House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ukraine.


Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians ActPrivate Members' Business

December 10th, 2013 / 4:35 p.m.


John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

moved that Bill C-518, an act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act (withdrawal allowance), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to start the debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-518. Quite simply, this bill would penalize crooked, law-breaking politicians who fleece taxpayers by taking away their pensions.

I was the national director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation when the scandal surrounding former senator Lavigne unfolded. Like many Canadians, I was appalled at the details of the case. He quite literally stole money from taxpayers. He was ordered to repay tens of thousands of dollars for improper travel expenses. He used publicly funded staff to do his own personal chores. He was convicted in a court of law for breach of trust and fraud. Yet, while that man currently sits in prison, he is still collecting a taxpayer-sponsored pension because of a loophole.

Mr. Lavigne technically resigned as a senator before he was kicked out. According to the rules, when senators resign they get to hold on to their pension. Only when senators are forced out of office for breaking the law, or are otherwise disqualified, will they lose their pension. However, if they quit before they have the chance to get fired, they will be paid a parliamentary pension. That is exactly what Mr. Lavigne did. He fleeced taxpayers while in office and now he fleeces them still.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation calculates that former senator Lavigne is receiving $67,000 per year from his publicly funded pension. That is more than most Canadians earn from honest work in a full-time job.

More recently, we saw Mac Harb retire from the Senate after it was discovered that he had also been fleecing taxpayers. He qualifies for a pension estimated to be over $100,000 per year. The police are investigating his actions. Should he be charged and convicted, he will be in the same boat as disgraced former senator Lavigne, with taxpayers footing the bill again.

This situation is unacceptable. That is why I want to change the law to close the loophole that is currently letting politicians who abuse their office and swindle taxpayers get a taxpayer-funded retirement. That is what this protecting taxpayers and revoking pensions of convicted politicians act will do.

First, it would add a clause to the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act to take into account the situation where a senator or a member of Parliament is convicted of an offence that arose out of conduct that occurred while that individual was in office. It would do this by using the same mechanism that is already in place for politicians who become disqualified from holding their office. The law already takes into account a situation where senators are deemed disqualified. It states that senators will receive their pension contributions plus interest and not a penny more as a lump sum when he or she “...ceases to be a Senator by reason of disqualification or was expelled from the House of Commons”.

Whenever senators or members of Parliament are found to have committed reprehensible crimes while in office, whether or not they are still holding that office, they should have their pensions taken away. I am sure my colleagues will agree with me that we must get rid of the loophole that currently lets crooked politicians keep their pensions if they quit before they get fired. Thus, under my bill, convicted parliamentarians would not receive a pension but would be reimbursed only their pension contributions plus the earned interest.

Second, what I also want to accomplish with the bill is to make sure it will be applied for all future convictions of politicians, including for past malfeasance. For this reason, I have included a section clarifying that the charges contained in the bill would apply with respect to any person who is or was a member of the Senate or House of Commons and convicted after the date I introduced the bill, which was June 3, 2013.

Police investigations are currently under way to look into possible criminal breach of trust, theft or fraud. Charges may be forthcoming. If any of these potential charges result in a conviction, I would want to know that this loophole was closed in time.

Some have wondered if this bill, which would revoke the parliamentary pension of convicted politicians, is legal and have asked the following. Can the law be modified to repeal an entitlement? Can it be applied retroactively to the near past when the bill was tabled? Can it include a crime that occurred before even the tabling date?

I can answer with certainty; the answer is yes. Yes, we can repeal a parliamentary entitlement and, as I mentioned previously, the law already provides under what circumstances that can be done.

Indeed, I believe most analysts would agree there is not an issue on a go forward basis, that is, when the crime, the criminal charge, and the conviction, all happen after the bill is law, should it become law. However, of course, life is not that simple. We have several difficult cases before us now. They demand a remedy to protect taxpayers.

With regard to retroactivity to convictions after the tabling date of June 3 for crimes committed before that date, the answer again is yes and yes, and again with certainty. It can be done, for it has already been done.

Legislation passed earlier this year in Nova Scotia strips the pension of any lawmaker convicted of a crime for which the maximum punishment is imprisonment of no less than five years. The start date for that law was May 6, which was when the bill was tabled in the provincial legislature. The result was that in June an independent MLA lost his pension after pleading guilty to fraud and breach of trust charges arising from an expense scandal. He collected tax dollars after filing ten false expense claims in 2008 and 2009. Today he is not eligible to receive an MLA pension.

I believe that taxpayers expect similar accountability from Parliament. We have an opportunity to stand with taxpayers, should any parliamentarian be found guilty of a serious crime in the future.

Some have expressed concerns that the bill is too harsh. The bar that I have set in the bill would strip the pensions away from any MP or senator who commits a crime with a maximum punishment of two years or more.

During my consultations, it was brought to my attention that there are some crimes in the Criminal Code with a maximum penalty of two years, for which I do not think a politician should lose their pension. There are many different crimes. I will not go through the entire list, but I hardly think that a member of Parliament should lose their pension for being convicted of blasphemous libel. Neither do I think it is necessary to strip a pension away from someone who gives a false alarm of fire. It is also conceivable that somebody could technically be guilty of crimes without the offence being so egregious that it should be grounds for losing a pension.

I think all hon. members would agree that if we were to proceed with the bill, we should do so thoughtfully and carefully, to avoid unjustly revoking a parliamentary pension. I am therefore open to suggestions for improving the bill in this regard.

The best suggestion I have heard so far, and with which I agree, is to limit the scope and to raise the bar. The bill currently would apply to any federal statute, again, with a penalty of two years or more as the maximum. I think it would be fair to limit the scope to only include the Criminal Code.

As I mentioned a moment ago, the bill would apply to violations for which the maximum penalty is two or more years. It would be fair to raise the bar and only consider indictable offences in which the maximum penalty is five or more years. I will therefore be moving and endorsing this higher five-year threshold at amendment stage. In doing so, this federal act would be virtually identical to provincial law in Nova Scotia.

I believe that my bill is an appropriate response to the unfortunate actions of a handful of people. Both of these modifications would keep the spirit of the bill entirely intact. Fraud and breach of trust would both still result in a loss of pension.

The message I want to send is very simple. If a senator or an MP steals from taxpayers, they do not deserve to have taxpayers buy them or fund them a gold-plated retirement. I trust all hon. members would agree.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians ActPrivate Members' Business

4:45 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the recognition. I thank the member for putting forward the bill, which the NDP members will be working to support at second reading.

The hon. member mentioned in his speech that he would be looking to change the convictions within Bill C-518 from two years to no less than five years, which is parallel to the Nova Scotia law that the NDP government put in place.

I certainly appreciate that the member brought forward that he will be bringing in those amendments, but the other concern that has been raised around the bill, and that is contained within the Nova Scotia NDP bill, allows for a former spouse having court-ordered restitution that can be deducted from the salary or pension of the member of the House of Assembly.

I would ask the hon. member if he is looking, as well, for those amendments, so that the spouses or ex-spouses of those MPs who are convicted would have access to that pension. That was the other concern that was brought forward in terms of his bill.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians ActPrivate Members' Business

4:45 p.m.


John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have been asked about that, the question of a spouse or dependent and how they might be impacted by the bill. I have a couple of thoughts on it.

The first is that we should not treat ourselves in a manner that is terribly different than ordinary Canadians. For example, if someone goes to prison today and that person has a spouse, it is difficult for that family but it is something they do without support from the state. Similarly, in my riding, if someone, for example, defrauds a government program, they not only could go to jail but they also lose the funding of that program, say employment insurance as an example. We do not, as a government or a country, make special restitutions for those kinds of examples.

Therefore, I am a bit wary of proceeding on a path as they did in the other place, where members are ejected but continue to collect their benefits in a way that I think is a bit offside with Canadian taxpayers.

My solution is that, should a member find himself or herself in a situation where they were disqualified from their pension, under Bill C-518 the amount that had been contributed by the member would be returned to the member with interest. That is no small amount. We currently pay about $11,000 or $12,000 a year toward our pensions. That is going to rise to about $38,000 a year, starting after 2016. If we look at that amount over 6 or 10 years, we begin to approach a fairly healthy amount, between $300,000 and $500,000 approximately. Therefore, that addresses the hon. member's concerns to a degree.

Having said that, if that is an avenue that other members want to pursue, I would be open to hearing about it. However, again, I would not want to have a loophole that is too large here, because the point of the bill is to send the signal to people to not break the rules. If they do not break the rules, the pension will be there for them.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians ActPrivate Members' Business

4:45 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I want to point something out to my colleague. He mentioned that for some of the offences with penalties of up to two years, he would not be in favour of revoking pension benefits to any particular member of either House. However, does five years really do that in some cases? Remember, this is just what he says is a maximum sentence. It is not what they have been convicted of necessarily. It runs up to a maximum of five years, which certainly could cover a whole array of charges. I am just trying to test whether he can say definitely that five years gets over that level of comfort that he is talking about.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians ActPrivate Members' Business

4:50 p.m.


John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, I believe it does because if we go through the Criminal Code we will see the crimes that are generally covered by that, first and foremost, involve a kind of scheming. They are not crimes that one would fall into by accident. More to the point, it is a maximum penalty of five or more years. That does disqualify a whole range of activities that someone could fall into through a lapse of judgment, for example. I would have to ask the member, because I am short on time, to review the Criminal Code.

What is important to avoid here is an example where someone like Lavigne is found guilty of breach of trust and then sentenced to six months, keeping his pension. This bill was designed, not with the penalty that was handed out, the jail time, but with the crime the individual is charged with. It would have to be a serious crime to trigger the loss of a pension.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians ActPrivate Members' Business

4:50 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-518.

As I mentioned in my question to the member a few minutes ago, members of the NDP will be supporting the bill at second reading.

However, I want to raise the caveats right off the top. The two caveats that we have raised are with regard to the Nova Scotia model. The Nova Scotia NDP government brought in the model legislation that basically stood by the principle that Canadian legislators should abide by the law of the land. That legislation was put in place by the NDP government in Nova Scotia and ensured that for a maximum of no less than five years any offence punishable by imprisonment would mean that the member, in this case the member of the House of Assembly in Nova Scotia, would see his or her pension benefits removed.

As members well know, what that does is allow, still, for the lump-sum payment on pensions, but what it takes away, if somebody has committed this criminal offence, is the additional pension top-up that the taxpayers normally would provide for a pension, whether we are talking at the provincial or the federal level.

We agree with the principle that once a member of Parliament is elected, the member of Parliament has the responsibility to abide by the law of the land. Because of that, we say that this kind of legislation is welcome.

However, as the member has already indicated, we would be looking and seeking amendments to change it to five years for a criminal offence and we have seen, I think, from the member, some willingness to compromise on that. That is welcome.

The other concern that we have raised, though, and it is not a little one, is that former spouses or dependents not be penalized by this.

In the case of the Nova Scotia law that the Nova Scotia NDP government put into place, it ensured that any entitlement a former spouse may have in court or a court-ordered restitution would be deducted from the MHA's pension. What that means, in the context of Bill C-518, is that it would assure that those expenses, in the case of a former spouse or a court-ordered restitution, would be taken away and sent to the spouse or to the victim who receives the court-ordered restitution. That is still an open question for Bill C-518.

Though we are in agreement in principle on second reading, we are certainly hoping at the committee stage that the flexibility that the member has shown with regard to the move from two years to five years would also be considered, in terms of former spouses or court-ordered restitutions.

We agree with the principle of the bill. We do believe some of the details need to be worked on. That is our role here in Parliament, in the House of Commons. NDP members work very diligently to correct, often, mistakes or weaknesses that happen in government bills. It is our pleasure to do it up until 2015 when, of course, we will producing the type of legislation that we are sure Conservatives will be supporting because we will actually do the work beforehand so that the problems are worked out prior to.

However, it does raise a question because here we have a bill from a Conservative member, which is a welcome bill, that says very clearly Canada's legislators should abide by the law of the land.

It just brings to mind the concerns that we have been raising in the House of Commons over a wide variety of offences that have taken place by Conservatives, and also Liberals, in the other place. We have seen this repeatedly. We have been raising these questions in the House of Commons, repeatedly, trying to get answers about the types of offences we are seeing.

To our mind, abiding by the law of the land has to start at the very top. It means answering clearly when questions are asked. In this House, we have been asking clear questions for a number of weeks and have been getting answers, but the answers, tragically, seem to change. Depending upon the day of the week or I guess whatever the Prime Minister had for breakfast, we are getting different answers back.

That is not the way Parliament should function.

We did, as members know, put out playing cards a month ago at the Conservative national convention, talking about some of the Conservative—

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians ActPrivate Members' Business

4:55 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The hon. member for Kitchener Centre is rising on a point of order.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians ActPrivate Members' Business

4:55 p.m.


Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the understanding I had when I sat down to listen to my colleague across the way was that we were debating a bill proposed by a private member, yet I hear him talking about entirely different things. He is now mentioning playing cards.

I would simply ask the Speaker to rein him in and ask him to keep his comments to relevant comments regarding the bill under debate.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians ActPrivate Members' Business

4:55 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

I believe the member for Kitchener Centre has a somewhat valid point. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster is at some degree of variance from the main topic. Perhaps he could bring it back on topic. He only has about four minutes left in his time slot.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians ActPrivate Members' Business

4:55 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the real question is accountability and transparency.

The responsibility of the government is to show that accountability and transparency in the House every single day. The point I am making is that the bill, which talks about accountability, says that Canada's legislators should abide by the law of the land. That is not reflected in the daily practice of government. I think that is a valid point to make.

As far as the concerns that have been raised regarding many of the senators, I will just go through the list. We have Senator Mike Duffy claiming to represent a province that he did not live in. We have Senator Pamela Wallin who was doing fundraising campaigns, again at taxpayers' expense. We have Senator Patrick Brazeau who has been charged with assault.

These are all examples of what happens when a legislator does not abide by the law of the land, and by the laws of Parliament.

The point I am making is this. It is all well and good for a government member to put forward a bill that says that if members violate the laws of the land, they will be punished. The responsibility that the government has is to make sure that the laws of the land are respected each and every day. It is not one private member's bill that makes the difference. It is the overall attitude of the government.

The government's actions every day undermine the bill that has been brought forward. That is the issue. That is what we are debating right here on the floor of the House of Commons.

We have gone one further, in terms of accountability and transparency, because that is what is purported to be proposed in the bill. What we said last June and what we brought forward to procedure and House affairs was a series of accountability mechanisms, as members will recall, in terms of members' expenses, which is also something that needs to be carefully governed by the law of the land and by the laws of Parliament.

We have said, in agreement with the Auditor General, that the Auditor General should be able to audit MPs' expenses. Unfortunately, Conservative and Liberal members have said no to this. We have also said that there needs to be independent oversight, doing away with the secretive bureau of internal economy and putting in place an independent oversight body.

There again Conservatives and Liberals have said no to that. In response to the Information Commissioner saying very clearly that MPs' expenses should be subject to access to information, we have said yes. Conservatives and Liberals have said no.

My point is this. The NDP has no lessons to learn from either of the old parties around accountability and transparency. It is not one bill that we put forward, it is the actions that we bring every day to the floor of the House of Commons that show the Canadian public that indeed in our case we believe in responsibility, we believe in transparency and we believe that Canadian values should be reflected on the floor of the House of Commons every day.

What are those Canadian values? Those Canadian values are fairness. Those Canadian values are truthfulness, actually having the Prime Minister respond truthfully to the questions that are put to him in the House of Commons. We also believe that Canadian values are that of responsibility. We take responsibility for our actions and we are transparent at all times with the Canadian public.

That is our approach. That is the NDP approach. Like so many other Canadians, I am excited that in 2015 we will get the opportunity to put those values front and centre in the House of Commons each and every day.

National DefenceRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario


Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, on behalf of my colleagues the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Industry, and as part of the government's seven-point plan to replace the CF-18 fleet, the following three reports.

They include the next generation fighter capability annual update, the Canadian industrial participation in the F-35 joint strike fighter program, and the final report of the independent review, “2013, Department of National Defence annual update on next generation fighter capability life-cycle costs”.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-518, An Act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act (withdrawal allowance), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians ActPrivate Members' business

5 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time to speak to Bill C-518 from my colleague from New Brunswick who brings it to the floor of the House, based on the conviction of members of Parliament as well as members of the Senate who face a sentence up to about two years, but I guess with amendments now we will go for closer to five years.

As my hon. colleague from the NDP pointed out, talk about public trust has come up quite often in the past couple of years and certainly there are ways by which we can set examples for ourselves as opposed to predominantly going around saying “do as I say, not as I do”.

In my opinion, today we are taking a step further as to the public trust and telling the public, showing the public and displaying to it that this measure has to be taken so people who come here set the right example for the rest of the country.

For the record, within our caucus this is a free vote as this is a private member's bill. That being said, I personally will be supporting the bill for many reasons I have just mentioned, when it comes to areas of public trust and the malfeasance that has been practised by several members on the Hill, whether they be members of Parliament or also the Senate.

I did have some concerns, which have been addressed, one of which the member already addressed and said that he would be seeking amendments to raise that to five years. My only hesitation on that though is this opens up a whole array of offences, anything that could serve up to a maximum of five years could be looked at.

I am always the one to say that sometimes when we bring legislation into the House, we make them overly prescriptive which puts people into a large straitjacket by legislation becoming law and then bringing it forward to the country so we can convict people who are wrongdoers.

However, in this situation maybe a list of offences should have been necessary for the sake of providing more sunlight and looking at ways in which some of these offences, as the member mentioned earlier, and I know it carries a maximum of around two years, I am not sure specifically, but certainly when it comes to issues of libel. I think false alarms was another one that he mentioned, blasphemy was another. Maybe providing a list of offences, even if it is just an illustrative list, could certainly go a long way. I do not know if the member is open to an amendment, but a lot of these offences would be taken care of. I appreciate that if we raise that from two years up to five years.

The other question I had was about the idea of the maximum penalty, and I will go back to the original bill as it stands now, which is two years. It is concerning that these people who are convicted and face the maximum penalty, despite the circumstances, will have their pensions revoked, as far as what benefits would be accrued to them. Obviously we are not talking about what they put into the plan themselves, they would get that back, but the benefits would have accrued from the taxpayer.

When I first read the bill, I thought it was a bit onerous for people who would find themselves in a situation where they only would get a small sentence given the circumstances around this conviction. However, dealing with that, the member did say that some people might get small offences, and maybe we do not agree with it. However, in this case I will still be supporting this for that discussion. I assume amendments of that nature will be coming forward depending on the situation.

I am reticent to bring in legislation that forces a judge in the position to carry a sentence where the penalty is overly prescriptive. It puts judges in a position that takes them from why they are there in the first place, which is to exercise judgment, to judge.

I appreciate the fact that the hon. member is elevating the maximum sentence from two to five years. That may cover my concerns, but the overall principle, I believe, is that we must be careful when we look at this situation in the sense of there always being that minimum.

The other thing is that my hon. colleague from the NDP talked about spouses and dependents. I know this is a private member's bill and it is not part of an ongoing dialogue where there are questions and answers after each speech, but I would like to know what the private sector standard is, after someone is convicted and put into a place of incarceration, for dependents or spouses who have no connection to the crime whatsoever and were banking on the fact that they were going to receive this money, the maximum amount available, including what was put into the plan in addition to the benefit received from that plan.

I understand him saying that in most cases, probably all cases according to what he is saying, in the private sector that would not be the case. In other words, the family would have to tough it through. I do not know if that is always the case. I will be interested to discuss that within the committee structure itself and look for a possible amendment. My hon. colleague from the NDP brings up a good point about the idea of how spouses and dependents, who are depending on that, will be hard done by in this situation. I think in other areas it has been available in some cases, but although we may be eager to say that the loophole has been closed, this is one loophole that deserves sober second thought, if I might use that expression these days without being ridiculed.

Subclause 2(2) states:

There shall be paid to a person who ceases to be a member, if he or she has been convicted of an offence under any Act of Parliament that was prosecuted by indictment and for which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for not less than two years...

I addressed that. However, he also talked about while they were serving, which is also very important. In certain scenarios, to take people outside of serving, whether they were in the private sector or doing something else in life in other facets of the public sector, will not be looked at. Personally, the committee should look at that and see what happens outside of the jurisdiction of Parliament, whether it is the House of Commons or the Senate. However, in this case, he confines it to the subject and the people at hand, which would be, using recent examples, the senator he mentioned, along with people who may be facing charges down the road and facing conviction perhaps for certain shenanigans that are happening right now in the Senate. I will not go into the names of the senators as I do not think that is really necessary right now.

In this bill, which is not a particularly long one, there is one principle I personally would accept. I would like to remind the House that within the Liberal caucus it is a free vote. I will be supporting this certainly going to committee because I am interested in all these questions that I have about this situation. I would like to know how the private sector handles this.

The overall narrative of this, which the member has pointed out and it is germane to this conversation and to me makes sense, is that there is an example that we should be setting for the Canadian public as we are entrusted public officials. Whether we are elected in the House or appointed in the Senate, there is a certain behaviour model that surpasses other occupations throughout the country. For those who conduct themselves in a way that is by far below the ethical standards we expect, then they should be punished not just by the actual conviction itself, but the benefits that would accrue by serving in the House should also be considered.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians ActPrivate Members' business

5:10 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.


Dan Albas ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-518, an Act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act.

When I became elected as a member of Parliament, one of the first messages that I heard loud and clear from the citizens in my area was the need to take action on gold plated MP pension plans. One of my first commitments to my constituents was to publicly support changes to the MP pension plan that were more respectful to the taxpayer. I was proud that it was our Conservative government that took historic action to reform the pensions of members of Parliament and senators. I would also like to recognize my colleagues from all sides of the House, who also supported these important changes.

As we know, changes to the MP pension plan and equal cost sharing ultimately mean that the pension contributions of members of the House of Commons will have to be nearly quadrupled from $11,000 to $38,000 and some change a year. I mention this because pension contributions are a key part of what is proposed in Bill C-518.

We know Canadians expect that if parliamentarians are convicted of egregious crimes, they should face consequences. No different from everyday Canadians would expect to face consequences if convicted of an egregious crime, yet we also know that this is currently not the case. I would like to commend the member for New Brunswick Southwest for his work to attempt to remedy this.

Currently, if a senator or member of Parliament retires or resigns prior to being convicted, or otherwise manoeuvres to avoid being expelled or disqualified from Parliament, that individual is still entitled to his or her full pension, including the employer's share, which is funded by taxpayers. In other words, if one retires or resigns before being convicted of a crime, one still benefits from a generous pension plan. This is, in itself, an outrage to many taxpayers. I would submit that this sentiment is shared by members of the House. That is why this is a very important issue for discussion.

Again, I would like to commend the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest for bringing this issue forward. His work on this file and his commitment to ensuring that taxpayer dollars are always respected is laudable. As it stands, the bill before us would automatically revoke a member's pension where certain criteria, as defined in the bill, are met, regardless of whether the member had already retired or resigned from his or her seat in Parliament.

Specifically, the bill would disentitle the taxpayer funded pension of a member who met the following criteria: a member is convicted of an indictable offence under an act of Parliament that carries a maximum prison sentence of not less than two years, or the offence arose out of conduct that occurred before June 3, 2013, while this person was a member.

I should also point out that the member would still be entitled to a withdrawal allowance, which is a single lump sum refund of the member's personal contributions. However, the employer's pension contributions on behalf of the member, the portion which is publicly funded, would not be refunded. That is an important distinction. Moreover, the member would no longer be eligible for post-retirement health or dental benefits, since entitlement to these benefits is predicated on eligibility for a pension.

We know that Canadians expect all senators and all members of Parliament to be held to the highest standards of accountability. Canadians have told us that they expect their representatives to protect the integrity of public office in our public institutions. As I stated earlier, as members of Parliament we have voted in support of pension changes that are more respectful to taxpayers.

Our government is also taking historic action to reform the pensions of public servants. The contribution rates for the public service pension plan are also moving to a 50-50 cost-sharing model by 2017. We have also increased the age at which members of Parliament can retire with an unreduced pension. It will rise from 55 to 65 as of January 1, 2016. In addition, newly hired public servants will become eligible to collect their pensions at age 65 instead of 60.

Over the next five years, these measures will save taxpayers $2.6 billion. These are substantial savings. They are also savings realized by fairness. Moving MP and public sector pensions to equal employer funding and raising the age of retirement are principles that are respectful and equitable to taxpayers.

Bill C-518 proposes similar respect to taxpayers for those parliamentarians who would retire or resign prior to a conviction and still collect a fully funded pension plan.

While I support the principles in this bill, I do have some concerns. Many others have raised concerns as well, some of which the member has addressed. Specifically, it is imperative that a bill of this nature clearly establish where and how the bar is set that would enact this legislation. As the bill is currently proposed, I believe greater clarification on this question will be beneficial.

I was going to cite an example. However, as the member for New Brunswick Southwest indicated in his comments that he is already contemplating changes in this area, I will simply point out that as parliamentarians, we must be cognizant that what a bill intends to propose may not necessarily be interpreted in the same manner by our successors.

In summary, I believe that Bill C-518 proposes to take action on what I would characterize as a loophole that allows parliamentarians to avoid full accountability and still collect generous taxpayer-provided pension benefits. While this is an important area to examine and consider, and one that I believe Canadians support, it is equally important that as members of Parliament we must ensure that the wording in this bill is clear to the intent of its stated objectives.

To that end, I am hopeful that further revisions at committee stage will enhance the clarity of this bill.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians ActPrivate Members' business

5:20 p.m.


Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-518, which would amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act.

This bill would revoke the privilege of a retirement pension or compensation allowance for former members of the Senate or House of Commons who are convicted of an offence under an act of Parliament.

Parliamentarians must have been indicted for an offence with a maximum punishment of imprisonment for not less than two years. The offence must have been committed, in whole or in part, while the person was an MP or Senator. Most Criminal Code offences fall into this category.

The idea of punishing these offenders is not new. Nova Scotia's NDP government has already passed similar legislation. Under that law, all entitlements of a former spouse, or any court-ordered restitution, can be deducted from the pension of the MP in question. This is a very important point because it is not included in the bill that I am debating.

In a few moments, I will give an example that demonstrates how this gap in the law can lead to the victimization of someone who is already a victim of an act of violence. I will come back to that shortly.

We know that a parliamentarian sentenced to a jail term of less than two years does not lose his status as a parliamentarian and may continue to sit, unless he is expelled by the Senate or the House. However, this power is rarely used. Some charter provisions could potentially protect parliamentarians.

The proposals include parliamentarians found guilty of crimes subject to sentences of more than two years, but they could be punished with a shorter jail term or perhaps even a suspended sentence or community service. The proposal is more specific with regard to the fact that the crime must be committed when the parliamentarian is in office. This is an important point. The crime must be committed while the parliamentarian is performing his duties, not before and not after. In any case, if it were before he was elected, the bill would not apply to him.

Today, a parliamentarian may commit a crime, complete his term as a parliamentarian and be convicted a number of years after completing his term in office. Current sections 19 and 39 of the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act do not take this situation into account. Right now, senators and members of Parliament must have been defeated or expelled before they can be penalized. The new proposal would be retroactive to June 2013 for a parliamentarian found guilty well after the period when the crime is committed.

What is the loss for a parliamentarian who commits a crime? They are just going to lose the additional contribution by Parliament. Parliamentarians lose a privilege, not a pension entitlement.

Of course, with all the scandals we have heard about, the general public and we ourselves are sick of all these stories and we want justice to be done. It is not surprising that sometimes, when we are taking part in an activity, people ask us to give them money. They make inappropriate comments because they perceive politicians as corrupt. This must be stopped. More than just changing the legislation, we—senators and members of Parliament—must change our behaviour in Parliament. It is the culture that must change.

Of course, the legislation goes with the culture, and with the changes, but to date we have put up with too much. People have even decided not to vote because they no longer have confidence in us. They say that they vote, but nothing changes. They think that parliamentarians commit fraud and they are paid by taxpayers. We must bear in mind that the money we receive is money that comes from taxpayers.

All this is important, and this bill aims at improving the situation. However, some things are missing from the bill. We cannot just change the legislation; we must change our behaviour and the way we engage in politics.

I would like to mention two examples, one of which is Senator Brazeau, who is accused of sexual assault. The Prime Minister told the House that it was a personal matter that made it necessary to remove him from the Senate caucus. He is still a senator.

He said:

Our understanding is that these are matters of a personal nature rather than Senate business, but they are very serious and we expect they will be dealt with through the courts.

I am mentioning this because the man in question assaulted his partner in their home. There is another case, that of Raymond Lavigne, the former senator who is currently in prison. He was convicted of fraud and breach of trust. However, he committed the offences in his role as a senator, using public money.

I am raising these examples because when we were discussing the Nova Scotia law earlier today, it was said that the spouse of the accused still has the right to part of the pension. However, under the new proposal, if Mr. Brazeau is convicted, he will lose his privileges and, since the law is retroactive to June 2013, his partner, the victim, will lose them as well. It will be his ex-wife, since I imagine that they will divorce. She will be a double victim. We need to take those aspects into consideration in order to improve this bill. That is why the NDP is committed to supporting it at second reading, so that the committee can address certain gaps in the legislation.

However, in the case of Senator Lavigne, the legislation unfortunately came out too late. He was convicted of misappropriating Senate funds. He is presently in prison, but, for the six years that the trial lasted, his pension fund continued to grow. This legislation therefore still lets him profit from his transgressions because it is retroactive to June 2013.

The task I am giving to committee members is to improve some aspects of the legislation. Just now, I mentioned that Mr. Brazeau's wife is twice a victim, but I have a bit of a problem with something else. It has to do with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the idea of a double penalty. We have to be careful because we are talking here about a punitive sanction on a privilege. We agree on that. However, say a senator leaves a Christmas party having had a bit too much to drink and hits someone with his car because he is driving while impaired, he will be convicted and will pay for what he did. However, at the same time, he will be punished again. I am just concerned about that. It must be improved.

With people using public funds, like Mr. Lavigne, or like the others we have spent a lot of time talking about here—Mr. Duffy and Ms. Wallin—we get it. The money belongs to us all. It is related to their duties. We must therefore pay attention and specify the penalties more clearly so that we do not descend into an inequality of sorts. That is what concerns me.

The NDP will be continuing to discuss that aspect. As parliamentarians, it is in our nature to believe deeply in democracy. In committee, we must work to improve the legislation, because what we have to stand up for above all is the greater good and the advancement of democracy.

It is fine to sanction people who break the law in the performance of their duties. However, as I said, we have to be careful not to victimize someone a second time, as in the cases I mentioned.

We must change our way of engaging in politics. We must not shelter those who commit fraud. We must not become complicit. I am sure that many of us feel ashamed of the actions of some people, who shall remain nameless. Those of us who are seriously committed to our work feel tainted by things not of our doing. We must have the courage to say that it must stop.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians ActPrivate Members' business

5:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Don Valley West. I would advise the member that he will have approximately six minutes before we have to finish this debate.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians ActPrivate Members' business

5:30 p.m.


John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss the principles involved in Bill C-518, an act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act (withdrawal allowance).

As we know, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act is the legislation that governs pensions for members of the House of Commons and for senators. The bill being discussed today proposes to change that legislation. It proposes to disentitle a parliamentarian to a taxpayer-funded pension if he or she is convicted of an indictable offence under an act of Parliament that carries a maximum prison sentence of not less than two years. In addition, the offence must have arisen out of conduct that occurred before June 3, 2013, and while the person was a member of Parliament or a senator.

As well as disentitling the person to a taxpayer-funded pension, the legislation would cause him or her to lose eligibility for the post-retirement health and dental benefits that normally come with the pension plan. The person would, however, be entitled to receive a refund of the monies that he or she contributed to that pension.

We believe the work that the hon. member has put into this bill is laudable. As parliamentarians, we have a tremendous responsibility to Canadians, and the citizens of our country have the right to demand the highest standard of ethical conduct from us. This is part and parcel of our job.

People elected to the House of Commons and those appointed to the Senate are expected to craft the laws that govern the land, and for the laws to be right, the people who make them must be right. Indeed, the highest ethical standards are an integral part of the jobs with which we are entrusted. Canadians expect nothing less.

When we compromise that trust, Canadians deserve recourse, and justice demands recourse. Let me also reiterate that one of the abiding beliefs of our government is that people in public office must be accountable for their actions.

Strengthening accountability is one of the hallmarks of our government. On coming into office, our first order of business was to introduce and implement the Federal Accountability Act and the accompanying action plan, which demonstrates our commitment to that accountability. This act provides Canadians with the assurance that the powers entrusted in the government are being exercised in the public interest.

Through the Federal Accountability Act and the accompanying action plan, we brought in a series of accountability reforms. Among these reforms were the designation of deputy ministers and deputy heads as accounting officers and the requirement that they appear before parliamentary committees, the five-year review of the relevance and effectiveness of departmental grant and contribution programs, the new mandate for the Auditor General to follow the money to grant and contribution recipients, the law requiring departments to send results of public opinion research to Library and Archives Canada within six months, and the removal of the entitlement of political staff to priority appointments in the public service.

These reforms were followed up by others, including new electoral financing rules and restrictions on gifts to political candidates; the Public Service Disclosure Protection Act; the new Conflict of Interest Act; tougher penalties and sanctions for people who commit fraud involving taxpayers' money; clarification and simplification of the rules governing grants and contributions; the extension of the Access to Information Act to cover agents of Parliament, five foundations, and the Canadian Wheat Board; and regulations to ensure lobbying and government advocacy was done fairly and openly. In all, our Federal Accountability Act and action plan made substantive changes to some 45 federal statutes and amended over 100 others, touching virtually every part of government and beyond.

As a result of these efforts, the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, and other public service employees are more accountable today than ever before in Canadian history. Our commitment to accountability has not waned one iota.

I conclude by saying that this bill is consistent with the principles behind those measures to which we have spoken. Since our government came to power, we have worked to protect the integrity of parliamentary office and the conduct Canadians expect of their members of Parliament and senators, strengthen accountability in our public institutions, operate with respect for taxpayers' dollars, and punish those in a position of power who break the law. We will continue to do so.

Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians ActPrivate Members' business

5:35 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The hour provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Pursuant to Standing Order 30(7), the House will now proceed to the consideration of Bill C-479 under private members' business.

The House resumed from October 18 consideration of the motion that Bill C-479, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (fairness for victims), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

An Act to Bring Fairness for the Victims of Violent OffendersPrivate Members' business

5:35 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, this is the second hour of debate on this legislation, which was introduced in the last session of Parliament. It is Bill C-479, the fairness for the victims of violent offenders act. I will support this legislation going to committee for consideration and, where necessary, for amendment. I want to underline the fact that Liberals want some amendments to this bill.

Again, the intent of this bill is to provide additional measures for victims of crime, in this case the ability to ensure that victims of violent crime have a greater legislated role in any parole actions related to offenders.

The major elements of the bill are that the bill would extend the period between parole reviews from two to five years for violent offenders who are not granted parole at first or subsequent reviews or whose parole has been revoked. This change would apply only to offenders incarcerated for violent crimes.

Ostensibly, this bill is aimed at relieving the victims of violent crimes or their families from having to attend frequent parole hearings. That is a good intent.

The bill does not alter the rules governing initial parole eligibility. The bill also contains uncontroversial changes that codify victims' rights already recognized and applied in the parole process.

However, the bill's evidentiary basis remains entirely unclear. The rationale for choosing a maximum interval of five years between parole hearings for those denied parole instead of, for example, four, as in the previous iteration of the bill, remains unclear. The impact of extending the maximum time between parole hearings on offender rehabilitation is also unclear. Study at committee would allow members to debate the bill's merits on the basis of evidence from expert testimony.

I would reiterate the concerns expressed by the member for Lac-Saint-Louis with respect to the constitutionality of the legislation. I note that the courts are now beginning to challenge the efficacy of the mandatory minimum sentencing and the manner in which the government has attempted to alter the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to support an ideological agenda based on public fear of criminal activity.

This is another in a long list of private members' bills coming forward from Conservative backbench members. They all may be great in terms of their intent, but these are members of the government, and this is the Criminal Code that we are dealing with. It is a complex, massive code. Coming forward with off-the-wall requests for legislation could jeopardize the very intent of what members want to do with this legislation.

I see members smiling on the other side. This is not a joking matter. We are talking about the Criminal Code of Canada. What is happening on that side of the House is that they are allowing Conservative members to come forward with little private members' bills from their own riding so they can cater to their own power base. Do they not realize that they could, in the process, have a court throw out the legislation and make a victim of the very person we do not want to make a victim? That is the possible consequence.

I will turn to the Correctional Investigator's message in terms of how the government is really dealing with its tough-on-crime agenda. In the beginning of the report, he speaks of the time in 1973 when the first correctional investigator was appointed for federally sentenced inmates. It was a time when there was rioting in prisons. There were burnings and real trouble within the prison system.

He made a point in his report that I want to quote.

He stated:

Today, as my report makes clear, many of the same problems that were endemic to prison life in the early 1970s – crowding; too much time spent in cells; the curtailment of movement, association and contact with the outside world; lack of program capacity; the paucity of meaningful prison work or vocational skills training; and the polarization between inmates and custodial staff – continue to be features of contemporary correctional practice.

He is basically saying that what we are seeing under the government's justice, as it calls it, is moving back to a time that created riots in the prison system in the first place. That is not the answer to dealing with the justice system in a smart way.

With this specific bill, I would request, and will do so at committee, that the member present a list of experts and the evidence they provided, which he referenced in his remarks on May 10 of this year, as to his claim that “this bill has a sound legal and constitutional foundation”.

I will also be requesting that the member provide the evidence upon which this legislation was based. For example, upon what evidence did the member opposite base the determination that a period of five years between subsequent applications is justified? I trust that the member will provide that evidence at the committee.

I make note of the concern, given the recent case of Bill C-489, introduced by his colleague the member for Langley. In the course of second reading of that bill, the member gave the House the assurance that the bill was well drafted and was adequate. He did acknowledge that he was open to amendments, and indeed the elements of the bill were subsequently amended.

With regard to the amendments, there were six amendments to a bill with five clauses. Let me repeat that: six amendments to a five-clause bill. They were moved by members of the government on behalf of the Government of Canada. During this process, a representative of the Department of Justice was in attendance to ensure the amendments accorded with what even the government determined was the need to ratchet back on some of the extreme and likely challengeable features of the member's original bill.

It goes to my point. The government has all these backbenchers over there, but it is not bringing forward legislation in a comprehensive way on an issue as important as the Criminal Code of Canada. I believe we are getting 16 private members' bills on various subjects by members. As this bill clearly shows, it needed to be amended or the Department of Justice knew the bill would be thrown out by a court. The extent would be that it would create new victims as a result of the bill.

In the end, the bill was attempting to institute a mandatory minimum distance for offenders to have to maintain from the dwellings of the victims of specific crimes. It was amended in such a way as to add to the list of locations already in the Criminal Code from which a judge can currently apply a limitation on that of dwelling. We were told the whole intent and purpose of the legislation was so the judge could not use discretion, but the end result was that the ability of the judge to use discretion remains within the code.

In conclusion, we will support the bill going to committee. We will see if there will be amendments.

In closing, I want to underline that while we see some merit in this bill, we would prefer to see legislation from the government after they have talked in their caucus on various proposals in an all-encompassing way, in a way that fits legitimately within the Criminal Code of Canada. We do not want to see it add more risk to what a court might do in terms of challenging that legislation and throwing it out. It should be done in a comprehensive way, rather than these simple bills coming forward to play to the Conservative base.

An Act to Bring Fairness for the Victims of Violent OffendersPrivate Members' business

5:45 p.m.


François Pilon NDP Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to speak to the bill we have before us today, Bill C-479, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (fairness for victims).

This bill is based for the most part on the recommendation made by the former federal ombudsman for victims of crime and seeks to pay special attention to the perspective of victims in the criminal justice process.

Bill C-479 broadens the rights of victims under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. It incorporates into law some of the elements that are already part of the current practice in parole hearings. Some of those elements are in fact consistent with the recommendations made by the former ombudsman in his special report.

Under this bill, victims would have more opportunities to attend parole hearings, and offenders would have considerably less access to reviews.

The NDP, however, is concerned that the bill adds five years to the interval between parole reviews for violent offenders.

This goes against the ombudsman's previous recommendations that this extension apply only to dangerous offenders and those serving a life sentence.

The people working with victims and those working with inmates agree that parole is an essential component of public safety. This change could prevent some offenders from having access to parole and, by extension, deny them the benefits of a supervised release in the community.

This amendment therefore would lead to a situation where many violent offenders would reach the end of their sentence without having had access to supervised release. They would then be out in the community for the first time, fully free and without any supervision at the end of their sentence.

On our side, we work tirelessly to improve the safety of the public. We believe that one way to achieve this goal is to implement a parole process that helps people reintegrate safely, and I emphasize the word “safely”, into the community to reduce victimization and the risk of reoffending.

We also support the victims and their families, and we want to work with them to ensure that in addition to taking legislative action to help them, we also provide them with the services they need.

Instead of focusing on the shortcomings of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act as a whole, this is yet another Conservative piecemeal bill that actually does very little to ensure the safety of our communities.

I will briefly run through the changes, or, more specifically, the amendments, proposed in Bill C-479: the parole review of offenders who are serving a sentence of at least two years for an offence involving violence; the attendance of victims and members of their family at parole review hearings; the consideration of victims’ statements by the National Parole Board when making a determination regarding the release of an offender; the manner of presentation of victims’ statements at a parole review hearing; the providing of information under consideration by the Board to a victim; the cancellation of a parole review hearing if an offender has repeatedly refused to attend, or waived his or her right to attend, previous hearings; the providing of transcripts of a parole review hearing to the victim and members of their family and the offender; and the notification of victims if an offender is to be released on temporary absence, parole or statutory release.

We think that this bill has several good points. That is why we will support it at second reading so that it can be sent to committee.

We also believe that it is appropriate for victims to attend parole board hearings, for example, when it is likely that the offender will return to live in the community where he committed the crime, or when a victim is asking for specific condition to be placed on the offender after release, such as a non-communication order. We also think that allowing victims to attend hearings via video conference or teleconference is a valid point in Bill C-479, especially for victims with mobility problems.

We also want victims and their families to feel that they are really involved the process. However, we must also ensure that offenders have access to appropriate services, whether in the correctional system or the parole system, such as supervised release, so that recidivism rates fall after offenders have served their full sentences.

We do see some weaknesses in Bill C-479, however, and it is important to point them out. For example, an offender who serves a sentence of less than five years might have only one chance at parole under Bill C-479. If his first application is denied, it is quite possible that he will serve his entire sentence without ever having been granted conditional release. This means that offenders will be released at the end of their sentences without any conditions, and more importantly, without the benefit of any rehabilitation or reintegration programs. It goes without saying that this poses a risk to public safety and that such a practice would likely result in higher recidivism rates and therefore an increase in the number of victims of crime.

Society would be better served by the gradual, supervised release of offenders who pose a risk. Such release helps offenders reintegrate into society safely and with the supervision they need to facilitate their reintegration, thereby reducing the likelihood that they will commit other criminal acts. If the Conservative government is truly serious about helping victims and their families, it will provide them with services and reintegrate criminals into society in such a way as to prevent the risk of victimization and recidivism.

In closing, the NDP's message to victims and their families is simple: we support greater victim involvement in the parole process. We also support many of the recommendations made by the former federal ombudsman for victims of crime, as well as his criticisms of Bill C-479.

We are working tirelessly on making our communities safer. Our plan goes beyond the Conservatives' simplistic ideology and really gets to the heart of the problem, rather than just scratching the surface. We want to help victims create a safer process that will reduce the risk of recidivism.

We hope the government will be receptive to the suggestions we will be making in committee.

Business of the HousePrivate Members' business

5:55 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. government House leader is rising on a point of order.

Business of the HousePrivate Members' business

5:55 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I do want to propose a motion.

First, I want to wish all members and all the staff who help us here in the House of Commons a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

I want to thank everybody who has been part of what has been a very productive and successful year in the House of Commons, with a record amount of legislation having achieved royal assent through our efforts here.

I particularly want to pay special tribute to the special folks who are in our midst from time to time and who help us out a great deal, and those are the parliamentary pages. They do a great deal to assist us in our daily functions.

For them, it is a special experience. As I have often said, my wife was a page in 1987, and she refers to it as the best year of her life. I know that many of the pages who have followed her have reported the same kind of experience.

This will, of course, be the first opportunity for many of them to return home to their families. They will no doubt have a chance to share some interesting stories about what their members of Parliament actually do in the House of Commons when they are doing all the good work for the people of Canada.

With that in mind, I want to remind everyone that this is a tremendous opportunity for us to slow down a bit, reflect, and get to know our families a little better after the time we have spent away.

We appreciate all that everyone has contributed to what I think has been a very good year.

There have been discussions among the parties, and after exchanging some fine words with my counterparts, I expect there will be unanimous consent for the following motion. I move, seconded by the Chief Government Whip:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, when the House adjourns today, it shall stand adjourned until Monday, January 27, 2014; and that, for the purposes of Standing Order 28, the House shall be deemed to have sat on Wednesday, December 11, Thursday, December 12 and Friday, December 13, 2013.