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House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was general.

Topics

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Mississauga—Brampton South Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, while I cannot comment on a specific case, I can ask the department to investigate to ensure that this veteran is receiving every benefit to which he is entitled.

The care and well-being of our veterans is a priority for our government. Just this week we announced significant improvements to the veterans independence program that ensure that 100,000 veterans will no longer need to submit receipts for their groundskeeping and housekeeping services. This will provide them with two up front payments each year and eliminate about a million transactions between veterans and the bureaucracy. It is just another way that we are providing service to our veterans.

Gasoline PricesOral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister promised he would provide relief for motorists by limiting the GST when gas hit 85¢ a litre. Another broken promise, and motorists are paying the price. Canadians cannot even afford to drive to work. The Conservatives went out of their way to help the oil companies in last week's budget. When will they keep their word and help hard-pressed consumers?

Gasoline PricesOral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, we kept our word. We reduced the GST by 2% for every Canadian. I have to remind the House that the Liberals would impose a job-killing carbon tax on Canadians that would see gas prices skyrocket. This is not what Canadians want.

To be serious, this member should just advocate good serious measures. At the committee last year, colleagues praised our government for steps we took to strengthen the Competition Bureau's power back in 2009.

Gasoline PricesOral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will ask the question in French. That way, I might get an answer.

Canadians are getting ready for a long weekend. Once again, they are being held hostage by the exorbitant price of gas. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they promised not to charge GST on gas when the price per litre exceeded 85¢. The government also promised to lower the tax on diesel fuel by 2¢ a litre, which never happened.

What do the Conservatives intend to do now to give Canadian families a break at the pumps?

Gasoline PricesOral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, on this long Easter weekend, I have some good measures that I would like to share with the hon. member.

First, it is important to remember that the Liberals' campaign platform proposed increasing taxes by creating a carbon tax that would kill the Canadian economy. The result is that the Liberals are now sitting at the back of the House.

This weekend, the hon. member can tell his constituents that we have a good government that reduced the GST by 2% for all Canadians. We also adopted concrete measures. We brought in new legislation to strengthen the Competition Bureau's power, which was praised by the hon. member's former colleague, Dan McTeague, at a committee meeting in 2009.

HousingOral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, clearly, fighting poverty and putting a roof over the head of each Canadian are not really a priority for the Conservatives. The fact that they are cutting $102 million from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is proof of that. This is the complete opposite of what the NDP and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities have called for. In view of the urgent current needs, this is a priority that should not be ignored. A budget is a matter of making choices.

Why are the Conservatives refusing to invest in affordable housing, to help Canadians live with dignity? And please, I would prefer that the answer is not that we voted against it.

HousingOral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, let me be clear. The member did vote against it. This government has been exceptionally supportive of individuals who are vulnerable and in need. Whether that be the 16,500 new homes for low-income families or the 615,000 individuals across the country who benefited from the economic action plan and our investments in construction and renovations for low-income housing units, I do not know what else to say but we are doing our part. Why do they not support us?

HousingOral Questions

April 5th, 2012 / 11:55 a.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, access to housing is an important human right. If there is a shortage of available housing, that right is jeopardized. Where is the Conservatives’ plan? There is absolutely nothing for affordable housing in the recent budget. Housing comes in a distant second to fighter planes and gifts to the big oil companies. That is not surprising, since the Conservatives have been cutting housing since 2006.

What are the Conservatives going to do to provide every Canadian with a roof and to combat homelessness?

HousingOral Questions

Noon

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, we have been committed to helping vulnerable Canadians be self-sufficient and have a house they can live in. This year alone, the government provided over 615,000 individuals with subsidized housing.

Last summer we announced significant funding in collaboration with the provinces, a framework ongoing for many years. This government is committed to making sure that low-income Canadians have a roof over their heads. I ask the NDP, why does it never support these initiatives?

Gasoline PricesOral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians across the country are voicing concern over what they are paying at the pumps. In a country as vast as Canada, driving is not an option if people want to take their children to soccer or ringette practice, or if they drive a truck. Will the Minister of Industry please update the House on what measures the government is taking to protect consumers when they go to fill up their cars, trucks or vans?

Gasoline PricesOral Questions

Noon

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her good question. Gas prices are indeed a concern. Both the NDP and the Liberals would impose a job-killing carbon tax on Canadians that would see gas prices skyrocket.

Fortunately, Canadians spoke in the last election.

I must say to the House that we have reduced the GST by 2%, we have strengthened the powers of the Competition Bureau and we brought in the Fairness at the Pumps Act. These are real, concrete measures that we are very proud of.

YouthOral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government deceived us to the tune of $10 billion on the F-35 budget. Put into perspective, $10 billion is enough to fund the Katimavik program for over 700 years.

Every year Katimavik takes over 1,000 kids and gets them to serve their country, one community at a time.

Last year, those young people did 572,000 hours of service for the most vulnerable people everywhere in Canada.

Does this government understand that by cutting Katimavik from this budget it is completely off base?

YouthOral Questions

Noon

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague knows that the Katimavik program has been one of the most expensive programs the Government of Canada has run. It has a one-third dropout rate.

Katimavik has received up to $21 million per year from taxpayers for over 30 years. It is time it stands on its own two feet.

If Katimavik is so great, so important and so well-run, perhaps the member for Papineau can explain why his own government cut it by over $2 million.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

Noon

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, students in Attawapiskat are yet again being forced to plead with the government to release the allowances due to them. It is humiliating. The Conservatives' third-party manager is not even returning their calls. Instead of preparing for their final exams like other Canadian students, they are being forced to try to scramble for money to buy food and simply buy bus fare.

What happened to the government's commitment to quality education for aboriginal students? Why are these students being subjected to this mistreatment?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

Noon

Vancouver Island North B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan ConservativeMinister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the member for Edmonton—Strathcona that the money is in the student account for post-secondary education as of today.

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

Noon

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians gave our government a mandate to end the wasteful and ineffective $2 billion long gun registry once and for all.

Yesterday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to scrap this law that targets law-abiding farmers, hunters and shooters, which does absolutely nothing to protect law-abiding Canadians.

Law-abiding Canadians are finally free at last.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety please update the House on what the Canadian government will be doing and when this measure will become law?

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Portage—Lisgar Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to report that our government has ended the long gun registry once and for all. This afternoon the royal assent of Bill C-19 will be proclaimed.

We were happy yesterday to receive the support of three Liberal senators who supported ending the long gun registry. We have received support from two NDP members of Parliament, and we received support from three Liberal senators. Together, we are ending the long gun registry once and for all. We have fulfilled our commitment to Canadians.

YouthOral Questions

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives cut funding for the Katimavik program without notice. As a result, 600 young Canadians who were supposed to enter the program this summer have been left in the lurch.

The Conservatives are penalizing these young people in order to save just $14 million. However, this government has no problem spending billions of dollars on F-35s.

What does the minister have to say to these 600 young people?

YouthOral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, let us be clear.

We will continue supporting youth programs that work.

As a matter of fact, just this past Monday we signed a three-year agreement with Encounters with Canada, a program that is efficient and effective and works.

Katimavik had a cost of over $28,000 per participant and a one-third dropout rate. It received up to $21 million a year from taxpayers over the past 30 years.

As Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, I have to make difficult decisions and easy decisions. Ending funding for Katimavik is one of the easiest decisions I have ever made.

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, a survivor of the École polytechnique shooting, Nathalie Provost, summed up yesterday's deplorable vote in the Senate quite well: “Something we built has just been demolished with a simple vote.”

With its majority, the Conservative government is ignoring the victims and insisting on preventing Quebec from setting up its own registry using the data that Quebeckers have already paid for. Nonetheless, the Conservative government cannot ignore the Government of Quebec's application for an injunction.

Will the Conservative government have the decency to wait for the ruling from the Superior Court of Quebec, which is hearing the case as we speak, before it starts to destroy the firearms registry, especially the data?

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. member that this government was elected on a promise to abolish this unnecessary, ineffective and expensive long gun registry.

We are respecting the Canadian Constitution and acting within our jurisdiction as far as criminal law is concerned. We will defend our constitutional jurisdiction and respect the judicial process.

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I have notice of intention to put a question of privilege, but before we do that, we will go to the usual Thursday question.

The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, as everyone knows, this is the last day before our constituency weeks and the break for the Easter weekend. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the staff here in the House and on the Hill generally for all the services they give us during the year. I want to acknowledge the fine work they do.

I ask the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons what his plans are for the week when we return, that is what legislation will be before the House.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

12:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, first let me acknowledge the important vote we had in the House last evening to approve this year's budget. Economic action plan 2012 is a low-tax plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Since July 2009, almost 700,000 net new jobs have been created in Canada. We are on track, and our budget seeks to achieve the same kind of long-term growth and prosperity.

Mr. Speaker, the House will adjourn this afternoon to celebrate Easter and Passover, followed by a pause to work in our constituencies. When we return on Monday, April 23, the House will have the sixth day of second reading debate on Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, April 24 and 25, the House will consider report stage and third reading of Bill C-26, the citizen's arrest and self-defence act, for which I anticipate broad support.

Finally, on Thursday, April 26, we shall have the first allotted day, which will belong to the official opposition.

National DefencePrivilegeOral Questions

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday of this week, April 3, 2012, you had the honour of tabling in this House the 2012 report of the Auditor General.

The Auditor General, of course, is an officer of Parliament and the reports tabled through you by his office are presumed to be an accurate reflection of the issues his office undertook to examine.

As such, all members of this place operate on the assumption that the contents of the Auditor General's report, tabled by the Speaker, are reliable enough to base not only questions and comments, but also for the government and, if necessary, Parliament, to act upon, whether through administrative reforms or legislative measures. That is my first very simple point.

My second point is that the proceedings of the House are based on a long-standing tradition of respect for the tradition of members. There has to be a presumption that all members of the House are speaking the truth, based upon their knowledge of a particular issue. That assumption is in fact the basis of our parliamentary system.

For generations we have assumed that people could be taken at their word, that when members of Parliament say something in this House, whether they are members of the opposition or members of the executive, we take it as a matter of our ongoing work as parliamentarians that those words are in fact the truth, as members know as they are stating them.

Speaker Fraser, in a decision on a question of privilege, in the Debates of May 5, 1987, stated in part that the institution of Parliament enjoys “the protection of absolute privilege because of the overriding need to ensure that the truth can be told”.

I am beginning from the premise that all members, cabinet members included, who speak in this place are speaking the truth. We have to assume that when the Prime Minister of Canada is speaking in this place, he is speaking the truth. We have to assume that when the Minister of National Defence is speaking in this place, he is speaking the truth. When the Minister of Public Works and Government Services is speaking in this place, she is speaking the truth. When the Associate Minister of National Defence is speaking, he is speaking the truth.

I am reminded of Speaker Milliken's ruling on March 9, 2011, which dealt with the issues of the contradictory statements of the Minister of International Cooperation regarding the Christian charity, KAIROS. In his ruling, where he ruled that there was a prima facie case of privilege, Speaker Milliken said:

—members have argued that the minister has made statements in committee that are different from those made in the House or provided to the House in written form. Indeed, these members have argued that the material available shows that contradictory information has been provided. As a result, they argue, this demonstrates that the minister has deliberately misled the House and that as such, a prima facie case of privilege exists.

He then went on to quote from a ruling delivered by Speaker Jerome on March 21, 1978, which said:

—the Speaker should ask himself, when he has to decide whether to grant precedence over other public business to a motion which a Member who has complained of some act or conduct as constituting a breach of privilege desires to move, should be not—do I consider that, assuming that the facts are as stated, the act or conduct constitutes a breach of privilege, but could it reasonably be held to be a breach of privilege, or to put it shortly, has the Member an arguable point? If the Speaker feels any doubt on the question, he should, in my view, leave it to the House.

At the time the member for Scarborough—Rouge River indicated to the House:

That has confused me. It has confused Parliament. It has confused us in our exercise of holding the government to account, whether it is the Privy Council, whether it is the minister, whether it is public officials; we cannot do our job when there is that type of confusion.

Mr. Speaker, Milliken also said:

—the situation before us where the House is left with two versions of events is one that merits further consideration by an appropriate committee, if only to clear the air.

The Speaker went on to say that in his view there was sufficient doubt to warrant a finding of prima facie privilege in that particular case.

If these arguments are correct, and I would argue that they are, we have a problem that requires attention, and I believe a ruling with respect to the matter of truthfulness in statements by members of the government is now clearly warranted.

Yesterday I raised this matter as it concerns the Auditor General's 2012 report. Chapter 2 of that report, entitled “Replacing Canada's Fighter Jets”, contains the following at page 3 under the heading “The departments have responded”:

National Defence, Industry Canada and Public Works and Government Services Canada have accepted the facts presented in the chapter. Both National Defence and Public Works and Government Services Canada disagree with the conclusions set out in paragraphs 2.80 and 2.81.

I would draw the House's attention to the last sentence, which states that the two departments in question disagree with the conclusions set out in paragraphs 2.80 and 2.81 of the report of the Auditor General.

Given the severity of the situation that has been raised in regard to the issue of the F-35, and bearing in mind that the two paragraphs to which I will now refer appear in the Auditor General's report under the heading “Conclusion”, I wish to place these two paragraphs on the public record prior to raising the specific matters as privilege. I am quoting now from the Auditor General's report in full. These are the two paragraphs in which we are told by the Auditor General of Canada, which he confirmed this morning in committee when asked this question, that the departments in question challenge the conclusions of the Auditor General, namely paragraphs 2.80 and 2.81:

National Defence did not exercise due diligence in managing the process to replace the CF-18 jets. National Defence did not appropriately consult Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) on the procurement implications of the 2006 MOU for the third phase of the JSF Program or develop an appropriate plan for managing the unique aspects of the acquisition. Problems relating to development of the F-35 were not fully communicated to decision makers, and risks presented to decision makers did not reflect the problems the JSF Program was experiencing at the time. Full life-cycle costs were understated in the estimates provided to support the government's 2010 decision to buy the F-35. Some costs were not fully provided to parliamentarians.

For emphasis, I am going to repeat that statement:

Some costs were not fully provided to parliamentarians.

The report then continued:

There was a lack of timely and complete documentation to support the procurement strategy decision.

Paragraph 2.81 reads as follows:

PWGSC did not demonstrate due diligence in its role as the government's procurement authority. Although it was engaged by National Defence until late in the decision-making process, PWGSC relied almost exclusively on assertions by National Defence and endorsed the sole-source procurement strategy in the absence of required documentation and completed analysis.

Those are the two sections, which I have just read into the record.

Since this report was presented to the House, the government, through the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, the Associate Minister of National Defence and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, has responded. The following are representative of the line of argument by the government.

The Associate Minister of National Defence said, “We do in fact accept the conclusions of the Auditor General, and we will in fact implement his recommendations”. The Minister of National Defence said, “We have said that we accept his conclusions”. The Associate Minister of National Defence said, “we accept the conclusions of the Auditor General”. The Minister of Public Works and Government Services said, “I say to the member that our government believes very strongly the Auditor General's recommendations and conclusions were accurate, and we agree with them”. The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons said, “The government has clearly expressed, through the ministers here, the views we have that we accept the findings of the Auditor General and the recommendations”.

At no point has any member of the government stated in this place that both National Defence and Public Works and Government Services Canada in fact “disagree with the conclusions” of the Auditor General, a declaration that is clearly self-evident in the report itself.

In fact, as I have indicated, statements made in the House have been categorical. The government, according to the record of this place, accepts the conclusions of the Auditor General, which as a point of fact is misleading, erroneous and, if I may say so, best suited to an unparliamentary term.

The point I raise is not a matter of interpretation and it is not a matter of debate. It is clear that two completely different and contradictory versions of reality are being presented in the House by the government.

In response to oral questions, the government accepts all conclusions of the Auditor General, while in a written submission to the House through its response to the Auditor General's report, the government rejects several critical conclusions of the Auditor General.

These two versions of reality cannot both be true. One in fact must be a falsehood. While it is not for the Speaker to determine what is fact, what is clear is that the two versions of reality leave the House with significant confusion on this issue. Indeed, I would argue that these two versions seem to be an attempt to deliberately confuse the House.

It should be noted that the ministers in this House were apprised of the findings of the report prior to it being tabled in this House, as demonstrated by the fact that the report contains statements from the departments affected and how they have responded.

It is my contention and first argument, based upon the conflicting versions of reality delivered by the government in this place in response to the Auditor General's report concerning the F-35 procurement process, that in fact this is not just a question of my privileges—it is not a question of personal privilege—but a question of the privileges of this House.

I also want to make an additional argument, because I think it is critical that the House comes to grips with this question.

If in fact it is true that the government accepts the conclusions of the Auditor General's report, the Government of Canada is admitting that for a period of 21 months it misled the Parliament of Canada. By way of debate, the government is saying,“Well, it's okay because there are no consequences, there are no financial consequences to this, so it doesn't matter”. One minister of the crown even got up to say, “Don't ask us questions about this. Only ask us questions about something which really matters, like the economy.”

There is nothing more fundamental to this House than the fact that this House be told the truth by its government.

Something else surfaced in the media today.

The Auditor General made a presentation to a parliamentary committee today, but he also said things to the media outside the House. He surprised us all by telling the media that members of the executive council were aware of the facts and of the costs related to the contract even as they attacked opposition members and an officer of Parliament, the Parliamentary Budget Officer. This means that for a long time, the members of the executive council knew that what they were saying in the House of Commons was not true.

Frankly, I cannot imagine a harsher, clearer criticism of the government. The government cannot say that, while it accepts the conclusions in the report, they do not really matter. If it accepts the conclusions in the Auditor General's report, it must accept the facts that are clearly stated within it: the government did not tell the truth to members of the House of Commons. On the contrary, it repeatedly attacked members and officers of the House even though it knew the truth.

That is why I believe that there is clearly a matter of privilege here.

It is not a matter of privilege for one member of this House alone. This has to do with the fundamental obligation of a government to tell the truth, to tell the truth to Parliament.

The Auditor General has concluded that, in fact, Parliament was misled. If the government accepts that conclusion, I would argue, Mr. Speaker, that you have no alternative but to find that there is a question of privilege.

If the government now recoils and says it continues to object to the two paragraphs that I have read out, then we also have a question of privilege, because what the government is stating in this House is completely contrary to what it is arguing in the document itself. The government cannot have it both ways. We have to be clear on this.

It does not end here. We cannot have a Parliament without truth and without consequences. There has to be a Parliament with truth and with consequences.

Just to be clear, Mr. Speaker, if you find it is a question of privilege, I will be coming forward with a motion for the House to consider, with respect to how we deal with the matter.