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House of Commons Hansard #214 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was municipalities.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, like any other piece of legislation or proposal that is made, I will read it before deciding whether I will vote for or against it. Of course, if the government decides to wrap it up in a whole bunch of other things in the budget, such as cuts to EI, front-line services, food safety and other programs, I would find it very hard to vote for it. However, if they were to split it off and have it as an independent bill, that might make it far easier to do.

The member raised the issue of GO Transit. There have been lots of upgrades, but unfortunately they do not help the residents of Scarborough Southwest because during rush hour the trains bypass all the stations in Scarborough. They do not actually service Scarborough. In fact, if the member wants to see more improvements, then that would be one I would like to see.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question on an infrastructure need that is near and dear to my province.

In 2005, the Liberal government announced a plan to place a third subsea cable from Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick in order to replace the two existing cables that are at the end of their useful life. However, this project was immediately cancelled when the Conservatives came to power in 2006, and we are still waiting. We have a problem. As I said, the cables are at capacity and at the end of their useful life.

This project is important, for three reasons. First, if we were to succeed in attracting an industry to Prince Edward Island that was heavily dependent on electricity, we would not have the capacity for it. Second, Prince Edward Island produces 20% of its electricity from wind; however, if we are going to be able to feed into the grid, we need this third cable. Third, in terms of energy security, invariably we are looking at brownouts and blackouts as a result of the age and capacity of these cables.

It is a big project. It is a $90 million project, but our province cannot do it alone. We have been waiting for six years for some sort of partnership with the federal government to get this done.

The member talked a lot about the benefits of an infrastructure plan. I would like to flip that around and ask him to comment on the downside of not doing it.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I illustrated some of the downfalls of not doing it when I talked about gridlock and other issues. Subsea cables, whether we are talking about electrical cables or fibre optic cables, are an important part of our long-term infrastructure program.

I had the opportunity several years ago to visit the wind turbine test sights at North Cape. It was phenomenal to see the different types of wind turbines being tested there as part of the sustainable energy development that we need in the future.

The fact that the program was cut when the Conservatives came to power was a sad day, but it is not the only program the Conservative government cut. There was the national child care program, which is a different form of investment in our future. Certainly the cancellation of that program had a wide impact all across the country. It affected the ability for parents to get adequate child care so they could go to work and contribute to our economy.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on the motion before the House today. I have heard a lot of rhetoric from the other side, but there are some facts missing in many of the speeches I have heard from my colleagues across the way.

I do not know how Canadians view it, but I think they would find it difficult not to find the NDP's position today hypocritical, in that the NDP has a record when it comes to investments in infrastructure across this country. Unfortunately, it is an embarrassing record for the NDP.

In the last seven years we have seen significant investment across this country in important and vital infrastructure from coast to coast to coast. This government has dedicated itself to seeing investments go into all kinds of infrastructure, leading to growth and productivity, hope and prosperity, for communities across this country. However, if we look back briefly at the record, we see that the NDP has opposed every single investment that this government has made in infrastructure across this country.

It started in 2007, when the NDP voted against a $33 billion infrastructure plan to begin with. In 2009, it voted again against the economic action plan for infrastructure investments across Canada. In 2011, it voted against making the gas tax transfer permanent. The NDP did not just vote against it once: it voted against it twice.

The NDP continued, time and again, to vote against infrastructure investments. In the case of the economic action plan, this infrastructure investment led to over 7,500 different investments across the provinces and territories, over 4,000 additional infrastructure stimulus fund projects, and over 1,900 recreational Infrastructure Canada projects.

We recognize that while the NDP might talk a good talk, it has left Canadians wanting. Canadians recognize that and see it as somewhat hypocritical today for the NDP to have finally seen the light.

We are glad the NDP has finally seen the light. I am hopeful, and maybe I am just an eternal optimist, that the NDP will change its ways and vote in favour of investments that would lead to productivity, hope and prosperity for all Canadians moving forward. The NDP has an opportunity when the next budget comes forward.

However, I can tell members that over the last seven years, what I have learned is that the NDP has a plan that is different from the plan our government has.

As a matter of fact, I believe the NDP plan is to raise taxes. We see that, of course, in its constant advocacy for a $21 billion carbon tax. We see that in its opposition to investments that would lead to growth and hope and prosperity in investment projects in municipalities across this country. We also see its increased desire for additional red tape in building infrastructure and moving infrastructure projects forward.

We have had completely the opposite plan. Our government has dedicated itself to reducing taxes, to reducing the burden on job creators and on local families to ensure that there is more prosperity and more development in our communities across this country.

We have also increased investments in infrastructure across the country to build sewers, to build roads, to build tunnels and bridges and all the other vital infrastructure that is necessary for more growth, jobs, hope and prosperity.

We also have moved to reduce red tape to ensure that municipalities can build the necessary infrastructure without additional and unnecessary costs.

Of course, as I said, the NDP has voted against all of those.

What has our plan led to? As a result of the Conservatives' plan of investing in infrastructure and investing in Canadians and setting Canadians free to do what they do best, which is move forward and build this country, we have seen since the bottom of the recession that Canada has led all other countries in terms of job growth, investment and all the things that Canada is now known for. We are a shining light when we are compared to any other jurisdiction in the world, with 900,000 net new jobs, 90% of which are full-time and 90% of which are in the private sector.

I hear my colleague from across the way laugh. It shocks me and it horrifies Canadians that NDP members would laugh at job growth, that they would laugh at the development, the growth and prosperity of our country when every other country is looking at Canada with envy. Every other country, every other jurisdiction is looking to Canada as to how, during the time of international economic devastation, Canada was leading in job growth while continuing to drop taxes and continuing to see prosperity. Canada is highlighted in every country as a jurisdiction to emulate.

The NDP has a different plan, and that is why the NDP members laugh at our plan, but Canadians are not fooled. We believe that building together with municipalities and the provinces is an important thing. Our country has dedicated itself over the last seven years to doing that, and we will continue to do that over the budgets to come. However, we will do it in a prudent way, to ensure that we move toward balanced budgets and toward continuing to see this country move in the direction of prosperity, hope and opportunity for every Canadian.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, there was often a chronic lack of intellectual honesty in the presentations made today by the Conservatives.

Let us put this into perspective. The party in power tables a budget and the opposition votes against the budget, quite often because it sometimes finds that it lacks initiative, for example, with respect to infrastructure. That has to be clear. In my riding, just about every constituent I meet thinks this is a bad strategy. They see what the Conservatives are doing. It is ridiculous.

Are any of my colleagues opposite aware that this strategy is failing and that it lacks any intellectual honesty?

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think the record speaks for itself. It is frightening that the hon. member across the way thinks he can convince Canadians that history does not matter.

We will have an opportunity in the coming months to see if the NDP members will stand with their past practices of desiring increased taxes, increased red tape and no investment in municipalities.

I call on the members opposite to change their ways and finally side with Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

It being 5:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I request that the division be deferred until tomorrow, at the expiry of time provided for government orders.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Accordingly, the vote on the motion will be deferred until tomorrow evening.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you see the clock at 5:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Is it agreed?

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from February 14 consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Missing Aboriginal WomenBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Pursuant to the order made on Thursday, February 14, 2013, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion relating to the business of supply.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #617

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

The hon. Minister of Human Resources is rising on a question of privilege.

Minister of Human Resources and Skills DevelopmentPrivilegeGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2013 / 6 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the question of privilege raised yesterday by the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

I have been clear over the past two days, just as I was on February 1. Service Canada does not have individual quotas for staff.

As I have also said before, there are performance targets to help protect the benefits of the unemployed from fraud.

There is a clear difference between a quota and a target, and that is simply that there are no negative consequences for staff who fail to meet targets.

As with any business organizations, managers work with their staff to set out general expectations or indicators over the course of the year. Within the federal public administration, career progression is clearly set out by the Public Service Employment Act and is established through a merit-based process.

The documents referenced by Le Devoir, which were cited by the official opposition House leader, are not used as part of the merit process.

As I have said before in this place, Service Canada was able to stop almost half a billion dollars in ineligible payments last year. However, the employment insurance program still lost hundreds of millions more due to fraud. This is why we continue to work on behalf of Canadians and employers who pay premiums to ensure that their money is used properly.

This is no contradiction. Service Canada and I have been clear that Service Canada does not have quotas for staff.

The House leader for the official opposition cited your ruling on May 7, 2012, where the Chair set out a three-part test for establishing a contempt for deliberately misleading the House.

The first part of that test is that it must be established that the statement was misleading. In this case, the statements are not misleading because they are not contradictory. Therefore, I respectfully submit that the analysis must stop here.

Before concluding, let me quote page 510 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, which states:

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.

In fact, this approach seems to have guided your immediate ruling on February 4, 2013, when the Chair addressed a point of order from the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst on one of my February 1 question period responses.

At page 13629 of the Debates you stated:

I think what we have here is a question as to an interpretation of what was said or how it was said. It is not for the Chair to rule on.

One final authority that I would cite is the ruling of Speaker Milliken from January 30, 2008. At page 2434 of the Debates, your immediate predecessor stated:

...as I have mentioned before on various occasions in this House, 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.

Therefore, I would like to submit that this dispute about my response to an oral question is likewise a point of debate and certainly not a prima facie case of privilege.

Minister of Human Resources and Skills DevelopmentPrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, we will look carefully, because she cited a number of references. We will reserve the right to comment further, if it feels appropriate and if there is something in her argument that changes the nature of our point of privilege and that this is a prima facie case.

I have a couple of initial reactions. The minister is trying to make a distinction between “performance objectives” and “quotas”. If included in the way employees are measured or the way their acceleration within the public service is monitored and measured by their superiors, it seems to me that the quotas or performance objectives have some bearing on the employees' advancement and the way their managers consider whether they are effective.

The second point is that in her comments today, she said that as much as $500 million was recouped from fraudulent employment insurance claims, which we in the official opposition would encourage, because that money should be recouped from those who fraudulently claim EI benefits they are not entitled to. She then goes on to say that there are hundreds of millions of dollars more in fraudulent claims out there that they simply cannot get. That seems to be what the quota program is about. If she has these facts in front of the House, then she clearly can make a case that there is a need for this quota system. However, she is trying to have it both ways, suggesting that there are many hundreds of millions of dollars more in fraudulent claims out there, hence the quota system, which she then later denies. The door-to-door efforts of her ministry have apparently, we have now heard, since been suspended. We do not know.

The fact remains that under your ruling, there is the three-part test. The first part is whether there was an intention to mislead. We asked the minister very clearly: Is there a quota system in place for employees of Service Canada? She said flatly “no” and wants to somehow change the definition of the word, from “quota” to “performance objectives” and the like. Well, an objective and a quota are the same thing if the effect is the same. She is entitled to her own opinion but not her own facts.

We will look at her submission today and see if there is anything further we need to add on the substance of the rules that guide the House. However, initially we cannot suggest that we are moved by a further interpretation and opinion, when, in fact, her intention was always clear, which was to essentially mislead Canadians as to the existence of a quota program that is obviously well in place in her department.

Minister of Human Resources and Skills DevelopmentPrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank both the minister and the House Leader of the Official Opposition for their further interventions on this point.

It being 6:10, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business, as listed on today's order paper.