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House of Commons Hansard #118 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jobs.

Topics

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Lévis—Bellechasse Québec

Conservative

Steven Blaney ConservativeMinister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, every year 4,000 veterans are turning to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board on decisions that have been rendered by the department, with free legal assistance. I welcome the report of the ombudsman. I have instructed the tribunal to act upon those recommendations, and I am pleased to inform the House that the tribunal has put forward an action plan that it wishes to implement within the next 30 days.

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, ever since the announcement was made with great fanfare that a committee would be set up to look into the issue of French in federally regulated workplaces, there has been nothing but silence.

An access to information request submitted by the QMI Agency showed that there is not much in the file apart from one press release. Basically, the only thing we have seen is a parade of ministers from Quebec to make people believe that the Conservatives are paying some attention to the issue of French in the workplace.

Why has the minister still not set up his famous committee?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, French is an issue of critical importance that we take very seriously on this side of the House. That is why we are not going to rush into taking a hit and miss kind of approach, as suggested by the NDP, with bills that are written on the back of a napkin.

We have said we will be setting up the committee to assess whether there are in fact problems relating to the language of work in businesses that are subject to federal legislation. We are going to do it correctly and we are going to do it thoughtfully.

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the minister that these things should not be rushed, but at some point, they are going to have to start the process.

There was another document in the file. In fact, it was an email from a senior policy advisor in Industry Canada, who was asking, “Are you aware of this?” That was the end of it. That is the sum total of Conservative action on this issue.

Last October, the minister promised that the committee would be set up before Christmas. However, it is now May, we will soon be rising for the summer, and there is still no news.

Why is the Minister breaking his promise? Would it be because he wants to take French leave?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where my colleague opposite has found that I have made such promises or commitments, but I have never publicly committed to anything of the kind.

One thing is clear—and I repeat—it is out of the question to skirt around a process that is so crucial and important. That is why we are taking the time to set up this committee in a correct and thoughtful manner. Then when we are ready, we will announce it.

The BudgetOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Finance.

While the NDP gets lobbied by its big union bosses and socialist friends for a return to reckless spending and increased punishing taxes, our Conservative government is focused on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Our plan is positive and forward looking, while the NDP would take us back to a failed tax-and-spend big government model of decades past.

Would the Minister of Finance please explain what informed economists are saying about economic action plan 2012?

The BudgetOral Questions

3 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

I certainly will, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the hard-working member for York Centre for the question.

Canada's leading economists have lauded economic action plan 2012. Patricia Croft, the economist, said, “(Budget 2012’s) initiatives in the job front and addressing the demographic challenge.... In both regards I’d have to give the budget probably an ‘A’.... In a global context, I think Canada is in a fabulous position”.

Avery Shenfeld, chief economist, CIBC, said budget 2012 “...makes sense in a world economy that is still not what we would like it to be.... Relative to what anybody else is doing, we still”—

The BudgetOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please.

The hon. member for Markham—Unionville.

Canada Mortgage and Housing CorporationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Mondragon housing co-op in Brampton is trying to be a responsible steward of its property.

It is trying to refinance its mortgage so that it can do needed capital repairs, but CMHC is blocking it, charging the co-operative 19 times the normal private sector rate to break its mortgage.

Will the minister instruct CMHC to behave in a reasonable manner so that Mondragon and other co-ops can refinance and perform needed repairs?

Canada Mortgage and Housing CorporationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, the facts are that, in order to access low-interest mortgages from CMHC through the crown borrowing framework, the social housing organizations signed closed mortgages at government rates that were significantly less at the time than private sector mortgages.

When the mortgages come up for renewal, they have every right and every freedom to go and pursue financing from other sources at today's better rates.

National DefenceOral Questions

May 7th, 2012 / 3 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence has decided to close the Bécancour sea cadet camp, the only francophone camp of its kind in Canada. This camp plays a critical role in creating the next francophone generation of the Canadian Forces and produces significant economic spinoffs throughout the region.

Why did the minister dismiss the importance of this camp for francophone youth who want the sea cadet experience in their own language? Why close the only francophone camp in Canada?

National DefenceOral Questions

3 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, there will be as many or more cadets attending camp this summer.

We have ensured that we continue that support for this important program, the best youth development program that we have in Canada today. We continue to support our cadets, both French and English, as they enjoy this important experience.

I had the pleasure of spending some time with them this weekend at the Battle of the Atlantic commemoration. I could not be more proud of the work that our young Canadians in the cadet corps are doing across the country.

International TradeOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, in these challenging times for the global economy, our Conservative government remains squarely focused on what matters to Canadians.

A free trade agreement with the European Union is expected to add 80,000 new jobs to our economy. That is like an additional $1,000 in the pocket of every family in the country.

Can the hard-working Minister of International Trade share with the House how our government's pro-trade plan is creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians from coast to coast to coast?

International TradeOral Questions

3 p.m.

Abbotsford B.C.

Conservative

Ed Fast ConservativeMinister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Kelowna—Lake Country for that excellent question and also for his great work on the trade committee.

It is clear that a free trade agreement with the EU will bring significant benefits to every single region of our country. Our government rejects the pessimism of the NDP and its anti-trade allies. They propose a little Canada and want us to hide behind protectionist walls.

Our economy depends on an expansive and global view of Canada, and that is why our government is committed to an ambitious pro-trade plan that will strengthen our ties with the European Union and with the rest of the world.

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, if we have to trust those people over there, then we are not out of the woods.

While millions of dollars are being spent on recreating the War of 1812, this government, including that minister, has decided to declare war on archivists. Cuts are being made to hundreds of small museums because the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages has chosen to make cuts to the National Archival Development Program.

Towns and cities everywhere will not have enough money to protect their historical documents—small churches, small libraries, everywhere. And that will have an impact on us. At the end of the day, these cuts are threatening the very wealth and diversity of heritage in our communities.

Why is the government so doggedly attacking our collective wealth—

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, there is no such attack. Library and Archives Canada will certainly be able to continue meeting its commitments by using new technologies and other means, and those methods will be used by museums across the country.

Our government is investing more than ever before in terms of our national museums, small museums across the country. Library and Archives Canada is doing a fantastic job of digitizing things, working with smaller libraries, working with collections and archivists around the country to make sure that more of the collection is available to more Canadians than ever before, at lower cost.

They are getting the job done and we are working well together.

Parks CanadaOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, after being shaken by the budget cuts in 2010, Parks Canada's Quebec Service Centre, which houses archeological and artifact restoration services, is now having to close its doors because of the latest federal budget cuts.

This is disastrous for Quebec's heritage. Not only will highly skilled workers lose their jobs, but thousands of items in Parks Canada's collection, including artifacts dating from the founding of Quebec City, will be sent to Ottawa.

How can the government justify these job losses and the fact that valuable heritage artifacts connected with Quebec's history are being sent to Ontario or elsewhere in Canada?

Parks CanadaOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, Parks Canada, like all other agencies and departments across government, is doing its part to address deficit reduction. Certainly our government has proven its commitment to the national parks system. In fact, no other government has done more to protect our natural spaces and our history and our historic sites than any government before us. We will continue to do that, and Parks Canada will continue to maintain programs and services across parks and sites, as we have done in the past.

Parks CanadaOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

That concludes question period for today.

National DefencePrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on April 5, 2012, by the member for Toronto Centre about statements made by the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and the Associate Minister of National Defence, regarding the proposed acquisition of F-35 fighter jets.

I would like to thank the hon. member for having raised this matter, as well as the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, and the hon. members for Richmond—Arthabaska, Scarborough—Guildwood, Malpeque, and Saanich—Gulf Islands for their comments.

In raising this question of privilege, the member for Toronto Centre contended that an opinion attributed to two government departments in chapter 2 of the Auditor General's spring 2012 report to Parliament was at variance with statements the Prime Minister and certain ministers have made to the House on the same matter, namely that the government accepts all the recommendations and conclusions in the Auditor General's report. The part of the report that is in question reads as follows:

...National Defence and Public Works and Government Services Canada disagree with the conclusions set out in paragraphs 2.80 and 2.81.

Based on this, the member for Toronto Centre claimed that the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, as well as the Associate Minister of National Defence had presented “two completely different and contradictory versions of reality“ to the House. Noting that it is a fundamental obligation of the government to tell the House the truth, the member stated that the government seemed to be attempting to deliberately confuse the House.

With respect to the cost projections of the F-35 fighter jets, the hon. member for Toronto Centre also claimed that, if the government does indeed fully accept all of the Auditor General’s conclusions and recommendations, then it is, in fact, agreeing with the Auditor General’s assessment that “some costs were not fully provided to parliamentarians” and thus that Parliament had been misled. He went further, alleging that ministers were aware of the facts and thus knew that what they were saying in the House was not true. In reply, the government House leader explained that the departmental responses to the Auditor General’s conclusions were those of the departmental officials, rather than the government itself. He said, “The position of the government is not the position taken by the officials in those departments.”

The charges being levelled against the Prime Minister and three ministers are serious. They go to the very essence of the need for clarity in our proceedings and the need to ensure that information provided to the House by the government is such that the ability of members to carry out their duty of holding the government to account is not diminished or impeded.

The issue of ministerial responsibility and accountability has also been raised by several members. The Chair would like to set aside this aspect of the matter immediately. As all members know, constitutional issues of this nature are not matters for parliamentary procedure, and they are well beyond the range of matters the Speaker can be asked to rule upon.

In reviewing the other arguments being advanced, it would seem that the Chair is being asked to ascertain whether what was said in the House was truthful. However, I must remind members that in such circumstances the Chair's role is clear and indeed very limited.

In House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 510 it states:

The Speaker, however, is not responsible for the quality or content of replies to questions. In most instances, when a point of order or a question of privilege has been raised in regard to a response to an oral question, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is a disagreement among Members over the facts surrounding the issue. As such, these matters are more a question of debate and do not constitute a breach of the rules or of privilege.

There are in addition many relevant rulings from my predecessor Speaker Milliken, and I will quote from several of them. The first, from January 31, 2008, is found at pages 2434 and 2435 of Debates. In it, he stated:

Any dispute regarding the accuracy or appropriateness of a minister’s response to an oral question is a matter of debate; it is not a matter for the Speaker to judge. The same holds true with respect to the breadth of a minister’s answer to a question in the House: this is not for the Speaker to determine.

Again on February 26, 2004, at page 1076 of Debates, he confirmed:

As hon. members know, it is not the Speaker's role to adjudicate on matters of fact. This is something on which the House itself can form an opinion during debate.

The member for Toronto Centre himself acknowledged this parliamentary convention when he said, “While it is not for the Speaker to determine what is fact”.

So what then are the parameters of the Speaker’s role when faced with such allegations?

Speaker Milliken summed it up quite succinctly on April 21, 2005, when he said at page 5412 of Debates:

In the present case, I must determine whether the minister's responses in any way impeded members in the performance of their parliamentary duties and whether the remarks were intentionally misleading—

Then, on January 31, 2008, Speaker Milliken again had cause to state, at page 2435 of Debates:

As hon. members know, before finding a prima facie breach of privilege in situations such as these, the Speaker must be convinced that deliberately misleading statements were made to the House.

It has become accepted practice in this House that the following elements have to be established when it is alleged that a member is in contempt for deliberately misleading the House: one, it must be proven that the statement was misleading; two, it must be established that the member making the statement knew at the time that the statement was incorrect; and three, that in making the statement, the member intended to mislead the House.

It is with this very high threshold in mind that I have carefully reviewed all the interventions on this matter, as well as statements made to the House and replies given during oral questions by the Prime Minister and the various cabinet ministers involved.

With regard to the first argument advanced by the member for Toronto Centre, the Chair has difficulty accepting the view that because ministers are stating that they accept the findings and agree with the conclusions of the Auditor General, which include, in part, a statement written by the Auditor General relating that two departments disagree with him, that this in and of itself is evidence that these same ministers have deliberately misled the House and intended, in doing so, to impede members in the performance of their duties.

What the Chair has before it is a statement by the government House leader that, having taken into account the findings of the Auditor General, the government has decided that it rejects the position previously taken by officials as conveyed in the report. As I pointed out earlier, the minister has stated rather starkly that “the position of the government is not the position taken by the officials in those departments”. Accordingly, with respect to this aspect of the question, the Chair cannot find grounds for a prima facie finding of privilege.

The second argument made by the member for Toronto Centre was that because the government agreed with the Auditor General's assessment that “Some costs were not fully provided to parliamentarians”, this meant that the House was misled. He further claimed “...for a long time, the members of the executive council knew that what they were saying in the House of Commons was not true”.

In looking at this aspect of the question, the Chair must return to the words of the Auditor General himself, whose report states categorically in paragraph 2.80 that “Some costs were not fully provided to parliamentarians”. However, let us not forget the very high threshold required before there can be a finding of prima facie privilege. As I said a moment ago, it must be clearly established that in making the statement complained of, the member in question knew it was incorrect and intended to mislead the House in making it.

It is relevant to note, in reference to this latter point, that the Auditor General also says, in the very same paragraph of his report, and here I am repeating a passage the member for Toronto Centre himself read to the House:

Problems relating to development of the F-35 were not fully communicated to decision makers—meaning ministers—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.

Obviously, the Auditor General has raised concerns about the information provided. He is pointing out that in his opinion less than complete information was provided to ministers and to members.

On this point, drawing from a somewhat analogous case from 2004 found in Debates at page 1047 in reference to statements contained in a report of the Auditor General indicating that Parliament had been “misinformed” and “bypassed”, Speaker Milliken pointed out that no evidence had been produced to show that “departmental officials deliberately intended to deceive their superiors and so obstruct hon. members in the performance of their duties”.

Not only has the government House leader stated that the government agrees with the Auditor General in this respect, the minister has gone even further stating:

—as a government, as ministers, as a cabinet, we have a right and an expectation that the advice we receive is something on which we can rely. This is something that, in this case, the Auditor General made some findings on. We happen to agree with those findings in the end.

So, ultimately, the Chair has before it two clear statements: the first contained in the report of the Auditor General that some costs were not fully provided to ministers and members; and the second, by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons accepting the conclusions of the Auditor General.

In my view, no clear evidence has been presented beyond this and, thus, the Chair has no choice but to conclude that it cannot find that ministers knew or believed that what they were telling the House was not true or that it was intended to be misleading. In other words, the criteria of demonstrating that ministers knew their statements to the House were incorrect, and that they intended to mislead the House, has not been met.

Accordingly, bound as I am by the very narrow parameters that apply in these situations, and without any evidence that the House was deliberately mislead, I cannot arrive at a finding of prima facie privilege in this case.

The House will be aware, however, that the Standing Committee on Public Accounts has, as part of its ongoing mandate, the responsibility to review and report on all reports to the Auditor General. The House knows that the committee is seized of the report that has given rise to this question of privilege and is at present proceeding with its examination of the report.

I remind the House that a determination that a breach of privilege is not prima facie at this time in no way interferes with the right of any hon. member to raise a new question of privilege should the committee arrive at findings that shed new light on this matter, or should other pertinent information become available.

I thank members for their attention.

TreatiesRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the treaties entitled, “Amendment to the Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary Fund on the Reform of the Executive Board”, adopted by the Board of Governors on 15 December, 2010 and “Protocol Amending the Agreement on Government Procurement”, adopted at Geneva on March 30 by the parties to the World Trade Organization Agreement on Government Procurement.

An explanatory memorandum is included with each treaty.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 38(6) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to six petitions.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Orders 104 and 114 I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 22nd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the membership of the committees of the House. If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 22nd report later today.

Industry, Science and TechnologyCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology in relation to the study on e-commerce in Canada.