House of Commons Hansard #237 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was s-7.

Topics

Consumer GoodsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by roughly 1,000 people and initiated by Bruce Gélinas, a constituent of mine who has been working on this issue for a year.

This petition calls on the government to establish a minimum shelf life for every category of consumer goods. I commend him for that.

Let me wish all hon. members a happy Earth Day.

Head InjuriesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present six petitions on the need for comprehensive action on concussion in Canada, to improve the lives of all those living with this brain injury. For many people living with the effects of concussion, the physiological, psychological and social impacts are devastating.

The petitioners call on the government to enact a pan-Canadian concussion awareness week to promote understanding of the injury, develop a pan-Canadian strategy to address prevention, diagnosis and management, and develop a centre of excellence in concussion research.

Genetically Modified AlfalfaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of petitions.

The first is also on GM alfalfa, which some members have presented, calling for a moratorium. There was a national action day a couple of weeks ago organized by the National Farmers Union and others right across the country.

Farmers do not need this. It will devastate the organic industry and also a lot of the conventional farmers. We need to have this moratorium.

Health of Animals and Meat InspectionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 22nd, 2013 / 3:30 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, my second petition is signed by thousands across the country in support of my Bill C-322, to prohibit the importation or exportation of horsemeat for human consumption.

Drugs are commonly used in these animals, and that makes the meat unfit for human consumption, among other things.

Animal WelfarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, the third petition calls for stronger animal cruelty legislation.

The petitioners are calling on the House to work with the provinces to ensure federal and provincial laws are constructed and enforced that will ensure those responsible for abusing, neglecting, torturing or otherwise harming animals are appropriately accountable.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition today signed by the residents of Abitibi-Témiscamingue. These people are concerned that the Conservatives' proposed changes to old age security will affect the seniors most in need.

First, they are asking that the age to qualify for old age security be maintained at 65. Second, they are asking that the guaranteed income supplement be increased to ensure that no more seniors will live in poverty in our great country.

Falun GongPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions.

The first petition calls on the Government of Canada to make it very clear to the People's Republic of China that the abuse of the rights of the people who are practitioners of Falun Gong or Falun Dafa must end.

The people of Canada find it unconscionable.

Foreign InvestmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, my second petition comes from residents of Vancouver and Edmonton.

The petitioners are calling on the House to inform the executive of the Government of Canada not to ratify the Canada-China investment treaty as it will create undue and unbalanced rights for the People's Republic of China to the detriment of Canada.

Experimental Lakes AreaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Independent Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have three sets of petitions on the same subject. They are all relating to the Experimental Lakes Area. They come from across Canada, from Regina, Edmonton, Calgary and Dryden. They all ask for the same thing.

The petitioners say that despite the fact the government thinks it has ended the ELA, they hope this decision will be reconsidered and it will save this important institution.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 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, if Question No. 1217 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 1217Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

With respect to data, information or privacy breaches at government departments, institutions and agencies, for each year from 2002 to 2012: (a) how many breaches have occurred in total, broken down by (i) department, institution or agency, (ii) the number of individuals affected by the breach; (b) of those breaches identified in (a), how many have been reported to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, broken down by (i) department, institution or agency, (ii) the number of individuals affected by the breach; and (c) how many breaches are known to have led to criminal activity such as fraud or identity theft, broken down by department, institution or agency?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Election in VenezuelaRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The Chair has notice of a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt.

Election in VenezuelaRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, on April 14, I had the privilege, as an accredited international juror, of witnessing the presidential elections of Venezuela.

I witnessed problems at the polls, military presence with guns and some electronic machines not working properly. Others witnessed violence, the burning of ballots and individuals with several identity cards voting early and often.

I also saw the people of Venezuela streaming to the polls to exercise their democratic rights. They were full of hope, believing that this election signalled a new era for Venezuela.

Even after the polls had closed and the preliminary results were announced, there was still the belief that democracy would prevail. The opposition called for a recount, and the president elect said in his victory speech that he would not object. When asked, one of the election commission's members indicated the commission would not undertake a recount.

Unfortunately, by Monday, the day after the election, the president elect had changed his mind. The elections commission declared him the winner, and his inauguration took place last Friday.

Opposition party members across Venezuela rallied to protest the cancelling of the recount, and the police moved in, leaving 7 dead, 60 injured and 170 arrested.

I am pleased to learn that the national elections commission has agreed to an audit of 46% of the ballot boxes that were not subject to the recount on election day. There has been retaliation against people who voted for Mr. Capriles. I have received reports of mass layoffs of civil servants who supported Capriles. People have been indiscriminately arrested for having supported Capriles.

Mr. Speaker, I am asking you to grant an emergency debate so we in this House can discuss and debate what measures should be taken to help the people of Venezuela ensure that their democratic rights are protected.

Election in VenezuelaRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt for rising and making this request. However, I do not feel it meets the test to grant an emergency debate.

We will go back to the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North who would like to contribute to the question of privilege raised by the member for Langley.

S. O. 31PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Independent Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Langley, which I know you are considering. I wish to support the point of privilege by that member and I would like to explain why.

The question that has been raised is about House procedures and most specifically the allocation of statements under S. O. 31. However, the real principle is that all of our House procedures should empower members to represent the people who voted for us and indeed all of our constituents back home, no matter who they voted for.

It has been pointed out repeatedly in the House that S. O. 31 statements should be allocated directly to members rather than through their parties and party whips. I agree. No one knows better than I do of the undue control that increasingly, for decades, has been exerted by parties, leaders and whips.

Before the third reading vote on the long gun registry bill, for example, I was informed by the whip of my former party that if I did not vote as the party wished, then I would be “punished”. After that vote I was instantly punished: no questions, no statements, no foreign travel, no committee representation, no debating time other than asking brief questions of party debaters.

However, I was not really the one who was punished by the party and by our system here. It was the constituents of Thunder Bay—Superior North who were punished. Their voice in the House of Commons was muzzled. The person they had elected was no longer able to speak for them, to ask their questions and to raise their concerns and aspirations.

Tomorrow will be exactly one year to the day since I became an independent. I was scheduled that day to have my first S. O. 31 statement since my punishment had begun. Somehow the party found out that I would use my statement to announce my becoming independent. In the few minutes before my scheduled speaking time, they asked the Speaker to pull my statement, and the Speaker complied. However, now, as an independent, I and my constituents do get a reasonable and adequate number of questions and statements.

The similarities between my experience and that of the member for Langley are striking. We must all recognize that we have developed a problem in Parliament of excessive party control, and we must move to fix the problem before it erodes our democracy any further.

That system was originally set up to have House leaders and party whips facilitate statements and question period questions for the sake of efficiency, but that has been perverted. It is now used by the three main parties to tightly control members and what members say. This was not the original intention, and it is damaging the free representation of the people who gave us their trust in electing us to this chamber in the first place.

I agreed with the member for Wellington—Halton Hills when he said:

Speaking in the House of Commons is a fundamental right of members in this place. Today in the chamber, members of Parliament cannot ask questions of the government to hold it to account. They no longer have that fundamental right, whether they sit on that side of the aisle or on this side of the aisle.

I agreed with the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale when he said:

...without the right of all members to speak freely, this institution simply cannot function properly; ...that the period of statements was originally intended to give members equal opportunities; ...[and that] it is the codified practice [of many Westminster legislatures] that the Speaker alone decides on the rotation of the speakers and not the various parties.

I agree with the member for Vegreville—Wainwright who said he believes the way we are doing things “is infringing on my right as an MP to freedom of speech” and the representation that my constituents really need.

I agree with the member for Langley, who rightly quoted O'Brien and Bosc's House of Commons Procedure and Practice, which notes:

...the privilege of freedom of speech is secured to Members not for their personal benefit, but to enable them to discharge their functions of representing their constituents....

I agree with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands that “democracy is not a sport. We are not here as teams...[but] as representatives of our...constituents.

One solution for the backbenchers of big parties to be able to freely speak for their constituents is for them to join me on the independent benches. However, they should not have to take that drastic step. It should be possible in this place, as in the vast majority of the world's democracies, to balance the wishes of both constituents and parties.

It is possible that we could consider a system by which members statements and questions are rotated to all members of the House, with no influence or role for parties to play. Much like the “list for the consideration of private members' business” of all MPs is drawn up in random order at the beginning of each Parliament, similar lists could be made for question period questions and statements. This would give all MPs equal opportunity, with both questions and S. O. 31 statements still able to be traded, with the agreement of members of course.

Recently Gloria Galloway of the Globe and Mail did a good job of documenting and discussing how party discipline in Canada is one of the most draconian of any democracy on earth. I would agree, and I would like to address the root causes of this problem in Canada.

The abuses of the granting of statements and questions in the House are the symptoms of more fundamental problems. First, our first past the post electoral system frequently allows one party to get a false majority, where the difference between 100% of the power and none of the power can come down to a single seat or two.

The vast majority of the world's democracies have some version of proportional representation, which means that if a party gets 39% of the national vote, it gets 39% of the seats. Since majorities are rare, parties have learned to be civil, collaborative and even co-operative. This, as we know, will not be easy to fix.

However, the second problem could be fixed quickly. We simply need to go back to a system where members clearly work as individuals for their constituents.

For over a century, from 1867 until 1970, federal candidates ran under their own names and reputations. If they were members of a party, which they often were, the voters had to know who they were and what party they represented. However, more importantly, no national leader signed their nomination papers.

Since 1970, when party names were added to the ballot, the Canada Elections Act was amended to require that candidates could only run under a party banner if the national leader, not the riding association, signed their nomination papers. Starting then, a succession of leaders have turned the thumbscrews mercilessly on backbenchers. They then become what Pierre Elliott Trudeau referred to as mere trained seals.

To sum up, I definitely support the question raised by the hon. member for Langley. I support the right for every member of Parliament to effectively represent their constituents and their conscience by ensuring that every member, not just independents, receive their full quota of questions and statements.

We need to go further. We need to address the root causes of a system that is not allowing us to represent our constituents in as democratic a fashion as might be possible.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me this intervention.

S. O. 31PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for his further contribution to this question before the Chair.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-7 be read the third time and passed.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Before statements, the hon. member for Winnipeg North had ten and a half minutes left for his speech.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I found the contribution made by the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North interesting with regard to what has become a very important issue in the House of Commons. We have heard members on both sides of the House talk about the importance of their right to speak, and they are very sympathetic to and supportive of what the member was talking about and how S. O. 31s are being used as a punishing tool from political parties.

It is one of the reasons we designated today as an opposition day. A motion was going to be brought forward by the leader of the Liberal Party with regard to democratic reform in the hope that it would pass, and that would have dealt, at least in part, with the member's concerns and with the concerns of the member for Langley.

That said, if I have enough time at the end of my speech, I would like to comment further on that issue, but for now I want to talk very briefly about Bill S-7, the combating terrorism act.

I received an email just prior to question period, which states:

Canadian police and intelligence agencies will announce later today they have thwarted a plot to carry out a major terrorist attack, arresting suspects in Ontario and Quebec, CBC news has learned.

Highly placed sources tell CBC News the alleged plotters have been under surveillance for more than a year in Quebec and southern Ontario.

The investigation was part of a cross-border operation involving Canadian law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The email goes on, and we will probably get more information coming from news media outlets as the day unfolds.

I have tried to put this matter in the form of questions to the New Democratic Party in particular. There is a heightened sense of awareness, and that awareness became very evident during the 9/11 crisis. There were a lot of issues at the time, but in essence I believe we can go back to that in terms of the public's need to have more information. There is a desire to feel that the government is doing what it can to combat terrorism.

The primary thing Bill S-7 is attempting to do is in regard to investigative hearings. This is something Liberals believe is important. The Supreme Court of Canada recognized this need back in 2004 and acknowledged that that conducting investigative hearings without warrant would be constitutional and that the government would have the ability to do so. That was done back in 2004; since then the government has attempted this measure and failed, but not because of opposition from our party, because the Liberal Party has been the only party that has been consistent on wanting this type of legislation to advance.

This is now the fourth rendition of this type of legislation. There have been some modifications over the years, but once again it is being brought to the attention of the House. The Liberal Party, at second reading and at the committee stage, indicated its support in principle for the legislation, and Liberals did that believing and understanding that some checks are being put in place to ensure that individual rights would be respected. Individual rights have always been very much a concern for the Liberal Party. It is one of the reasons we stand behind the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, something Canadians have adopted as their own and as one of those things for which we have a sense of pride.

At the end of the day, we are comfortable in knowing that those rights are in fact going to be protected with some of the checks.

Is it perfect legislation? No, it is not perfect legislation. It would be nice to see some modification, but we are very much aware, as I pointed out earlier, that the government is not sympathetic to amendments. It does not like amendments to its legislation to be brought forward, nor has it ever shown an interest, since it has been a majority government, in tolerating any form of amendments, which is unfortunate.

However, at the end of the day we look at it in terms of what our law enforcement officers from across Canada are saying. Some of the agencies making an announcement later today about something that has been uncovered in relation to terrorism have made presentations to the committees and have in fact lobbied not only our caucus but, I suspect, all caucuses inside the House. We ultimately recognize that, yes, it is something that is important, something that we are prepared to see pass. Our critic and others have had the opportunity to comment on the legislation, and we would like to ultimately see it pass.

That said, in the last few minutes I want to pick up on an issue that I believe the government has done a great disservice to.

We recognize, as I very clearly said in my earlier comments, the profound impact that events in Boston have had on all people living in North America. We have expressed our condolences and our best wishes and our prayers to the families of the victims. However, at the end of the day, we in the Liberal Party are very much disappointed by the manner in which the government has chosen to use that act of terror in order to advance a political agenda.

This legislation could have been brought forward long ago, months ago. However, the government has been sitting on it. Then, on Friday, we heard the government House leader stand in his typical fashion and say that because of the concern with respect to the Boston Marathon and the terrorist attack, we were now going to have Bill S-7 introduced on Monday, thereby bumping the Liberal opposition motion that was being proposed in relation to democratic reform.

We find that it is no coincidence. It is something that was done intentionally by the Prime Minister's Office. The PMO had the opportunity to bring it in on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday of last week. In fact, it has been sitting on it for months. The real reason it was brought it in is that the government did not want the Liberal Party to have its opposition day motion debated in the House.

What I find somewhat cowardly is that the government, the Prime Minister, is actually using the Boston Marathon as a tool to prevent a specific debate from occurring in the House, thus preventing a debate on democratic reform and forcing or imposing upon MPs a favourable response to Bill S-7.

The Liberal Party has always supported it in principle. We find it unfortunate that the government is using the terrorist attack that recently happened in Boston as an excuse to bring the bill forward today, because over the last couple of weeks we have seen the reaction from the Conservative backbenchers toward the Prime Minister's Office in terms of limiting their ability to speak.

The other way in which he is using the Boston tragedy is with regard to his negative attacks on the leader of the Liberal Party, which I would suggest is no coincidence. This horrific event takes place in Boston, and all that is on the mind of the Prime Minister is how he can attack the leader of the Liberal Party. He is supposed to be abroad, attending the funeral for former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

We find it is somewhat suspicious, but the bottom line is that Bill S-7 is here today, whether we like it or not, and the Liberal Party has indicated its support of the bill in principle and for it to ultimately pass.