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House of Commons Hansard #168 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was conservatives.

Topics

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, since June, two University of Regina students have been sheltered in a local church seeking to avoid deportation to their native Nigeria. Victoria Ordu and Ihuoma Amadi made the mistake—by all accounts honestly—of working for two weeks at a Wal-Mart store. When they learned that it was not allowed, they stopped, but the government wants to deport them nonetheless, totally destroying any chance of their completing their education.

Does the government have any complaint against these two students other than their honest mistake of working for two weeks?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, the member has been here for a long time, so he will know perfectly well that ministers cannot comment on individual cases without a privacy waiver from the individuals involved. It sounds like the Liberal Party thinks this is a trite point, but if we were to discuss a private case without the consent of the subjects, then those members would be criticizing us for doing so.

Every foreign national in Canada has access to our fair and generous legal system before they are subject to removal from Canada. The rules that we have are applied through the legal system, not through political fiat.

HealthOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the deaths of five American children have been linked to the caffeine-infused Monster brand energy drink. Seven million energy drinks a month are sold in Canada, putting the health of Canadians, especially children, at risk.

Last year Health Canada said that new labelling requirements for energy drinks were an “extremely high priority”.

In light of this new information, will the minister now take immediate action to protect Canadian children by fast-tracking the needed regulatory changes?

HealthOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Nunavut Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of Health and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Mr. Speaker, Health Canada has been very clear that caffeinated energy drinks are not recommended for children.

Last year the department announced a new approach to regulating energy drinks that would include limits on the level of caffeine in those products. It also included improved labelling to support consumers and parents in making informed choices. The new measures propose to help Canadians make informed decisions about the amount of caffeine they consume.

International CooperationOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is World Polio Day. Polio is a viral infectious disease that can leave its victims paralyzed, most of whom are children under the age of 5. Since the introduction of vaccines, the international community has made significant progress in tracking and eliminating this disease.

Could the Minister of International Cooperation please update the House about our government's latest efforts to eradicate polio?

International CooperationOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Vaughan Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino ConservativeMinister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, Canadians can be proud of their accomplishments in the fight against polio. For example, our support in Afghanistan has allowed more than seven million Afghan children to be vaccinated. Last month I announced a partnership between CIDA programs and Rotary Canada and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. CIDA is matching funds raised by Rotary Canada up to $1 million. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will do the same, resulting in a three-for-one match.

I encourage all members to support this important effort to eradicate polio.

Border CrossingsOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is truly shameful to see how Canada has become a laughingstock in recent days because of our national security.

For days, the Minister of Public Safety has stubbornly repeated that all is well at the Stanstead border crossing. He continues to ignore the situation and repeats that Bill C-31 will magically solve the problem of smugglers. In the meantime, 11 people managed to cross the border and were not intercepted until they reached Magog.

It is time for the minister to realize that Bill C-31 is an utter failure and that cuts will not solve anything at the Canada Border Services Agency.

Will the minister finally take the situation seriously and wake up once and for all?

Border CrossingsOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, in fact Bill C-31 is just coming into force. We have not yet taken any of those measures that the act provides for.

That member opposed Bill C-31. In fact, his website says that he opposes Bill C-31 and now he is calling upon the government to implement Bill C-31. That is the kind of hypocrisy that he should be going home and telling his constituents about, that on the one hand he supports Bill C-31 but on the other hand he does not.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec workers will not sit back and take the ideological EI reforms that the government is imposing in its two mammoth bills.

These reforms will make workers poorer and will hurt all regions of Quebec. Workers and unemployed workers are mobilizing to participate in a large demonstration at Thetford Mines. Their message is clear: the government must stop ravaging employment insurance.

Will the minister have the courage to come meet with workers and the unemployed in order to reconsider her ideological position?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, here is what we are doing: we are trying to help unemployed workers find jobs in their region and in their area of expertise. We created the job alert service to inform people of jobs in their region.

We are here to help the unemployed find jobs. Why is the member opposed to that?

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:10 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 14-year-old Annaleise Carr, who swam across Lake Ontario and raised over $115,000 for a summer camp for children with cancer.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Statements by MembersPoints of OrderOral Questions

October 24th, 2012 / 3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, during the course of S. O. 31s today, the member for Don Valley West used the occasion of celebrating the anniversary of the Blue Jays' victory to make a savage personal attack on me. I can still feel the gum marks.

What the hon. member failed to point out was that the Blue Jays won during the time that I was premier, not just once but twice.

Statements by MembersPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to an order made on Tuesday, October 23, the House will now resolve itself into the committee of the whole to recognize the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup.

I do now leave the chair for the House to resolve itself into committee of the whole.

(House in committee of the whole to recognize the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup, Mr. Andrew Scheer in the chair)

[And Mark Cohon, Russ Jackson, Ave Poggione and Bryce Russell being present in the chamber:]

Grey CupOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

When Albert Grey, the fourth Earl of Grey and ninth Governor General of Canada, commissioned the creation of a silver chalice in 1909, he probably could never have envisioned the remarkable story that his namesake trophy would experience in its 100 years.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup. We are honoured by its presence here today, escorted by CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon, Football Hall of Fame member and former Ottawa Rough Rider Russ Jackson, as well as Ave Poggione and Bryce Russell.

Through the years, the Grey Cup has been battered, bruised, stolen and even started a fire. Like the sport it honours, it is, without question, a hard-nosed trophy and yet it is elegant in its beauty and in its embodiment of the rich tradition of Canadian football.

In its long history, the Grey Cup has seen a variety of teams challenge for the right to hoist the cup in victory. Amateur teams, like the Toronto Balmy Beach and the Sarnia Imperials, were among the early winners.

During World War II, military bases across the country formed teams to compete for the Grey Cup as a boost to morale for troops and civilians alike.

In 1958, with the emergence of the Canadian Football League, the Grey Cup champion was decided in the format we now know and love today with tens of thousands in attendance and millions more watching at home from coast to coast.

Of course, we all remember those memorable Grey Cups, like the 1950 Mud Bowl, the 1962 Fog Bowl, the 1977 Ice Bowl and the very memorable 1966, 1989 and 2007 Grey Cups.

Like the people it brings together every year in November, the Grey Cup has a remarkable history. I am quite confident that this history is not about to end any time soon.

After today, the Cup makes it way to Toronto for the Grey Cup celebration and the CFL championship on November 25. Shortly thereafter, it will probably be in Regina for a parade.

Grey CupOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Grey CupOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

That is the last one, I promise.

It is a very fitting trophy for a wonderful game, Canada's unique brand of football where we accomplish in only three tries what our American neighbours need four to do.

I invite all hon. members to join me in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup at a reception in room 206-N following question period.

I would just remind everyone that the Cup will be available for photographs during the reception.

The committee will rise and I will now leave the chair.

Statements by MembersPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, some days ago, I drew attention to the fact that Standing Order 31 seemed to have become a source of increasing disharmony in the House, encouraging a lack of decorum. I note that under Standing Order 31, although at the time you may recall the discussion we had, the hon. House leader said that in his view there were no rules about content or appropriateness of the text, it does say in Standing Order 31 that if, in your opinion, Mr. Speaker, the remarks are “improper use is made of this Standing Order”. Clearly, there is a threshold for performance. The guidance comes from the comments from former Speaker Sauvé.

Mr. Speaker, you mentioned at the time that you might give us a ruling. I hate to ask if it is forthcoming, but the S. O. 31 period is becoming increasingly rancorous and the problem is that we are failing to abide by Speaker Sauvé's guidance. With respect, I wanted to make this submission.

Statements by MembersPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, this is the second time the leader of the Green Party has risen when I have been here on this matter. What I find curious is her suggestion that somehow it is inappropriate for members of the House to stand up for the views of their constituents. Certainly, speaking for the Conservative Party, our platform has consistently been one of opposition to new taxes, to carbon taxes and to higher taxes, and I can think of nothing more representative for a member of our party, certainly in my case when I talk to my constituents, than to come to this place and let my views be known on taxes, including the inappropriateness of the NDP proposed carbon tax.

I find it very unusual that a member like her, who is always fighting to have her voice heard, rises repeatedly to try and suppress the voice of others in this House. Both of these seem paradoxical to me, especially when we are talking about members' statements under Standing Order 31, one which has been the greatest tradition in this House of allowing members the utmost freedom to speak their mind. However, the member of the Green Party seems to want to keep them from speaking their mind when it is not an issue that she disagrees with, the carbon tax, and I find that quite disturbing.

Statements by MembersPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank both members for their comments on this.

Notice of MotionWays and MeansRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I wish to table a notice of ways and means motion to amend the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act and related legislation.

I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the following report of the Canadian Delegation of the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group respecting its participation in the following meeting: the 36th Annual Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers that was held in Burlington, Vermont July 29 and 30, 2012.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in relation to its review of national protocol procedures.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, the committee requests the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

Government Operations and EstimatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates presented on Wednesday, June 20, be concurred in.

He said: I realize that we are delaying the debate on the budget Bill C-45 but I believe it is for an important reason. The government operations committee conducted a detailed report on how the House studies the estimates and produced a report that was unanimously supported with one minor exception.

Before members of this place can begin to properly debate the budget and the proposed expenditure cuts, we must clarify our desire for better and more timely information. Concurring in this report would do just that. I hope members on both sides of the House appreciate that this is not a hostile move. I believe that the President of the Treasury Board indicated on Monday during question period that he will support concurring in this report and I am confident that the motion will also receive the support of opposition members.

I will begin by providing a little background for the study in the words of the report itself. It reads:

In recent history, there have been two wide-ranging reviews of the estimates process, one by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in 1998, and another by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates...in 2003. Of the 75 recommendations that came out of the two reports...few changes were made. The process for considering the estimates and supply should be revitalized, as there is still a need for more meaningful scrutiny.

In terms of an overview of the study, I will quote O'Brien and Bosc from The Procedure of the House of Commons: A Study of Its History and Present Form by Josef Redlich in terms of the importance of this topic. He writes:

The whole law of finance, and consequently the whole British constitution, is grounded upon one fundamental principle, laid down at the very outset of English parliamentary history and secured by three hundred years of mingled conflict with the Crown and peaceful growth. All taxes and public burdens imposed upon the nation for purposes of state, whatsoever their nature, must be granted by the representatives of the citizens and taxpayers, i.e., by Parliament.

Because Canada follows the British parliamentary model, that same statement applies to this country.

The first topic of the report I will talk about is “cash versus accrual accounting”. Recommendation 1 of the report is:

That the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat complete its study of accrual-based budgeting and appropriations and report back to Parliament by March 31, 2013.

We have been told by the government that it will provide this report by March 31, 2013.

In terms of the rationale, I will read, again, from the report:

In the course of its study, the Committee considered the matter of cash versus accrual-based appropriations in the context of what information is most useful for parliamentarians in their consideration of estimates and approval of supply. The Committee heard from some witnesses who suggested that the financial information and appropriations in the main and supplementary estimates should be presented on an accrual basis as opposed to a cash basis. However there was no consensus among witnesses on the matter and the Committee heard from several witnesses who strongly favoured that information in the estimates remain on a cash basis.

In other words, there was no consensus among the experts as to whether cash or accrual accounting was better and, therefore, we did not pronounce on that issue, but we have asked that the Treasury Board Secretariat complete a study in the coming months.

The next issue concerns the timing of the budget versus the main estimates. Recommendation 6 reads:

That, to the extent possible, the budget items for a given year are reflected in the main estimates for that same year; and therefore that the government present its budget in the House of Commons no later than February 1 of each year; that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs pursue amendments to the Standing Orders, procedure and practice of the House of Commons in order to move the date on which the main estimates are presented to the House back to a later date in March; and that the Committee report to the House on its study by March 31, 2013.

The government does not support fixing the budget date as no later than February 1. The rationale for this, as confirmed by many expert witnesses, is that the earlier the budget is made, the more it is likely the budget measures of the current year will be included in the main estimates. The government makes the argument that this reduces the flexibility of the government. However, in the view of the committee, such a flexibility reduction is worth it in order to bring promptness of information to those who study the estimates. Indeed, Auditor General Michael Ferguson confirmed this point when he stated at committee:

The Main Estimates do not provide a complete picture of the spending plan and is not connected with the Budget. When we performed the audit in 2006, we found that the main reason for including items in the Supplementary Estimates was timing. The tabling of the Main Estimates in advance of the Budget was a key factor that gave rise to increased use of Supplementary Estimates.

In other words, the timeliness and usefulness of the information would be much enhanced if the government would agree to the committee's unanimous proposal to say that the budget must not be later than February 1.

The next issue involves questions in advance.

Recommendation 10 states:

That, where feasible, standing committees provide questions to departmental officials in advance of hearings on the estimates, and that committee members endeavour to ensure the necessary departmental officials are invited to appear for estimates hearings.

This is an issue that falls within the purview of the House of Commons rather than the government.

Recommendation 11 states:

That standing committees review statutory programs on a cyclical basis, at least once every eight years. This also falls within the purview of the House.

Recommendation 12 states:

That departments and agencies include tax expenditures, currently included in the Department of Finance’s Tax Expenditures and Evaluations report, in their reports on plans and priorities, as determined by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat to best fit their mandate.

The government does not support putting the tax expenditures in the reports on plans and priorities, but has said that it would coordinate the release of the annual tax expenditure report with the main estimates and that the Finance Department would offer briefings.

Recommendation 13 states:

That standing committees review tax expenditures presented in departmental reports on plans and priorities on a cyclical basis at least once every eight years to assess whether or not they are meeting their intended objective.

This too is within the purview of the House of Commons.

I come now to the topic of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Recommendation 15 states:

That the House of Commons give its Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates the mandate to undertake a study of the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer which would include a thorough analysis of the mandate and function of the Office in order to better serve members of Parliament; and that in its study, the Committee should consider all structural models for the Office including, but not limited to, the Parliamentary Budget Officer reporting directly to Parliament as an Officer of Parliament.

This also is within the purview of the House. However, the government did not display great enthusiasm for this proposal, stating that the Library of Parliament committee had already studied the question of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. This was some time ago, and I think members of the committee, including Conservative members, were in agreement that now, just a few months before the current Parliamentary Budget Officer leaves the job and another person is appointed, would be a very good time to conduct a new study of the desirable mandate of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

I will quote a couple of expert witnesses.

First, Allen Schick, distinguished professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, stated, “Canada” in establishing a Parliamentary Budget Officer:

—was following a trend that is quite widespread around the world, and that is staffing up parliament to be able to better perform its budget-related responsibilities....The role often is to review the estimates to see whether they are reliable. The key budget work today around the world is not simply whether the money should be spent, but are the assumptions underlying the estimates robust? Are they reliable?

I think that is precisely the area where research done by the Parliamentary Budget Officer is invaluable.

Joachim Wehner, associate professor in public policy at the London School of Economics, stated:

The first one [change] is to protect and enhance the role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer....Internationally, the Parliamentary Budget Officer of Canada is very highly regarded, and it's certainly a major change...in the degree the parliament in Canada has access to an independent, highly professional research capacity...some adjustments are possible to the legal framework for the Parliamentary Budget Officer. In particular, this role could be strengthened, or the status be strengthened, if he were a full officer of Parliament. Moreover, steps could be taken so that the Parliamentary Budget Officer has total access to all relevant information. I see some scope for strengthening it also on the basis of international experience.

These are two very laudatory reviews of our current Parliamentary Budget Officer and very definite proposals that he be made an officer of Parliament.

I come now to recommendation 16 on online resources, which states:

That the government develop a searchable online database that contains information on departmental spending by type of expense and by program.

The government is committing to make this information available in a better digital format.

Recommendation 14 states:

That standing committees dedicate an in camera meeting at the beginning of a new Parliament, and periodically as needed, for a briefing session on the estimates and supply process and the related documents, with a focus on the committee’s role in scrutinizing government spending

This recommendation is within the purview of the House. The purpose is to ensure that all committee members have adequate training and information to carry out an examination of the estimates in an efficient and proper way.

Next is recommendation 2 on vote structure, which states:

That the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat transition the estimates and related appropriations acts from the current model to a program activity model, that they assist federal departments with this process, and that they prepare a timeline for this transition by March 31, 2013, and transmit this timeline to the Committee.

The government said that it would provide a detailed report on transition to a program activity by March 31, 2013.

I would like to quote the current Parliamentary Budget officer, Kevin Page, because it is a very good quote. He states

On structure, it makes little sense in a 21st century world for parliamentarians to be voting on inputs like operations and capital, and grants and contributions that cut across a department spending many billions of dollars for a diverse set of program activities. Given the recent experiences with border infrastructure funds and aboriginal housing and education, would it not make more sense to consider program activities (five, 10 or 15 per department) or their associated outputs as more relevant control gates? Why should ministers and their accountability officers be able to move monies from one activity to another without scrutiny or consent? Would voting on program activities not encourage more meaningful scrutiny on service level impacts as we move forward with spending restraint? Would this not help simplify our estimates system, which collects financial and non-financial performance data on program activities?

The answer to all of those questions is a definite “yes”. I can assure members that the committee was absolutely unanimous that in the 21st century it made absolute sense to proceed with estimates based on program activity.

Next I come to the deemed adopted rule. Currently, the main estimates must be tabled by March 1 and reported back by May 31. Supplementary estimates must be reported back no later than three sitting days before the final supply day in the related supply period.

Recommendation 8 states:

That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs pursue amendments to the Standing Orders, procedure and practice of the House of Commons in order to require standing committees to consider during a minimum amount of time the estimates referred to them, and that the Committee report to the House on its study no later than March 31, 2013.

That is within the purview of the House, as is recommendation 9, which states:

That as part of its amendments to the Standing Orders, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs examine the feasibility of providing standing committees at least two sitting weeks to consider and report on the supplementary estimates, and that the Committee report to the House on its study no later than March 31, 2013.

I will quote Ned Franks, professor emeritus of the Department of Political Studies at Queen's University, who thinks that the deemed adopted rule needs to stay.

He states:

I do not like the process of deeming, which means that the votes are deemed to be passed whether they come out of committee or Parliament has approved them or not. But bearing in mind the capacity of parliamentary committees and Parliament itself to delay, procrastinate, and simply obstruct business, I think deeming is an essential part of the Canadian financial processes.

He later continues:

—I think we need that deeming thing in there as a protection against just pure bloody-minded obstruction and the refusal to pass budgets in minority parliaments.

Some of my colleagues might believe that there is never any bloody-minded obstruction in this place, but that is what the expert has suggested. It is for that reason the committee did not propose to get rid of the deeming rule, but rather to propose measures that would ensure a certain minimum amount of time was spent in examining the estimates and the supplementary estimates.

That completes the essence of our recommendations.