House of Commons Hansard #88 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was priority.


Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

We brought it back.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

That is true. It was actually the Conservative government that brought it back, although not entirely, because—

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

There's still work to do.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

There is still work to do. We are still waiting for the university part. In 2015, I hope that we will be in government and be able to bring back that university part.

I would like to ask the member for Vancouver Quadra how she can reconcile those two contradictory statements she made in her speech.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, just for a clarification of history for the member, in the decade following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, there was a shrinkage of funding for the military under both Prime Minister Mulroney and Prime Minister Chrétien. By 2000, those funds were being built back, and they were built back for a decade, between 2000 and 2010.

However, since 2010, there have been a series of hiring freezes, budget lapses, and budget cuts that, according to senior defence analyst Dave Perry, account for a $30 billion shortfall at this point between what the government promised in its defence strategy and what people were counting on for military equipment. Between that marker and what has actually been put forward, there is a $30 billion gap under the Conservative government.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciated my colleague's comments, particularly with respect to the rent problem. I have Canadians Forces Base Uplands in my riding, and I have heard from many families who are struggling under the weight of the rental problems that continue to go on and on.

However, I want to raise another important point. The government is taking a tepid but important step toward helping our veterans find meaningful employment. However, overseen by the President of the Treasury Board and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is regional minister for the national capital region, we have seen 30,000 to 50,000 jobs slashed—so many jobs slashed, in fact, that the outgoing Parliamentary Budget Officer was never given the information and was never able to expose for Canadians and veterans where all those cuts were taking place and what front-line services were being affected.

We are trying to reconcile that over here. On the one hand, the government says it wants to do something meaningful for our veterans, but on the other hand, surreptitiously and in the dark, it is slashing thousands of jobs. Just today another 100 to 300 jobs are being lost at Canada Post. It is an interesting question.

Finally, can the hon. member help us understand how it is possible that the government is going to take these very small steps involving very small funds when it spends $42 million a year on obscene economic action plan advertising in the middle of hockey playoffs?

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, what I would say about this particular bill is that while it purports to do something positive in terms of employment, it is in fact what I would describe an empty purse, and the member was clear about why that is. With the cuts to civil service, there is not much on offer here.

However, what it really does, from my perspective, is reinforce the concern that the current government has essentially contempt and disrespect for veterans. Where was the consultation with veterans that resulted in the conclusion that what they really wanted was to move up a couple of levels in the priority list for civil service jobs? Where was that their top priority?

What I have been hearing is that their top priority is to address the failures in the new veterans charter, which the government has supposedly been studying. What they have been asking for is pensions that would give them a life above the poverty level and for veterans offices where they can go and talk to a human being.

When the veterans came here to meet us in Parliament, one of them said, “I tried the human resources line. I waited for an hour on the line, and when somebody finally answered, they said, 'Oh, no. Sorry. I can't help you with that.'”.

That is the kind of service that the current government wants our veterans to have. Clearly it has not been listening.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, my riding is extremely large.

I would like to echo the comments of my colleague with regard to the lack of consistency in the Liberal Party member's questions.

Canadians remember the time of the Chrétien government as very dark days because of the budget cuts the Liberals made to the Canadian Forces. In particular, the funeral and burial program was drastically reduced.

Does my colleague think that the government is justified in making cuts to funeral assistance for veterans? If so, how can she justify the comments she made today given the draconian cuts that were made by the Chrétien government?

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for his question.

I would like to point out to him that Jean Chrétien's government is not in power right now. We have had a Conservative government for over eight years now.

Is the Conservative government not at all responsible for the situation of veterans and soldiers today? Why do the NDP not recognize the challenges and issues caused by this government's faults and failures?

This government spent four of its eight years in office making budget cuts in a secret, non-transparent way. That is why there is so much chaos in the armed forces and in veterans offices.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I am delighted to share my time today with the member for Durham.

I am pleased to rise today in support of our government's efforts to help Canada's veterans find meaningful employment after their service is complete. I join in support of Bill C-27, the veterans hiring act.

We have been working hard to provide Canada's veterans and their families with the support they need. Our proposed measures to improve access to federal service jobs for veterans are a perfect example of this. They would provide Canada's deserving veterans significantly increased access to jobs in the federal public service, rewarding and meaningful jobs that would allow them to continue to lead and serve our great country.

The bill before us builds on a previous commitment made by our government, as well as new ones outlined in economic action plan 2014, to help move veterans to the front of the line for federal public service jobs.

First and foremost, eligible veterans whose military service was cut short by a career-ending injury or illness suffered in the line of duty would be given statutory priority consideration for job openings in the public service. This change would give these veterans the highest level of consideration for jobs in the federal public service, a well-deserved advantage that would recognize their sacrifices for Canada. This single measure clearly demonstrates that our government understands that while men and women with disabilities may no longer be able to continue serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, they are still very capable of making great contributions in the service of our country. That is the same principle behind our proposal to increase the existing priority entitlement for all medically released veterans from two to five years.

However, we propose to take this even further. The initiative we have proposed today would also allow a great number of veterans and still-serving military personnel who have at least three years of service to participate in the hiring process for advertised positions in the federal public service. This would give our honourably released veterans and still-serving military personnel access to the public service employment opportunities they need to thrive following their service. Under this legislation, eligibility for these opportunities would continue for a full five years after release, giving our veterans the opportunity to upgrade any training or education they deem necessary.

As much as these changes would provide Canada's veterans with access to public service jobs, it is important that a measure be put in place to ensure that they are seriously considered for the opportunities for which they apply. That is why this bill would give our personnel and veterans priority for externally advertised jobs if they have three years of military service.

I am proud to support all of these amendments. They are truly the right thing to do. These new measures, coupled with our significant investments and initiatives, would provide our veterans with much of the support they need. I am proud that our government has listened to the needs of our military personnel who have served with such valour and courage. Let me assure the House that we are not only listening, we are taking concrete, substantive action to ensure that these brave men and women are provided the opportunities they so richly deserve.

Our government has already invested almost $4.7 billion in new funding to improve the benefits and services we provide to veterans and their families. We have also established the veterans bill of rights, something our veterans have been asking for since the 1960s.

To ensure the fair treatment of veterans, their representatives, and their families, we created the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman. Since 2007, we have also doubled VAC's national network of operational stress injury clinics from five to ten, which has addressed the growing number of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions.

Further, since forming government, we have implemented many important mental health programs and initiatives. They include the following: developing access to a national network of more than 4,800 community mental health professionals so veterans can get the help they need wherever they live; establishing the VAC assistance service, a 24-hour toll-free line that provides veterans and their families with short-term professional counselling and referral services, including support for mental and emotionally health concerns; and investing in a peer support program for injured and ill veterans and still-serving members, and expanding it to the support of their families.

In 2008 we enhanced the critically acclaimed veterans independence program so that thousands of veterans, widows, and caregivers could also receive the housekeeping and grounds maintenance services they needed to remain in their own homes.

In 2009 we restored and expanded benefits for approximately 3,600 allied veterans and 1,000 families who have made Canada their home. That same year, we worked with the Department of National Defence to open our first integrated personnel support centres on Canadian Armed Forces bases and wings. Today there are 24 such centres across the country as well as seven satellite offices so that more than 100 VAC employees are now working alongside their counterparts at National Defence to provide coordinated services for releasing military men and women.

In 2010 we announced that we were significantly enhancing the new veterans charter. Changes we implemented in October 2011 better ensure that our most seriously injured veterans and their families are receiving the financial support they require.

To serve veterans and their families better, faster, and in modern and convenient ways, we launched the cutting red tape for veterans initiative. Through this initiative, we have first, simplified our policies and programs for veterans; second, streamlined business processes at veterans affairs; and third, introduced new technologies.

To better ensure that Canada's veterans and Canadian Armed Forces personnel make a successful transition to civilian life, we developed our veterans transition action plan, and we are supporting initiatives from the new Veteran Transition Advisory Council that are helping to raise awareness of the skill sets veterans have to offer the private sector.

Our government continues to work ambitiously to ensure that Canada's men and women in uniform transition out of military life with the utmost success. That is why we have been a proud supporter and financial partner in the new helmets to hard hats Canada program, a program that is providing veterans with opportunities for employment and apprenticeship in the construction industry. That is also why we are working with corporate Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces in partnership with employers across the country to assist veterans in transitioning to civilian careers.

Our government will continue to ensure that our veterans succeed after their service. That is why we have brought forward these measures that build on all the investments and initiatives our government has made in support of our veterans.

They establish our unprecedented level of commitment to hiring veterans in the federal public service and deliver meaningful new opportunities for Canada's veterans and military personnel.

This legislation is a giant leap forward, not just for these remarkable men and women but for our country. Canadian Armed Forces personnel and veterans are admired for their leadership and teamwork and for having executed their duties faithfully and effectively to serve our nation at home and abroad. They have taken up the cause to defend our rights and freedoms and preserve our way of life. They have the skills, training, and experience that make them strong candidates for federal public service jobs.

Our government is committed to ensuring that when veterans leave military service, they have the support they need to transition with the utmost success. That is why I urge all members in this House to give their full support to the changes I have outlined here today.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I ask my colleague some questions about the speech he just gave, I would like to point out that the NDP is going to support Bill C-27, even though we think that it does not go far enough, unfortunately.

I have a question regarding a rather specific detail. I do not know whether my colleague opposite will be able to answer it. I saw in the bill that surviving spouses of former members of the Canadian Armed Forces who served in the Second World War and the Korean War will be given priority access to public service jobs but that the same is not true for surviving spouses of former members who served at least three years. They are not given that priority access.

I would like to know why this restriction was included in the bill. I must say that, on this side of the House, the NDP disagrees with this provision. We think that the surviving spouses of veterans who gave their lives for their country deserve this preferential treatment regardless of where their spouses served.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important to recognize that the bill has been geared not only to veterans but to their families to ensure that our families are cared for. I would like to draw the attention of the House to a statement the Minister of Veterans Affairs made not long ago. He said:

The Public Service Alliance of Canada has zero credibility on Veterans’ issues. This is the group that opposes giving priority hiring for federal government jobs to injured Veterans. Veterans stood up for Canada through thick and thin, while PSAC stands for Veterans only when it suits their political goals.

We as the government, in presenting the bill, want to provide an environment where our veterans will be cared for, where their families will have the ability to meet their needs, pay their bills, and live a fruitful and fulfilling life after their years of service. I believe the bill would do just that.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, as a former member of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, I actually saw what our government was doing for veterans and what we continue to do for veterans. I have family who are veterans and served in Afghanistan. I am proud of that fact. If I had better eyes, I likely would have been a veteran myself, as I wished. I would be a former member of the air force.

What I find unfortunate about some of the discussions around veterans issues is that even though we work together at committee for veterans and work behind the scenes, what is problematic is that they becomes political pawns. Veterans become the pawns of the political opposition. It is unfortunate, because we should all be working towards veterans' needs and working toward a good end for veterans.

What does the member think of veterans being used as political pawns?

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier in the House on another issue, I was here last Friday, May 9, for the National Day of Honour. As a Canadian, I could not have been more proud to witness the veterans who have served in Afghanistan, their families, and the families of those who were unfortunately lost in that conflict being recognized, honoured, and respected. The recognition on the National Day of Honour was by all Canadians. In Ottawa we witnessed the tens of thousands of people who came to honour our veterans, which spoke poignantly to the fact that we as Canadians do honour our veterans. Obviously we want to recognize their contribution to keeping our country free and safe. They have done that for us.

When this issue enters the House, it should be maintained at a high level of respect and honour. I would hope that all members in the House, regardless of party, are able to maintain that balance in ensuring that whatever we discuss relative to the service and the commitment of our veterans, we maintain that high level of standards that recognizes and honours their commitment to our great country.

Use of House of Commons ResourcesPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

May 16th, 2014 / 1:15 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order regarding the usage of Standing Order 56.1. As you know, Mr. Speaker, on March 27, under Standing Order 56.1, the government passed a motion ordering the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to study allegations of inappropriate use of House of Commons resources, allegations that were found, after less than two hours of questions yesterday at the committee, to be baseless, as it turns out.

I believe that the motion in question was incorrectly accepted by the Chair in the heat of the moment as being in order. I will be asking that the Chair spell out the limits of Standing Order 56.1 for the sake of clarity in the future. The reason this is so important is to prevent the abuse of an extraordinarily powerful tool for the government, which it must be said already has a disproportionate number of procedural levers at its disposal.

To oppose such a tactic, 25 members must rise to prevent the motions from being imposed without notice or debate.

The number of 25 MPs may seem reasonable at first glance. However, when you consider that the third, fourth and fifth parties sometimes have 20, 15 or 10 members—or, as we saw this morning, 4 or 5 members—in the House, and that small political parties have just two, three or four members, if we leave Standing Order 56.1 as it is, the government can instruct the committees to do whatever it wants. We know that that could cause a lot of problems for the future in the House.

It is becoming ever more clear that following the next election, if the Conservative Party continues the way it is going, it may have difficulty getting the 25 members in the House in the next Parliament that would allow it to stop this procedural strategy.

Regardless of the specifics, I believe it is crucial to underline that this rule was always meant to be used for the more mundane daily routine business of the House and not as a way to circumvent the democratic process, which is meant to be followed by substantive matters. While the rules surrounding the use of Standing Order 56.1 have often been the subject of difficult rulings from the Chair, I believe the motion of March 27 should have been deemed to be out of order.

I will ask the Chair to clarify, with the obvious benefit of hindsight, whether or not this motion was admissible, and will also seek your guidance as to what should be done in the future when members of this place are faced with a similar situation. As the Chair knows, as part of the study the committee was ordered to conduct by the motion of March 27, the hon. Leader of the Opposition appeared as a witness before PROC yesterday for nearly two hours, until the chair basically said that all the questions had been answered and called a premature end to the committee.

As I am sure the Chair is also aware, the opposition leader clearly explained to the members of the Conservative Party and the Liberal members on PROC, that the NDP satellite offices were set up in consultation with and approval from the House of Commons and that the NDP was proud to be working outside of the Ottawa bubble to reach out to Canadians in the communities where they work and live.

My issue is not with the fact that PROC considered the matter of these satellite offices, which I actually believe provided the official opposition and the leader of the official opposition a wonderful opportunity to clarify the facts of the matter, not to mention it also provided a wonderful sneak preview of what it might look like to have a prime minister who actually would be willing to, and capable of, answering tough questions.

It is not the political issue I am talking about; my issue is procedural and concerns the use of Standing Order 56.1 on matters for which it was never intended.

Let me read what Standing Order 56.1 (1) says specifically, for your review, Mr. Speaker. It states:

(a) In relation to any routine motion for the presentation of which unanimous consent is required and has been denied, a Minister of the Crown may request during Routine Proceedings that the Speaker propose the said question to the House.

(b) For the purposes of this Standing Order, "routine motion" shall be understood to mean any motion, made upon Routine Proceedings, which may be required for the observance of the proprieties of the House, the maintenance of its authority, the management of its business, the arrangement of its proceedings, the establishing of the powers of its committees, the correctness of its records or the fixing of its sitting days or the times of its meeting or adjournment.

When Standing Order 56.1 was created, the members tried to set some limits, as set out above. Unfortunately, a lot of things were left unsaid in Standing Order 56.1, which explains how the kind of motion that could be acceptable under this Standing Order has been the subject of a point of order on a number of occasions.

Nevertheless, what is written in Standing Order 56.1 is very clear. I would like to draw the attention of the House to the only part of that Standing Order that has to do with committees. It clearly states that only motions to establish the powers of its committees are in order. This means that this Standing Order could be used to authorize committees to travel, for example, which has been done in the past.

However, Standing Order 56.1 makes it clear that giving an instruction to a committee does not fall within the limits of this Standing Order. Therefore, the Minister of Labour's motion must be ruled out of order by the Chair.

Mr. Speaker, on page 672, of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, by O'Brien and Bosc, which you know backward and forward, we can read the following, “...its give a direction to a standing committee of the House has been deemed contrary to the Standing Orders”.

Indeed, there has been only one other time when Standing Order 56.1 was used in this matter, and the Speaker at the time ruled the motion to be out of order.

On May 31, 2007, the government House leader moved the following motion under Standing Order 56.1:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, when the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development convenes a meeting, it shall not be adjourned or suspended until it completes the committee stage of Bill C-44, except pursuant to a motion by a parliamentary secretary and, provided the bill is adopted by the committee, agrees to report the bill to the House within two sitting days following the completion of the committee stage.

With less than 25 members having risen to oppose the motion, it was adopted. However, the member for Wascana, realizing the mistake of the Chair, then rose on a point of order asking that the Chair deem the motion to be inadmissible. The Chair immediately ruled the motion to be out of order and said:

I think that use of Standing Order 56.1 to direct the business of the committee, of any committee, is a new development in the House and one that I find out of order.

He added to his ruling, on June 5, 2007:

A key element in my ruling today is the fundamental precept that standing committees are masters of their own procedure. Indeed, so entrenched is that precept that only in a select few Standing Orders does the House make provision for intervening directly into the conduct of standing committee affairs.

He added at that time:

...the only reference to committees in the Standing Order is one allowing motions for “the establishing of the powers of its committees”, suggesting that the rule was meant to be used not to reach into the conduct of standing committee affairs to direct them, but rather in a routine manner, to provide them powers they do not already possess.[...] The only examples dealing with standing committees or standing committee activity the Chair has been able to find have to do with granting standing committees the power to travel. [...] the use of Standing Order 56.1 in that regard falls squarely within the parameters of the rule.

Outside of these very specific and very clear cases, Speakers of the House have occasionally had to rule on the use of Standing Order 56.1.

In 1991, in response to concerns raised when Standing Order 56.1 was adopted, Speaker Fraser provided the following clarification:

...this "over-ride" provision can operate, as the Chair understands it, only with respect to a certain very limited range of motions offered at a specific time in our daily agenda by a minister of the Crown....

On September 18, 2001, Speaker Milliken also pointed out that:

It should be emphasized that at the time of its adoption it was envisioned that the standing order would be used for only so-called routine motions as defined in Standing Order 56.1(1)(b).

I could provide more examples, but I do not want to go on about this any longer because I think that this case is very clear. With respect to committees, Standing Order 56.1 can be used only to give them powers they do not already have, such as the power to travel. The use of Standing Order 56.1 to direct a committee to study a particular subject or to hear certain witnesses is definitely outside the scope of Standing Order 56.1. Consequently, the Chair should have indicated that the motion was not in order.

The motion moved by the Minister of Status of Women on March 27 represents a new use of Standing Order 56.1, one that does not respect practice or rulings of previous Speakers on this order. The government had a normal mechanism for asking a committee for a study. The mechanism that we have for this is to table a motion and, following the normal notice period, call it for debate and a decision from the House. There was nothing preventing the government from proceeding in this way. There were no extraordinary circumstances justifying the use of the extreme measure of Standing Order 56.1 in a way for which it was never intended.

I must say that I worry. I am noticing a trend with the current government, which tends to completely disregard the spirit of the practices and procedures that guide our work here in the House of Commons. Of course, we would all like the procedure and House affairs committee to proactively review and clarify the standing order in question, but, as members know, the committee has been very busy fulfilling the order of the House as part of a kangaroo court routine.

This use of Standing Order 56.1 cannot be allowed to stand without clarification from the Chair. Our party will have 25 members from here to the election, but for the smaller parties in this Parliament that do not have 25 members who can stand, and for the Conservative Party in future Parliaments, which will not have 25 members to stand, the precedent would put all of those MPs at risk of further abuse by majority governments like this one that have lost all reverence for this institution and its foundational importance to our democracy.

In conclusion, I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to reflect on the Chair's decision to allow the government's motion of March 27 to be presented pursuant to Standing Order 56.1, and to also provide any further guidance to the House as to how this provision should and should not be used in the future.

Use of House of Commons ResourcesPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I see that the hon. government House leader is rising on the same point.

Use of House of Commons ResourcesPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I am rising in response to this point. The issue is what an eligible motion is under Standing Order 56.1.

Standing Order 56.1(1)(b) provides:

For the purposes of this Standing Order, "routine motion" shall be understood to mean any motion, made upon Routine Proceedings, which may be required for the observance of the proprieties of the House, the maintenance of its authority, the management of its business, the arrangement of its proceedings, the establishing of the powers of its committees, the correctness of its records or the fixing of its sitting days or the times of its meeting or adjournment.

I will emphasize again that key phrase: that it is for the purpose of “establishing of the powers of its committees”. That is part of its authority.

Quite clearly, the primary thrust of the motion from the hon. Minister of Labour, the motion that gave rise to the occurrence of the Leader of the Opposition before the committee dealing with the question of the improper use of taxpayers' funds by the NDP, was to give the procedure and House affairs committee an order of reference, or to use the words of the Standing Order, “establishing of the powers of its committees”.

Indeed, the last time that this Standing Order was invoked was to provide a committee with an order of reference. Page 2289 of the Journals, for November 8, 2012, shows that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights was mandated for a motion proposed under Standing Order 56.1, to conduct the study required by section 533.1 of the Criminal Code.

As members can see, there was an order of reference given to the committee, exactly the same as happened in this case, on a matter that otherwise needed to be given the authority, including the authority to hear that witness in particular.

Prior to the adoption of Standing Order 56.2, we also saw a number of instances when Standing Order 56.1 was used to authorize committee travel. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 461, informs us that Speaker Milliken:

...also suggested that this rule was meant to be used not to reach into the conduct of standing committee affairs to direct them, but rather in a routine manner, to provide them with powers they do not already possess, such as the power to travel.

The latter portion of that quote is important to bear in mind. It echoes the ruling of Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie at page 10124 of the Debates for June 5, 2007.

It is important to recall that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is exempted from the general and broad sweeping order of reference which Standing Order 108(2) confers upon most of our standing committees. That particular committee's permanent mandate derives largely from Standing Order 108(3)(a). It is buttressed by numerous specific orders of reference which this House adopts.

In that sense, the motion of the hon. Minister of Labour sought to empower the committee, or at the very least to remove any doubts whatsoever that it is indeed empowered to study the matter of the troubling allegations about how the official opposition has been using the resources provided to it by the House of Commons.

Beyond that particular element of the motion, committees generally have the power to send for persons. Pages 136 and 137 of O’Brien and Bosc remind us, “Committees are not empowered to compel the attendance of the Queen, the Governor General, Members, Senators, officers of another legislature or persons outside of Canada”.

To that end, the latter half of the motion empowered the committee by doing something which it itself could not do. Thus, it was necessary to resort to a motion of this House in order to provide it with those powers, if you will, establishing the powers of committee as it is contemplated in Standing Order 56.1(1)(b), and to provide that order of reference.

Clearly, the motion of the hon. Minister of Labour met the test of establishing the powers for committee, as the Standing Order states, and as Speaker Milliken and Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie have ruled in the past.

I note that there was some reference made to substantive matters. I will note that on the member's reference to the restriction against using this Standing Order on substantive matters, that is somewhat defined by previous decisions, and we do have guidance.

I would quote Mr. Speaker Milliken's ruling at page 5974 of the Debates on May 13, 2005, where he stated:

It is quite clear that the use of Standing Order 56.1, while allowing the House then to determine things in relation to its affairs that are not substantive matters, that is passing laws, may be done by using this technique.

Clearly, in that decision, he has equated the passing of laws through the parliamentary process as the substantive matters that are not covered by Standing Order 56.1. That is, the House could not, through Standing Order 56.1, attempt to substitute any element of the statutory process for passing laws, but that is what Speaker Milliken said is meant by substantive matters.

Clearly what we were talking about, or what the committee was dealing with in this matter, was not the question of a substantive matter in passing a law but was rather a very separate matter about the administration of the House. It was a matter under the authority of the procedure and House affairs committee, normally part of its jurisdiction, specifically the misspending of taxpayers' funds by the NDP for partisan purposes in partisan NDP offices.

Again, that aspect of the ruling of Mr. Milliken related to the interaction between Standing Order 56.1 and the requirement of section 49 of the Constitution Act, 1867 for decisions here to be taken by a majority. Your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, clearly distinguished between questions of substance and “matters of internal procedure, which the House can decide on its own initiative”. The motion of the hon. Minister of Labour did not relate to the passage of any bill or the creation of any law, and therefore, it should not have been ruled out of order and was properly ruled to be in order and accepted by the Speaker at that time.

Finally, I would conclude by referring to pages 672 and 673 of O'Brien and Bosc, where the authors conclude their treatment of Standing Order 56.1 with the following:

...Speakers Parent and Milliken both urged the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to examined the appropriate use of this Standing Order. Having received no feedback from the Committee to the House, the Speaker stated he did not feel it was for the Chair to rule out of order a motion that appeared to be in compliance with the Standing Order, despite any reservations he may have expressed about it.

Though in the present case the motion more than appears to be in compliance with Standing Order 56.1, it is in compliance, I would submit, and in fact, I think the above example shows that despite an invitation to somehow further restrict the application of it, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the House have declined to do so, leaving all those powers I discussed earlier in this argument in place.

Finally, I would like to make one further point, which actually relates to the earlier point of order as well as to this discussion of the appearance of the NDP leader on the matter of the misuse of parliamentary resources for partisan purposes. That is that the earlier question of privilege raised by the member for Kitchener Centre dealt with the fact that the NDP was suggesting that he had misused parliamentary resources when he had, in fact, as he said here, gone the extra step of asking the House of Commons to ensure that no parliamentary resources were ever misused by him. He asked permission to pay for resources that would have been spent for a partisan purpose, something on his own initiative, to ensure that they were not, and he ensured that those monies were paid back.

That is a very notable precedent and one the NDP might wish to reflect on in dealing with this point of order. Perhaps that is the way situations like the one they find themselves in right now are properly dealt with. Perhaps they should now go to the administration of the House of Commons and offer to pay back the funds they have spent inappropriately on partisan purposes.

Use of House of Commons ResourcesPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I thank the hon. government House leader and the hon. opposition House leader for their interventions on this matter.

I am mindful that it has been nearly two months since the particular motion was considered by the House. Nonetheless, we will take these matters under advisement and consider the comments that have been made by those intervening.

On the same matter, I see the hon. member for Ottawa South rising on the same point.

Use of House of Commons ResourcesPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, just to put a marker down, the Liberal Party of Canada reserves the right going forward to examine this in greater detail and to come back at a later date to make a submission for the Chair's consideration.

Use of House of Commons ResourcesPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

That is duly noted. I thank the hon. member for Ottawa South for reminding the House that there may indeed be another opportunity to weigh in on the matter.

We will take this matter under advisement in the days ahead and get back to the House accordingly.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario


Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I wish to correct the figures I cited in the House today during question period in response to some questions. I said that over 80% of garments bought by the government were bought for the RCMP and public service, and 90% of those garments were made in Canada.

I intended to say that over 90% of garments bought by Public Works were bought for the RCMP and DND, and 98% of those garments were made in Canada.

I hope that will correct these much better numbers in the record in both my French and English response.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The House thanks the hon. minister for her clarification in that respect.

It being 1:43 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from April 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-568, An Act respecting former Canadian Forces members, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Former Canadian Forces Members ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.


Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be speaking today in support of this bill, which would provide additional and much-needed support to Canada's veterans.

These men and women risked their lives to serve their country. The pride they feel will last forever, but the psychological and physical scars that many of bear will also last a long time. It is crucial that their government provide them with long-term care.

I am very proud to support Bill C-568 concerning long-term care for veterans. It is the very least we can do to thank them for their sacrifices.

With the end of Canada's mission in Afghanistan, many soldiers came home thinking they could finally put down their weapons and stop fighting. Unfortunately, they now have to fight government officials to get the services and support they deserve.

Veterans who fought in wars that took place before 1953 were given access to the long-term care that was promised to them by the government of the time. They have access to reserved beds, beds in community care facilities and dedicated departmental contract beds.

Veterans who fought in Cyprus, Bosnia, Afghanistan and all the other modern-day veterans are being told by Veterans Affairs Canada that they are not in the right category to benefit from these services. Modern-day veterans have access only to community beds and have no seniority. They have to use the normal selection process.

However, the number of wartime veterans keeps dropping and will drop by half in 2016. What is more, there are empty beds reserved for veterans.

Parkwood Hospital has 37 empty beds, but Vice-President Elaine Gibson says that:

The legislation prevents us from admitting patients that do not meet the criteria. They need to have served in World War One, Two or the Korean War. If the rules were different, we would be there to serve our veterans.

Veterans are victims of bureaucracy and the Conservative government's unwillingness to listen or to help veterans.

Not only have the Conservatives not tried to address this problem and give modern-day veterans access to the beds, but they also decided that the few services these veterans were already receiving were too many.

They did not listen to the NDP and follow the example of the United States, Great Britain and Australia by sparing Veterans Affairs from budget cuts. They cut $226 million and 800 positions from Veterans Affairs Canada.

If we compare that to the fact that the current cost of providing long-term care to 8,500 veterans is $284 million, and the average age of those veterans is 87, then we quickly realize that the current generation of veterans have cause for concern.

While the country was shocked to learn of the wave of suicides among veterans, the Conservatives closed eight Veterans Affairs regional offices that were providing help with mental health problems, responding to crises and helping older veterans live independently.

It is clear that the Conservatives very much like the army, but do not care much about the soldiers.

When a group of veterans who were concerned about the closure of these offices came to Ottawa to meet with the minister, he did not even show up. That is indicative of the government's lack of respect for our veterans.

Let us get back to Bill C-568. If my colleague's bill passes, it will set things right with respect to veterans' health care.

This bill would eliminate the unfair distinction made between pre-1953 and post-1953 veterans. All men and women who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces deserve the same respect and must be entitled to long-term health care funded by the government.

Therefore, it is essential that the Department of Veterans Affairs Act be amended to extend health care benefits, treatment and other benefits to all former members of the Canadian Armed Forces who meet the military occupational classification requirements. What Bill C-568 proposes would remedy one of the main inconsistencies and give modern-day veterans access to reserved beds.

The government must also work with the NDP and veterans' organizations to streamline Veterans Affairs Canada's eligibility criteria. These rules make the process for obtaining veterans' benefits very complicated and sometimes put the benefits out of reach.

The government must reverse its decision to close eight regional Veterans Affairs offices which, as I have already mentioned, provide essential assistance to veterans. It must also abolish the unfair clawback of the pensions of veterans and former RCMP members to comply with the ruling in the Manuge case.

The government must also improve, review and update the new veterans charter, including the lump sum payment to injured members. It must apply the principle of the same standard for all veterans to all federal programs and services.

I firmly believe that the government must expand the veterans independence program to all veterans and RCMP members, their widows and widowers.

Finally, the government has an obligation to provide better support for veterans suffering from post-traumatic conditions or operational stress injuries and their families.

Let us come back to the bill before us today. In his report on long-term care, the Veterans Ombudsman said:

The very existence of so many distinct eligibility categories and the associated challenges entailed in establishing a Veteran's eligibility...has been and remains a source of contention for both clients and...employees of Veterans Affairs Canada.

It is absolutely essential to follow up on the ombudsman's report on veterans' long-term care needs and put an end to these categories, which exclude modern-day veterans. With the rules as they now stand, it is like we are telling them that their sacrifices are not worth as much as those of their parents or grandparents.

Fortunately, Canadians do not see things that way. A total of 83% of Canadians believe it is important to support members of the Canadian Forces after they have completed their service. However, only 34% of Canadians say that they are proud of how our veterans are treated today.

By making cuts to Veterans Affairs Canada, the Conservatives have clearly demonstrated that they are not listening to Canadians.

I would like to close by reiterating that I support the bill. All of our country's veterans served our country with the same courage and distinction, and they all deserve to receive the care and services they need. The NDP believes that they all have the same rights and that they must all have access to long-term care. The amendment proposed in Bill C-568 would ensure that they are given that right by reserving beds for Canadian Forces members who served after 1953.

Branch 185 of the Royal Canadian Legion is located in my riding of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles. When I went to visit and talk to these people, I was able to see first-hand the difficulties they are experiencing as a result of the lack of services available to them.

Today, I am proud to support the bill on behalf of the veterans in my riding, as well as on behalf of thousands of Canadians and veterans in ridings all across the country.

Former Canadian Forces Members ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


Tyrone Benskin NDP Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House to support Bill C-568, introduced by my colleague from Saint-Jean. It is a simple bill, but an important one.

With power comes responsibility. Canada is fortunate to have a military force whose personnel make us proud. Their work within our borders and abroad is one of constant dedication and a continuous source of pride. Canada is recognized as a meaningful contributor to numerous missions abroad, both in peacetime and in times of conflict.

In my riding, I am proud to have a number of Legions whose members remain vigilant in helping our community to commemorate our history. Our history forms a significant part of our collective memory and serves to inform those who have made Canada their home.

Serving as military personnel is a task fraught with many on-the-job risks. Post-traumatic stress disorder is increasingly being recognized as a widespread effect of protracted combat operations. The long-term mental health of Canadian troops is coming to bear as an issue requiring a more in-depth response from the government in much the same way as a loss of a limb or an injury of the flesh.

We here in the House—the government and all members of the House—must take up our responsibilities. When Canadian men and women choose to serve in our Canadian Armed Forces, they do so at the risk of paying the ultimate price. For that reason, they need to know that we are behind them. They need to know that if they are wounded in our service, we are behind them. They need to know that we will provide the care that is needed when it is needed and that we will make sure their particular needs are addressed. It is a part of the social contract, a moral obligation that the state has toward its men and women in military service.

Since the Great War and the Second World War, Canadians have remained active in deployments abroad, most recently in Afghanistan, but surely we remember our contributions to Bosnia, Cyprus, and other missions around the world. Our soldiers go where our leadership tells them, and they bear the scars to prove it—and there are scars. There has been loss of life and limb. There has been injury to body and mind. Their particular roles in these missions are reflected in their particular needs in the health care system when their work is done and they return to Canada, their home. These are Canadian veterans, and we should be treating them as such.

Canada's recent veterans' needs are great. They need a greater priority. They need greater priority access to long-term health care funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The government needs to acknowledge its responsibility.

Those eligible Canadians who served before 1953 have earned their access to long-term medical supervision, contract beds in hospitals for acute care, and nursing services. It is written in the veterans' health care regulations, and so it should be. However, to be a Canadian veteran does not stop as of 1953, so what of those men and women post-1953?

For those Canadians who served after 1953, the health care picture is not so rosy. They can access community beds, but these are part of the general pool of beds available to all Canadians in need of a particular type of medical care, so there are no priorities made. To be fair, in Quebec we do have a federal long-term care institution, but shortly Veterans Affairs will be transferring it to the province, which means those beds will not be available for modern-day veterans.

Our veterans deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of when they served our country.

The government must support long-term health care for modern-day veterans, as it has for those who served before 1953. This should be an inherent understanding and obligation on the part of any democratic government that sends young men and women into harm's way for the country's ideals.

The Veterans Ombudsman agrees, so much so that he released a report on the matter. It is called “Veterans' Long-Term Care Needs: a Review of the Support Provided by Veterans Affairs Canada through its Long-Term Care Program”. It is pretty clear, as far as titles go. I hope the government has read it, because it sure has not followed it.

The government should improve support of veterans suffering from PTSD. The government should reverse its decision on the closure of eight Veterans Affairs offices, and the government should extend the veterans independence program to all veterans, to their spouses, and to the members of the RCMP.

Veterans and their families should be cared for so that they have one less thing to think about while they are running their missions. They are Canadian citizens, first and foremost. It is not an issue that they should be moved to the head of the line, but rather should be afforded the care and respect they are due.

They are our veterans. Our veterans deserve more than service reductions. They deserve more than budget cuts. They put their lives on the line for Canadians. The least that Canada's government can do is ensure they did it for a reason.