, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise again in the matter of the question of privilege I first raised on November 16. Simply put, the submission from the member for New Brunswick Southwest on Monday evening misstated the facts at issue, however inadvertently, yet again, while ignoring the attending breach of privilege. Moreover, he did not make any reference to the principles and precedents which support my position and which should guide your ruling.

I want to organize my remarks and ensure that we are all following House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition from 2009 by the recognized authorities O'Brien and Bosc. The member stated:

In conducting voter identification, the Conservative Party used its traditional voter ID script, with no mention of a byelection.

Either every person who has called, emailed, mailed or faxed my office, or talked to me in person about these calls is lying, or the member is utterly mistaken as to their content while ignoring the evidence.

May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to a Huffington Post article, a copy of which was provided to the table clerks, along with samples of the emails and phone calls to my offices, wherein a constituent says:

I kept arguing with them. They kept insisting that there was a byelection and I'm politically aware and there isn't one.

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat. The constituent, and more importantly this constituent is representative of the calls received and the evidence you have received, said, “They kept insisting that there was a byelection...” “was” being the key word, not “maybe”, “could perhaps be”, “might be”. She said “was” and that she had to argue with the caller otherwise.

Any dispute as to the contents of these calls is quickly resolved by looking at the evidence my office has submitted to the table clerks. But, Mr. Speaker, I will remind you that you need not resolve the actual content of the calls prior to ruling. Indeed, as the Clerk of the House noted before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in 2002, reprinted on page 145 of O'Brien and Bosc:

The Speaker's role ought to be explained, and it is that the issue put before the Speaker is not a finding of fact, it is simply whether on first impression the issue that is before the House warrants priority consideration over all other matters, all other orders of the day that are before the House.

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, your role is finding whether there is a prima facie breach which O'Brien and Bosc reminds us means a breach, “on the first impression or on first glance”.

It is standard practice that you would take the matter under advisement as you have done, upon first being presented with it. However, I would assert that it is evident on its face, particularly as we begin a fifth round of interventions on this topic, that the matter is sufficiently serious and sufficiently prejudicial to warrant consideration by the whole House and subsequently at committee.

The member for New Brunswick Southwest asserts that my privileges have not been breached and that my parliamentary duties have not been sufficiently impeded. The member is ignoring that sowing confusion as to a member's identity is actionable on its face and alone a per se impediment.

While l believe that I made a clear and compelling case in this regard in my previous intervention, I would like to remind the House and that member, through you, Mr. Speaker, that there is another privilege avenue of which I have not yet spoken. Specifically, O'Brien and Bosc explained it:

In deliberating upon a question of privilege, the Chair will take into account the extent to which the matter complained of infringed upon any Member's ability to perform his or her parliamentary functions or appears to be a contempt against the dignity of Parliament.

Admittedly, I have not delved much into the discussion of “contempt against the dignity of Parliament” in my previous interventions because the interference with my parliamentary duties was compelling enough on its face. Accordingly on this point, may I briefly remind all hon. members of what O'Brien and Bosc note re prima facie privilege:

...some matters found to be prima facie include the damaging of a Member's reputation and the usurpation of the title of Member of Parliament...

It went on to describe the reputational damage cases which I cited in my first intervention and where the matter at hand accords with the established precedents. While I realize that the precedents in O'Brien and Bosc are somewhat more recent on this point, may I draw your attention to the 1987 remarks of Speaker Fraser:

The privileges of a member are violated by any action which might impede him or her in the fulfilment of his or her duties and functions. It is obvious that the unjust damaging of a reputation could constitute such an impediment.

While the government member assertions that “calls were within the bounds of typical political discourse”, I believe that once there is a false and misleading statement of fact made that there is or will be a byelection and that the member has resigned or is about to resign, this clearly crosses the line and is constitutive of reputational damage.

Again, Mr. Speaker, it is you who informs the House of vacancy in the representation, not any party and certainly not any unsolicited phone call.

I realize that determining contempt against the dignity of Parliament is a somewhat subjective test. On this point, I would direct you to articles in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, the National Post, an editorial in the Ottawa Citizen, columns in Le Soleil and other papers that all similarly conclude that these calls are “black ops”, “sleazy”, “odious”, “disgusting”, “Watergate-like”, “a new low in politics”, and much more, the whole bringing members and this institution into disrepute, let alone the clear reputational damage involved.

On this point, Queen's University professor, Ned Franks, a noted expert on parliamentary procedure, referred to the calls as “disgusting...a perversion of the system of representation”.

Similarly, Carleton University political scientist, John Pammett, said:

People are confused and negative enough about politics that they don't need that extra push to make them think politicians are crooks or not telling them the truth.

I think those quotes and other like commentary speak for themselves.

Elsewhere in his intervention, the member for New Brunswick Southwest replied to an intervention from the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands regarding a 1985 precedent involving a newspaper ad that identified the previous MP as being the sitting MP. The government member said:

This is not comparable to the dispute before us today, for a simple reason. The newspaper ad caused confusion by stating that the seat in question was held by someone other than the person who held it.

While there is no less confusion caused by the misrepresentation in the matter at issue that I have resigned or am about to resign, there is also a long-standing principle in this place, and one need only search Hansard to see it repeated time and time again, such as by the Deputy Speaker on January 31, 2003, by the Acting Speaker on April 7, 2008, and by the Speaker on April 19, 2007, let alone in law generally, “...you cannot do indirectly what you cannot do directly”.

Accordingly, stating that there is a pending or imminent byelection clearly implies that the member is no longer serving. I do not think for a moment that, just as we would not tolerate calls that say “so and so is no longer your member of Parliament”, we should equally not tolerate these calls which, in their effect, if not also in their intent, convey the same false and misleading information that breaches a member's privilege.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I draw your attention to Speaker Bosley's 1985 ruling, which reads:

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

Mr. Speaker, I will conclude by addressing the final remarks made by the government member. He asserts that this practice will result in you being called upon to “rule on all matters of political activity” and that “You are being asked to send the House into territory where it does not belong”.

While my previous interventions sought to demonstrate that the conduct at issue has nothing to do with normal political activity, let alone the absurdity of trying to validate it under free speech, false misrepresentation is simply not protected speech inside or outside this House. This misconduct clearly falls into the territory of a breach of privilege on which you are asked to rule and for which ample precedent, as I have cited, already exists and has yet to be countered by anything said by government members who have yet to cite any relevant and pertinent authority in this regard.

Any ruling you make, Mr. Speaker, is directly on the point of parliamentary privilege. In other words, people can still discuss politics and people can still traffic in rumours, however distasteful that may be, as I noted already, but the line is crossed when false, misleading and prejudicial information is presented as if it were fact. This is when it becomes and constitutes a prima facie breach of privilege and becomes actionable in the House as past Speakers in the House itself have found.

In this regard, I would draw the attention of all members to the finding of a breach of privilege in the 38th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in the first session of the 38th Parliament on a matter regarding ten percenters and applicable to the matter before us. In the privilege case discussed in that report, mailings were sent to the wrong riding and, as such, contained references to “your MP that were inaccurate in terms of the member's positions, voting record and committee assignments”. This was found to breach the member's privileges.

Simply put, while I have intervened already in this matter to demonstrate that it has no relation to free speech, I would note that, with specific regard to false statements made about members, it has already been found that such matters may constitute a breach of privilege.

As such, whereas the government member asserted on Monday, Mr. Speaker, “you are being asked to send the House into territory where it does not belong”, let it be known that the House has already been there, has already pronounced and has already found that such actions may constitute a breach of privilege.

Mr. Speaker, I sincerely hope that there need not be anything more said on this matter, lest we spend more time discussing matters irrelevant to your ruling such that a breach of privilege somehow becomes protected speech or that false, misleading and prejudicial misrepresentations of fact are somehow said to be within the bounds of political discourse, or that somehow it is relevant as to what members did or did not invoke such privileges in the past as distinct from the principles and precedents where such privileges were invoked and applied.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, you have the authorities before you. The table clerks have been provided with the evidence. I have canvassed all the principles and precedents in this matter and applied them to the case at hand. It should be abundantly clear that the matter is one for the whole House to resolve and, as such, I urge you to find a prima facie breach of privilege with all deliberate speed.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal ConstituentsPrivilegeOral Questions

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for his further intervention on this point.

Public Sector Integrity CommissionerRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 111(1), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a certificate of nomination, with biographical notes, for the proposed appointment of Mario Dion to the position of Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. I request that the nomination be referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to four petitions.