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House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was funding.

Topics

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Vancouver Island North B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, there were over 80 consultation sessions in the north with northerners. We listened to their concerns. That is what was built into the program. This is not a made in Ottawa program. This is a program based on two and a half years of consultation. We are implementing the program.

As I said, we are looking at the necessity for changes and we will implement any necessary changes, as required.

Political FinancingOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, in Hull—Aylmer, the Conservatives fraudulently billed $44,573.55 in expenses that were incurred in Quebec City. That is almost 80% of the total expenses of the Conservative candidate in Hull—Aylmer. That is $44,573.55 that the Conservatives want Elections Canada to take out of taxpayers' pockets to pay for their bogus and illegal expenses.

Now that they have been caught red-handed and with their pants down, will the Conservatives admit to their election fraud and pay back these ill-gotten gains?

Political FinancingOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. This is an administrative matter. The Conservative candidates spent Conservative funds on Conservative advertisements. Obviously, there were transfers from the national party to local candidates. Elections Canada knew because we told them. Why not? All the parties do it. It is legal and ethical. We have a very strong case and we will be defending ourselves in court.

Political FinancingOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, only the Conservatives believe that a $25,000 fine and a year in jail is an administrative matter. They have engaged in a massive $1 million electoral fraud. One would think their super cop in Vaughan would have none of it, but it turns out that very minister got elected thanks to a $20,000 taxpayer refund on fictitious expenses. His riding association's coffers were padded by the Conservatives' fraudulent scheme.

Will the minister from Vaughan reimburse the taxpayers for these ill-gotten gains and will he commit not to repeat this scam?

Political FinancingOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as you know, this is an administrative matter. The Conservative candidates spent Conservative funds on Conservative advertisements. The national party obviously transferred money to local candidates, as all parties do all the time. Elections Canada found out because we told them. Why not? It is legal and ethical and all the parties do it. We have a solid case and we will be defending ourselves.

Agent OrangeOral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, we recently learned that Agent range was used near Hearst in the 1950s. Unwitting forestry workers, summer students and 17-year-old forest rangers were being sprayed with a dioxin that is responsible for all kinds of adverse health effects.

Ontario is calling on the federal government to contact other provinces and territories to determine if Agent Orange was used in their jurisdictions as well.

Will the Minister of Health agree to this request and begin this important work immediately?

Agent OrangeOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Nunavut Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, this is a provincial matter and a provincial responsibility. The federal government has already addressed its use of this chemical.

Agent OrangeOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been speaking with families of hydro and forestry workers who have suffered from cancers, miscarriages, and birth defects from exposure to Agent Orange in northern Ontario.

But we now learn that federal employees were exposed to large doses of Agent Orange while working at rural and regional airports between 1955 and 1974. In fact, Transport Canada employees were expected to mix large doses of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, and then spray it without protective clothing.

Would the Minister of Transport investigate this and release any and all documents pertaining to the use of Agent Orange at federal airports and other federal operations?

Agent OrangeOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am unaware of any federal involvement 20 years ago by Transport Canada, but certainly, I will take this question under advisement. Any information that Transport Canada has about the use of Agent Orange, and its distribution and dispersion, I will make available as soon as I possibly can.

Government ExpendituresOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rodney Weston Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, today the President of the Treasury Board tabled the 2011-12 main estimates.

These estimates demonstrate our commitment to reduce government spending. They also show that we are not balancing the budget on the backs of hard-working taxpayers like the Liberals did in the 1990s.

Would the President of the Treasury Board please explain how we are on track to balance the budget?

Government ExpendituresOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saint John for the input that he has had, in keeping us on track for a balanced budget.

Today, I tabled the main estimates for our spending in the year ahead, which indicate that spending for the year ahead will be $10 billion less than we spent last year. It will be the first time in over a decade that a government has planned less spending in the present year than in the past year.

We intend to stay on track with that. This is not a time for increased taxes, not a time for reckless spending, and not a time for unwanted elections. It is time to stay on track.

CBC/Radio-CanadaOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the CBC is responsible for reflecting the reality of all Canadians. That is its mission, and that means that regional differences must be taken into account, particularly in a country as big as ours.

We know that the Conservatives would prefer that the airwaves be dominated by propaganda networks, like Fox in the United States, so they are doing what they can to weaken the CBC.

They are now attacking the Matane radio station in eastern Quebec.

Will the minister protect this station? Will he stand up and protect the future of Radio-Canada in Matane?

CBC/Radio-CanadaOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, we are still working with the CBC to ensure that its mandate is protected by law and that the interests of Canadians are also protected.

We made promises during the 2004, 2006 and 2008 election campaigns, and we will certainly protect the CBC's mandate and honour our commitment to the CBC in our budget. We have done so in the past and will continue to do so.

Quebec City ArenaOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the group J'ai ma place, another private partner has announced its contribution to the Quebec City multi-purpose arena. Quebecor Media has pledged to support Mayor Labeaume's project so that our national capital has a necessary tool for its economic development.

Rather than creating obstacles for the promoters of this important project, will the Conservative government finally commit to doing its fair share right now?

Quebec City ArenaOral Questions

March 1st, 2011 / 2:55 p.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner ConservativeMinister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to speak to Mayor Labeaume at lunchtime. He told me about the agreement between Quebecor and the City of Quebec. That being said, public money remains the primary source of funding for the project.

It is very important to point out that the project includes an extremely important urban renewal component, as recommended in the Rousseau report. I have had the opportunity to talk about the infrastructure with my colleague, and if the federal government can contribute under existing programs, it will help with road infrastructure.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Assembly of First Nations is raising concerns that policing on reserve will get a 19% cut in this budget. Policing is already woefully underfunded. At the same time, first nations are trying to fight fires with outdated, inadequate equipment and no training. Too many of those fires end in tragedy.

When will the minister show some leadership and give on-reserve public safety the attention and funding that it deserves?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, our government looks forward to continuing our close relationship with police forces across the country, including first nations police forces.

We know that having a local police force, like a first nations police force, is very important for the safety and security of the community. I wish the NDP, however, saw security in the same way, that in fact police and others contribute to the well-being of community members.

Government PoliciesOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, while the Conservative government is focusing on the real priority of Quebeckers, the economy, the leader of the Bloc Québécois and champion of the Plateau Mont-Royal wants to trigger an election before even reading the budget.

Can the Minister of Natural Resources tell this House what concrete action the Conservative government is taking for Quebeckers?

Government PoliciesOral Questions

3 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, we are making the economy a priority and helping Quebeckers in every region of Quebec. On Sunday we announced an investment of nearly $64 million for nationwide clean energy projects, including ethanol, which will result in economic activity in Quebec, in our businesses and in every region of Quebec.

Our Conservative government is constantly working to help all sectors of the economy and every region of Quebec.

CBC/Radio-CanadaOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, like us, people in the Matane region, have good reason to question what the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages is saying, especially about Radio-Canada. He can try to hide things from us, but the writing is on the wall and it worries us.

For example, the Radio-Canada/Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine station website was overhauled and, surprise, surprise, it is no longer the Radio-Canada/Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine website, but the Radio-Canada/Est du Québec website.

Will the minister do something about this? Will he stand up to help Radio-Canada in Matane?

CBC/Radio-CanadaOral Questions

3 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, we will honour our campaign commitment to CBC/Radio-Canada in a way that the Liberals did not.

This was the Liberal record on the CBC. The Globe and Mail said, “The Liberal Party policy toward the CBC: gut it, kick it in the teeth, leave it hanging from a thread”.

The Montreal Gazette said this about the Liberals and the CBC, “The CBC has become a battered, unloved, friendless institution...under Heritage Minister Sheila Copps...”.

This is what the Toronto Star said, “...the CBC has been treated shabbily...” by the Liberal government, “...downsized, underfunded, abandoned...”.

We have our policy. The Liberals have their record. I will live with our record.

Highway SafetyOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, it has come to light that many Canadian truckers are being forced by their employers to falsify their log books. The companies get away with this because there is insufficient enforcement of federal regulations. Ottawa should be working with the provinces to enforce these rules but this is not happening.

Will the government improve enforcement or will it continue to turn a blind eye to the dangers on Canadian roads?

Highway SafetyOral Questions

3 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I invite the hon. member to the real world where we do work closely with both the provinces and the territories. In fact, we have a committee of senior level bureaucrats who work together under the direction of the ministers. After a meeting we had in Atlantic Canada earlier this fall, we again tasked our officials to work together on areas of concern, like trucking.

We should be very clear that truckers are expected to keep regular hours under regulatory supervision. They must keep log books under supervision. Failure to do so is a criminal offence, so I urge them to do that. The RCMP and other enforcement agencies have the power to enforce that because it is the law.

Highway SafetyOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. The Chair has received a notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh and I will hear his submission now.

Main EstimatesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, as indicated in the letter I sent to you earlier today, I stand in this House to raise a question of privilege both for myself, as an individual member of Parliament, and for all other members of Parliament as well.

My question of privilege arises from the estimates tabled today in the House by the Treasury Board President. In an article by reporter, David Akin, who is part of the parliamentary bureau and the QMI Agency, that appeared on a web site earlier than the time the estimates were tabled in this House, it is clear that Mr. Akin had specific knowledge of what was in those estimates.

I would draw your attention specifically to the fact that in both the written article and in what was up on Mr. Akin's blog on his site as of 9 o'clock this morning, the estimates not being tabled in this House until after 10 o'clock this morning, Mr. Akin says:

The government's spending plan, to be tabled today, shows that the [Prime Minister] plans to write cheques for at least $250.8 billion in 2011-2012.

On page 7 of the main estimates that were tabled today, in the table titled “Comparison of Main Estimates”, it says that the total net expenditures of the Government of Canada for 2011-12 is estimated to be $250.8 billion, which is exactly the same figure that Mr. Akin had in his article before the estimates were tabled here.

Mr. Akin has a number of postings on Twitter, a social media network, and one was posted about an hour before 10 o'clock this morning, before the House was sitting and before the estimates were tabled. The posting reads, “Govt will table spending plan for FY 2010 today: Total $250 billion, about $10 billion less than this year”.

With the facts I have provided in two different formats, there is no doubt that the journalist had knowledge of what was in the estimates before they were tabled in this House.

Mr. Speaker, on the issue of our privileges as members of Parliament, you have ruled on a number of occasions that, both individually and collectively, we have an absolute right to expect the government of the day to provide information, whether it be on a bill or, as in this case, the estimates, to this House before they are provided any place else.

Just to headline this, Mr. Speaker, I will quote you on a couple of occasions when you have said this more explicitly. The basic concept is that if we are to do our jobs and we are to perform our responsibilities as members of Parliament, we need to be able to respond to inquiries based on the knowledge that is tabled in this House, whether those come from the media, from particular sectors of the economy, society or individual constituents. We need to be in a position to present responses but we cannot do that if material is getting out into the public, in this case in the form of a journalist, without us seeing that in advance. We have no ability to respond and in fact we cannot do our jobs.

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw your attention to at least two decisions that you made in the past on this topic. A question of privilege was raised on October 27, 2009 by the Bloc member for Joliette concerning the Minister of Public Safety giving out material in the form of a bill. It was clear that the information, once tabled in the House so that the rest of us could see it as members of Parliament, had gotten out to members of the media in advance by at least 24 hours and perhaps as much as 48 hours in that case. That involved the bill to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

After hearing arguments from a number of members of Parliament, other than on the government side, claiming that their privileges had been breached, you said this, Mr. Speaker, as you were drawing your conclusion and rendering your recommendation. You were talking about where the convention came from and why we have this privilege as members of Parliament and you said this near the end of your decision:

The purpose of the convention is also to ensure that members are not impeded in their work by being denied information that others have been given.

You were very clear and explicit, Mr. Speaker. The minister had argued that very little time had elapsed in terms of the bill being put on notice and tabled in the House and you said you recognized that, but went on to say that was not the issue. The issue was the ability of members of Parliament having that information so that we could do our job. By not doing that and giving it out in advance to the media in that case, you were clearly making the determination that a prima facie case had been made for privilege.

Mr. Speaker, in that case your decision in that regard and the recommendation from the member who had moved the motion was to send it to the proper committee and you in fact ordered that. You went on to say:

To deny to members information concerning business that is about to come before the House--

Which is the same that we have with the estimates:

—while at the same time providing such information to media that will likely be questioning members about that business, is a situation that the Chair cannot condone.

When the committee reported, it said this:

The Committee believes that the protocol of the Department of Justice whereby no briefings or briefing materials should be provided with respect to a bill on notice until its introduction in the House of Commons should be adopted as a standard policy by all government departments. We believe that such a policy is respectful of the House of Commons and its members. It recognizes the legislative role of Parliament, and is consistent with parliamentary privilege and the conventions of Parliament.

That decision was in the spring of 2001.

One of the arguments will be, I will anticipate, that was about a bill and whether the convention also applies to the estimates. I want to draw to the House's attention in that regard and argue by analogy that it is the same as what we have here. This was a decision by Speaker Jerome on July 25, 1975, on page 7940 of Hansard.

The factual situation in that case was that a newspaper had printed an article alleging that there had been a leak of the budget, that a member of Parliament had given that information to a business person, presumably the concept being that the business person benefited financially. The issue that came before the House on a motion of privilege was that the member of Parliament first denied he had done that, claimed privilege on the basis that the article had, in effect, slandered him and asked that the matter be sent to committee so it could be investigated, in effect his mechanism for clearing his name.

Speaker Jerome in that case said yes, the leak in itself, which is what we have here with information being given, is in the form of a leak to Mr. Akin. The very fact of that is what creates the privilege.

Speaker Jerome said this, noting that the member stood in his place and denied the accuracy of the article:

Therefore, what is at issue is an alleged use of a national newspaper to accuse, falsely, a member of a misuse of his privileges as a member of this House.

He went on to say:

Certainly there has been a disposition on all sides of the House to say that, if there is a suggestion that such a thing has taken place, it is a fundamental interference with the rights of every member of the House of Commons to operate freely and perform his functions freely. If that question exists in general terms--and in the circumstances which are before me I can scarcely decide otherwise--I cannot see in any way that the Chair ought to interpose itself, from a procedural point of view, and prevent the House having an opportunity to take a decision in respect of the matter. I do stress, that it is, in the final analysis, a decision of this House--

As it would be here.

--which will say whether or not the matter goes to the committee on privileges and elections where the matters that have been discussed and raised by almost all members who have participated can be dealt with.

I believe, by analogy, that is the situation we are faced with here. We have had a leak. We have had information, whether intentionally or unintentionally, given to a member of the media. That interferes with our ability to do our job, and in order to be able to respond in an intelligent, meaningful way to any enquiries about the estimates.

So, similar to what Speaker Jerome found, that there was a breach of privilege there, it did go on, as I am sure you may be aware, Mr. Speaker, to the committee for review and decision. I have not been able to find the outcome of that. The point being, in that situation which I argue is very analogous to the situation we have before us today, there was a finding of prima facie breach of privilege.

If you do so find in this case, Mr. Speaker, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion to have this matter referred to the appropriate committee.