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House of Commons Hansard #133 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cost.

Topics

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I think that my colleague was mistaken when he said that our relationship with the American government had hit an all-time low. Members will recall the very bleak period in the relationship between the Liberals at the time and the American government. I repeat that it is not a good idea. This is a budget proposal for the 2012 budget and they have not even adopted their 2011 budget.

Government Computer SystemsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the scope and the depth of the cyber attack on the Canadian government is truly disturbing. While the Conservatives are trying to downplay the importance of this attack, it is obvious that they did not take these threats seriously.

We now know that the hackers were able to infect the very departments that hold the purse strings of the nation just weeks before a budget, and also an agency of the Department of National Defence. We still do not know if anything else has been compromised.

Will the government tell us what departments were infiltrated, and what was the damage caused?

Government Computer SystemsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, we do not comment on the details of security-related incidents.

Our government, however, takes threats seriously and measures are in place to address them. I would point out that the next phase of our economic action plan is still in development and officials have advised that budget security was not compromised.

Government Computer SystemsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that this cyber attack caught the Conservatives completely unprepared.

Cyber crimes like this are not the work of suburban kids in their bedrooms, but are sophisticated and organized.

None of this should be a surprise to the government. It has been warned many times before, including by the Auditor General in a comprehensive report years ago. We have seen similar attacks on the U.S. and the U.K., and they have taken measures to protect themselves against such crimes.

Instead of bureaucrats working out of Starbucks for free Wi-Fi, what measures will the government take to ensure this never happens again?

Government Computer SystemsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, it appears that this member has finally woken up to this issue. We have been talking about it for quite some time.

Secure cyberspace is vital to sustaining and building Canada's economic advantage. That is why we are investing $90 million over five years, including an increased investment in a round-the-clock information protection centre to combat all types of hackers and cyber attacks.

I can send the member the news release from last October.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, there have been a lot of falsehoods recklessly thrown around on the issue of family class immigration.

Would the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism set the record straight on our government's record on family immigration and how it compares with that of the Liberals when they were last in power, and what Canadians can expect in 2011?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

First, Mr. Speaker, I can announce that last year, 2010, we received in Canada a larger number of family members than in any year over the past three decades.

In 2011 we are further increasing the numbers for family reunification. The planning ranges last year were 57,000 to 63,000. This year we are increasing the planning ranges for parents, spouses, children and grandparents to 58,500 to 65,000.

That is an increase so that more family members can be reunited with their loved ones here in Canada. We are getting the job done for newcomers.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, these days, capital mobility is almost limitless. With the click of a mouse, millions of dollars can be transferred to the other side of the world. For weeks, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has been dilly-dallying on the issue of freezing the assets of former Tunisian dictator Ben Ali and his family.

When will he take action? Is he waiting for Mr. Ben Ali to find a real estate agent to sell his house in Westmount?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, our government is working with the Tunisian government on this issue. We have communicated to the Tunisian government clearly and on several occasions the specific information necessary for Canada to freeze any assets in Canada. The government of Tunisia has not yet responded to our request.

We remain committed to working co-operatively to bring justice for the people of Tunisia.

IranOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, because of their support for the June 2009 opposition movement in Iran, Iranian filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof were sentenced to six years in prison. They also had some of their rights revoked for 20 years, including their right to ply their trade.

The Association des réalisateurs et réalisatrices du Québec is calling for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to speak out against these violations. Does the minister intend to condemn this situation and call for the release of these two filmmakers?

IranOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as you know, yesterday evening, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons presented a motion to hold a take-note debate on Iran. During my speech, I spoke about the case raised by the hon. member.

To the extent of our abilities, we will do all we can to ensure that these individuals are released from prison.

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, after every deal the government has made with the U.S., the Conservatives end up looking like the president's doormat.

Just two weeks ago the Prime Minister claimed this time that things were going to be different, but already President Obama is trying to slap a new fee on Canadians crossing the border.

Is this why the Prime Minister is keeping his latest deal with the U.S. secret? What other bad news or hidden fees is he hiding?

Canadians deserve answers and accountability. Why will they not get it?

Canada-U.S. RelationsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I have responded to this question and the Prime Minister has responded to this question.

We think this is a very bad idea, particularly at a time when we are working on the global economic recovery. We know that it remains fragile.

That is the reason the Prime Minister and the President of the United States got together to be able to develop new ways to increase our economic ties, to be able to work at finding ways to create new jobs in this country as well as in the United States.

We will be able, once again, to make sure that happens.

JusticeOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, public safety and crime are very important issues for families in all of Quebec's regions. The Bloc Québécois prefers to keep listening to the leftist urban elite from the Plateau and other great thinkers who are out of touch with the reality of Quebec's regions.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice tell the House what the Conservative government is doing to fight crime?

JusticeOral Questions

3 p.m.

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, the government is listening to the regions of Quebec and their priorities. That is why we are taking effective, reasonable measures to fight drug dealers by imposing minimum sentences. Our government is ensuring that drug dealers are behind bars, not near our schools, our parks and our youth. Unfortunately, the Bloc is still listening to the leftist urban elite from the Plateau, not to the regions, and it voted against this measure.

Our government continues to listen to Quebec families and to the regions of Quebec. And we will keep fighting criminals, no matter what the Bloc and the leftist urban elite from the Plateau think.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

February 17th, 2011 / 3 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, like all dictators, Ben Ali and his family built their colossal fortune on the backs of their own people. The minister told us he was waiting for an official request from the Tunisian government to take action. Tunisia's ambassador to Canada already said some weeks ago, “We hope the Canadian government will take immediate action to safeguard those assets until justice is done.”

How much longer will the minister be an accomplice to those who fleeced the people of Tunisia?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, perhaps if the member opposite has some information on where those assets can be found, he can provide them to the Government of Canada.

The Government of Canada has communicated to the Tunisian government clearly and on several occasions the specific information that is necessary for Canada to freeze any assets found in Canada. The government of Tunisia has not yet formally responded to our request.

We remain committed to working with the government and the people of Tunisia to provide justice for the people of Tunisia.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the government House leader if he might walk us through the balance of business in the House this week and, of course, what he is contemplating for next week.

In particular, many Canadians are asking where the government stands with two bills that it has been heralding now for months, Bill S-10, which we have yet to see debated in any sense in this House of Commons or at committee, and Bill C-49, which the government continues to talk about and the immigration minister and the Prime Minister keep referring to but we have yet to see.

We are anxious to improve the situation on both the law and order fronts for Canadians but also on immigration and refugee reform.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, with respect to Bill S-10 and Bill C-49, we will call them when the time is right and when we can get these important pieces of legislation passed by the House of Commons.

With respect to accelerated parole, we found the time was right this week to get that bill done. I want to thank all members of the House for their consideration, particularly those members who supported that important legislation to stop fraudsters, who steal $100 million from seniors' retirement savings, from only having to go to jail for one-sixth of their sentence. I want to thank all the members who supported that important legislation, particularly on third reading.

Today, we will continue with the Liberal opposition motion. We heard a great speech by the member for Wascana at the outset of this Parliament.

Tomorrow, we will call Bill C-42, the strengthening civil aviation security; Bill C-46, the Canada-Panama free trade bill; and Bill C-55, the enhanced new veterans charter, on which the Minister of Veterans Affairs has done a phenomenal job. I think there have been consultations with the parties, which is good news. We also will call Bill C-20, an action plan for the National Capital Commission. I know there has been a considerable amount of very non-partisan discussion among all the parties. We will have that bill at report stage and then third reading. There will be a few amendments and we have already had some discussion with some members on this.

Next week, as all members will know, is a week the House is not sitting. When the House returns on February 28, we will simply continue where we left off with the list of bills that I gave.

I am pleased to announce to our good friends in the new Democratic Party that Tuesday, March 1 shall be an allotted day.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, a few minutes ago, the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles referred to the leftist urban elite from the Plateau.

I would have him know that in my riding of Hull—Aylmer, there is a residential neighbourhood also known as “le Plateau”. I hate to disappoint him, but there are no leftists in that part of my riding.

I would like the hon. member to withdraw his comments and apologize to the people of the Plateau in Hull—Aylmer.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the member for Hull—Aylmer has clearly indicated where his residence is not.

Statements by minister of international Co-operation regarding KairosPrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege under the provisions of Standing Order 48 alleging contempt of the House by the Minister of International Cooperation further to the notice that was submitted to the clerk this morning.

I will be asking you, Mr. Speaker, to make a prima facie case finding that a breach of privilege has occurred, specifically that the minister “deliberately attempted to mislead the House by way of a statement”, or, in this case, a series of statements, and “that she knew or ought to have known that the statements to the House were either false or an attempt to mislead”.

I brought this matter before you, Mr. Speaker, in December 2010 following statements by the minister during a foreign affairs and international development committee hearing. It is unfortunate that a question of privilege has to be raised a second time.

Despite being given many opportunities to do so, the Minister of International Cooperation has refused to show any deference toward Parliament and its members and apologize for the misleading statements she made regarding the funding of KAIROS.

The question before you today, Mr. Speaker, is whether any of the additional material would lead you to the conclusion of a prima facie case of misleading the House.

In your ruling of February 10, 2011, you said:

The full body of material gives rise to very troubling questions. Any reasonable person confronted with what appears to have transpired would necessarily be extremely concerned, if not shocked, and might well begin to doubt the integrity of certain decision-making processes. In particular, the senior CIDA officials concerned must be deeply disturbed by the doctored document they have been made to appear to have signed.

However, despite the obvious frustration expressed by many of the members who have intervened in this case and the profoundly disturbing questions that evidently remain unanswered in the view of these same members, the Chair is bound by very narrow parameters in situations such as this one. It may sound overly technical but the reality is that when adjudicating cases of this kind, the Chair is obliged to reference material fully and properly before the House.

The question, therefore, is: Are you less troubled or more troubled by the additional material that is now fully and properly before the House?

The foreign affairs and international development committee report tabled this morning contains much of the quoted exchange between me and the minister, other members' interventions and a supplementary report provided by government members which provides yet another version of events. I would suggest that it solidifies your disquiet, if anything.

The line of argument in the supplementary report would be characterized as an “I do not know” argument. It appears that the minister does not know who signs her documents or whether or not they have been changed. It appears to be plausible the minister at one point actually recommended the grant and then the recommendation was changed after the fact at her direction or someone else's. It is clear that she does not know.

Another piece of new information came in the exchanges in question period. You, Mr. Speaker, have been present for all of them so I will mercifully not repeat them. In these exchanges, the government advances two lines of argument. First, the minister apologized so, therefore, that is the end of it Second, bureaucrats make recommendations and the ministers make decisions.

Mr. Speaker, if I lie to you or mislead you in a personal relationship an apology may well suffice, assuming no further harm. However, if you were a judge sitting in a court and I lied to you, there would be consequences regardless of an apology. It is called perjury. I may even go to jail because we have the highest expectations that truth be told in court; so also in Parliament and before a parliamentary committee.

In Parliament, however, as is stated on page 111 of the 22nd edition of Erskine May:

The Commons may treat the making of a deliberately misleading statement as a contempt.

I allege that this is what has occurred.

There are four distinct occasions on which the minister or the parliamentary secretary speaking on behalf of the minister have knowingly misled the House which I will now relate.

First, on December 9, 2010, before the foreign affairs and international development committee, Margaret Biggs, the president of CIDA, was very clear in her testimony that, contrary to what the minister had led the House to understand, CIDA had unequivocally recommended KAIROS for the grant. The minister was fully aware of CIDA's position and yet chose to misrepresent the advice of her senior civil servants to cover up a plainly political decision.

We see this in a response dated March 8, 2010 to an order paper question put to the minister by the member for London North Centre. The minister stated the following in writing on a document to which her signature is affixed:

The CIDA decision not to continue funding KAIROS was based on the overall assessment of the proposal, not on any single criterion.

A reasonable person looking at that would clearly interpret that as a decision made by the CIDA department.

Based on both the access to information request document on which the famous “not” was written and the testimony of President Biggs, we know that this is false as the CIDA officials unambiguously recommended that KAIROS continue to receive funding.

Second, when appearing before the standing committee on December 9, the minister, when asked who inserted the “not” on the document, stated, “I do not know”. The minister subsequently contradicted this statement at committee by her statement in the House on February 14 when she stated, “The 'not' was inserted at my direction”.

Third, in the same statement given to the House on February 14, the minister compounded the untruth contained in the order paper response mentioned above by stating, “At no time have I stated that the decision was that of the department”. The above order paper response clearly alleges that CIDA, her department, made the decision. This is simply not true.

Fourth and last, the former parliamentary secretary to the minister of international cooperation stated in the House of Commons on March 15, 2010, that:

CIDA thoroughly analyzed KAIROS' program proposal and determined, with regret, that it did not meet the agency's current priorities. This is important.

As with the order paper response above and based upon the evidence, we know this to be untrue.

I am pleased to note that the former parliamentary secretary, the member for Kootenay—Columbia, to his credit and his honour, did offer an apology to the House. However, the minister has not yet chosen to do the same thing nor, disappointingly, has the Prime Minister.

It is the right of every minister to make ministerial decisions. However, it is not the right of a minister to make a decision and then doctor a document so that it appears that someone else made the decision.

Mr. Speaker, as you stated:

Any reasonable person confronted with what appears to have transpired would necessarily be extremely concerned, if not shocked, and might well begin to doubt the integrity of certain decision-making processes.

In addition to these clear examples of where the minister has misled the House, there are additional concerns that raise further questions about the minister's integrity.

First, KAIROS had its funding cut in November 2009, and we have been asking for clarification on this decision ever since. Why did the minister not clear up the confusion at the first available opportunity?

Second, it may be a little late but why did she not use her statement on Monday to do the honourable thing and offer an unequivocal apology?

Third, if someone is really going to reverse a recommendation, why would the individual not make the recommendation absolutely clear? Any first year law student would be more careful.

Fourth, why leave the lingering impression that CIDA officials rejected the grant?

It is deeply troubling for a minister of the Crown to behave with such disregard and disrespect for her position, her colleagues, the civil service, the NGO community and the millions of Canadians who support the work of KAIROS.

It is further troubling to see the Prime Minister even today defend and extol the minister's behaviour.

As we all know, privilege exists for good reason. In this instance, as in all others, it compels truthfulness even when embarrassing, even when it does not suit the government's agenda. Privilege exists so MPs can make decisions based on fact, not on fiction. Privilege exists as a core value of democracy because MPs and their constituents, the people of Canada, have every right to expect that public discourse in this chamber is without artifice.

Mr. Speaker, you are the guardian of that core value, the value of truthfulness between and among members, ministers and the Prime Minister. Any ruling other than a prima facie case of breach of privilege in this case will inevitably lead to another even more egregious abuse.

I and my colleagues are calling upon you, Mr. Speaker, to put a stop to tampered documents, to blaming others, to casual regard for facts before a committee of the House. We call on you to uphold the highest standards of discourse by ministers in their communications with the House.

Mr. Speaker, with the additional material before you, the case for contempt is even more compelling than it was before. I am prepared to move the motion of contempt upon your direction.

Statements by minister of international Co-operation regarding KairosPrivilegeOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Ottawa Centre has also sent a notice. I will hear him now.

Statements by minister of international Co-operation regarding KairosPrivilegeOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your indulgence. As was mentioned by my colleague from the Liberal Party, this question of privilege relates to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development's sixth report, which was tabled this morning.

From subsequent submissions you have received from other hon. members, Mr. Speaker, including from me on December 13, it is clear that the Minister of International Cooperation statements to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development with regard to who was responsible for the government decision to reject a funding proposal for the Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives known as KAIROS were deliberately misleading. I believe my rights and the rights of all hon. members have been breached by the minister's misleading comments.

As has been noted in the December 9 testimony by the minister in front of the committee, when asked who was responsible for inserting the word “not” that led to the denial of funding to KAIROS, she told me and members of the committee that she did not know. As you know, Mr. Speaker, recently in the House it was established by the minister that she did know and she had directed someone to insert the said word.

I want to reference your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on February 10. You said that while giving voice to the disturbing questions with regard to the integrity of the decision-making process conducted by the minister, the absence of a committee report on the matter put a key limitation on your ability to find that there was a prima facie question of privilege arising from the minister's comments to the committee. Such a report was tabled in the House today. This report refers to the transcript of the minister's testimony to the committee on December 9, 2010, as well as a copy of the doctored document.

The original question of privilege submitted to you on December 13, 2010, Mr. Speaker, charged that the minister had deliberately misled the House and the committee on the origin of the government's rejection of the funding for KAIROS. For months, hon. members were led to believe the rejection had been advised by officials at CIDA.

In my submissions to you, Mr. Speaker, I wish to bring to your attention new and troubling facts arising from the minister's statement to the House on February 14. Her statement indicated that her testimony to the committee on December 9, 2010, was knowingly incorrect and deliberately misleading.

I believe that contempt against me, against the citizens of our country, whom I and other hon. members represent, and all parliamentarians, has been one where you will, if you see the evidence before you, find a prima facie case of contempt of the House.

I have three other references which I believe to be relevant citations for the Speaker's deliberation on this matter.

With regard to the issue of contempt of Parliament, I reference Joseph Maingot. In particular, I reference pages 227 to 229, of the second edition, which indicate the parameters of the issue of conduct constituting breach of privilege or contempt. You will find, Mr. Speaker, that this is relevant in this case.

A prima facie, case of privilege for those who are not aware of the Latin meaning, is a case where the Speaker finds evidence enough for us to carry on with a case of contempt of Parliament. Therefore, is there enough evidence in front of the Speaker for us to proceed further with a motion.

I would also like to reference O'Brien and Bosc, page 115, where there is reference to a case that was ruled on and reference to:

Misleading a Minister or a Member has also b2een considered a form of obstruction and thus a prima facie breach of privilege.

The example cited is from December 6, 1978, in a finding that a prima facie contempt of the House existed. Speaker Jerome ruled that a government official, by deliberately misleading the minister, had impeded the member in the performance of his duties and consequently obstructed the House itself.

I have one final reference. It is the same case on which Speaker Jerome ruled. On page 1856, of the December 6, 1978, issue of Hansard, there is his the full ruling on privilege. The complaint is the subject matter of a question of privilege and it is one that you will find relevant to this case.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, if we are able to establish, and if you are able to rule, that there is prima facie case of contempt with regard to our privileges, I would ask that you consider a motion, as my colleague has, with wording along the lines that the matters raised in the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, including all circumstances leading to and related to the addition of the word “not” on the official document contained in appendix A of the report, be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Statements by minister of international Co-operation regarding KairosPrivilegeOral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleagues, the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood and the hon. member for Ottawa Centre, for their interventions.

As you well know, Mr. Speaker, this is the first opportunity the government has had to listen to interventions on a matter of privilege. I would ask you, as is the custom of the House, to grant approval to the government to delay our response until we bring back to the House a more comprehensive response to answer many of the issues raised here today. I also commit to you that our response will be developed and brought back to the House as quickly as possible.

Since I am on my feet, Mr. Speaker, and we are talking about a matter of privilege, I want to bring to your attention what I believe to be a troubling and continuing pattern from the opposition coalition when it comes to privilege.

Particularly in this case, the member for Ottawa Centre, who is a member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, said yesterday, as a result of an in camera meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, that in all probability a report, which was conducted and agreed upon by the committee for foreign affairs, would be tabled in the House today. In effect and in actuality that is what happened.

As you well know, Mr. Speaker, in camera discussions are meant to be kept confidential. Unfortunately, we have seen time and time again over the past number of months in camera discussions and their confidences broken by opposition members speaking to the media about confidential conversations held in camera.

I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that when you make your ultimate ruling on the question of privilege raised today, you would perhaps consider to include in your ruling the fact that in camera conversations held at committee should remain in confidence. As I said, it was troubling. It is a continuing pattern. We have seen it all too often in the past number of months. I think that alone is a matter of concern for all parliamentarians.