House of Commons Hansard #119 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was bank.

Topics

Question No.716Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

June 16th, 2021 / 4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Marc Dalton Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

With regard to the Interim Protocol for the use of Southern B.C. commercial anchorages: (a) how many (i) days each of the anchorage locations was occupied from January 2019 to March 2021, broken down by month, (ii) complaints received related to vessels occupying these anchorages, between January 1, 2019, and March 31, 2021; and (b) why did the public posting of interim reports cease at the end of 2018?

(Return tabled)

Question No.717Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Marc Dalton Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

With regard to federal transfer payments to Indigenous communities in British Columbia: (a) what is the total amount of federal transfer payments in fiscal years 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21; and (b) of the amounts provided in (a), what amounts were provided specifically to Metis communities?

(Return tabled)

Question No.718Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

With regard to funding provided by the government to the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS): (a) what requirements and stipulations apply for the CAEFS in securing, spending, and reporting financial support received from the government; and (b) what has the government communicated to the CAEFS with respect to the enforcement of Interim Policy Bulletin 584 before and after the coming into force of Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, on June 19, 2017?

(Return tabled)

Question No.719Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

With regard to government funding in the riding of South Okanagan—West Kootenay, for each fiscal year since 2018-19 inclusive: (a) what are the details of all grants, contributions, and loans to any organization, body, or group, broken down by (i) name of the recipient, (ii) municipality of the recipient, (iii) date on which the funding was received, (iv) amount received, (v) department or agency providing the funding, (vi) program under which the grant, contribution, or loan was made, (vii) nature or purpose; and (b) for each grant, contribution and loan in (a), was a press release issued to announce it and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline, (iii) file number of the press release?

(Return tabled)

Question No.722Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

With regard to COVID-19 vaccines and having to throw them away due to spoilage or expiration: (a) how much spoilage and waste has been identified; (b) what is the spoilage and waste breakdowns by province; and (c) what is the cost to taxpayers for the loss of spoiled vaccines?

(Return tabled)

Question No.724Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

With regard to the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI) announced by the government in 2019, from September 1, 2019, to date: (a) how many applicants have applied for a mortgage through the FTHBI, broken down by province or territory and municipality; (b) of the applicants in (a), how many applicants have been approved and accepted mortgages through the FTHBI, broken down by province or territory and municipality; (c) of the applicants in (b), how many approved applicants have been issued the incentive in the form of a shared equity mortgage; (d) what is the total value of incentives (shared equity mortgages) under the program that have been issued, in dollars; (e) for those applicants who have been issued mortgages through the FTHBI, what is that value of each of the mortgage loans; (f) for those applicants who have been issued mortgages through the FTHBI, what is that mean value of the mortgage loan; (g) what is the total aggregate amount of money lent to homebuyers through the FTHBI to date; (h) for mortgages approved through the FTHBI, what is the breakdown of the percentage of loans originated with each lender comprising more than 5 per cent of total loans issued; (i) for mortgages approved through the FTHBI, what is the breakdown of the value of outstanding loans insured by each Canadian mortgage insurance company as a percentage of total loans in force; and (j) what date will the promised FTHBI program updates announced in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement be implemented?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

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

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Government’s Alleged Non-compliance with an Order of the House — Speaker’s RulingPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on June 7, 2021, by the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent concerning the government’s non-compliance with an order for the production of documents.

First, the Chair wishes to describe the sequence of events that led to the question of privilege currently under consideration.

On two occasions, on March 31 and May 10, 2021, the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations adopted an order requiring the Public Health Agency of Canada to produce unredacted documents. In both cases, the documents were to be sent to the law clerk and parliamentary counsel so that he could assess their contents. The order of May 10 also provided that a report should be made to the House if the documents were not produced within 10 days.

The agency’s refusal led to the presentation of the third report from the committee. It recommended that the House adopt an order for the production of the same documents and that it include the same requirements as the order of March 31.

On June 1, 2021, the House was seized of the matter through an opposition motion, and it adopted an order the next day to have the documents provided to it. The relevant extracts contained the following elements:

(a) these documents shall be deposited with the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel...

(b) the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel shall promptly thereafter notify the Speaker, who shall forthwith inform the House, whether he is satisfied the documents were produced as ordered...

(d) the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel shall confidentially review the documents with a view to redacting information which, in his opinion, could reasonably be expected to compromise national security or reveal details of an ongoing criminal investigation, other than the existence of an investigation;

(e) the Speaker shall cause the [redacted] documents...to be laid upon the table at the next earliest opportunity and, after being tabled, they shall stand referred to the special committee....

Also, the committee, after consulting the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel in camera, may decide to make public any redacted material.

On June 4, 2021, the president of the agency wrote to the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel informing him that the documents sent to him had been redacted because the order of the House did not offer the appropriate guarantees for protecting information related to national security and personal information. He added that the agency was co-operating with the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and had sent that committee an unredacted version of the documents.

Citing relevant references and numerous precedents, the member for Louis‑Saint‑Laurent stated that the role of the House and its committees in holding the government to account for its actions includes the power to require the production of documents. The member also argued that sending the unredacted documents to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians is not an acceptable alternative.

He concluded that the government had not complied with the order of the House because it had redacted certain information and had not provided a valid reason for doing so.

There was thus apparently a prima facie case of contempt on which the House must rule, and for which it must determine the appropriate sanctions.

The members for Jonquière and St. John’s-East added that they shared some of the concerns of the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, while insisting that privacy and national security are not sufficient pretexts for non-compliance with an order of the House. Furthermore, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians is not a committee of the House and its membership did not include, at least until very recently, representatives of all parties.

In response to these arguments, the member for Kingston and the Islands suggested that, if the Chair deems there is a prima facie question of privilege, the motion that the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent intends to move is not consistent with our customs and practices. Moreover, it offers no mechanism to preserve the confidential nature of the information contained in the documents, which is why they were sent to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.

While they are not being challenged, it is still worth recalling that, at the heart of the parliamentary system, and firmly anchored in our Constitution, there are rights and privileges that are indispensable to the performance of members' duties. Thus, one can read the following, at page 137 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition:

By virtue of the preamble and section 18 of the Constitution Act, 1867, Parliament has the ability to institute its own inquiries, to require the attendance of witnesses and to order the production of documents, rights which are fundamental to its proper functioning. These rights are as old as Parliament itself.

That being said, the Chair is essentially being asked to rule on two very specific questions, namely whether there are limits to the application of this privilege and whether sending unredacted documents to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians is an acceptable alternative.

As I have already indicated, the member for Kingston and the Islands and the president of the agency are concerned about the lack of regard for national security issues and the provisions for protecting personal information to which the government is normally subject. This is not a new argument. It was the subject of an important ruling from April 27, 2010. While confirming that the House had, at times, agreed to abstain from requiring documents for reasons of national security or international relations among others, Speaker Milliken took care to clarify that it was quite different in an instance where the House expressed its will by adopting an explicit order.

In his ruling, Speaker Milliken, at page 2042 of Debates, responded as follows to the government’s objections:

To accept such a notion would completely undermine the importance of the role of parliamentarians in holding the government to account.

Before us are issues that question the very foundations upon which our parliamentary system is built. In a system of responsible government, the fundamental right of the House of Commons to hold the government to account for its actions is an indisputable privilege and in fact an obligation.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, adds this at page 985:

No statute or practice diminishes the fullness of that power rooted in House privileges unless there is an explicit legal provision to that effect, or unless the House adopts a specific resolution limiting the power. The House has never set a limit on its power to order the production of papers....

In accordance with the order of the House of June 2, the Chair tabled a letter received from the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel on June 7, informing him that the documents “were not produced as ordered as they were not unredacted versions.”

After concluding that there was a prima facie question of privilege in his ruling of April 27, 2010, Speaker Milliken, still concerned about the issues raised, deemed it wise to ask members to continue their discussions for a limited period of time before allowing the member who had initially raised the question of privilege to move the usual motion for debate. Indeed, the order in question at the time offered no measure to protect the confidential information contained in the required documents, be it, for example, examining the documents in camera, limiting the number of copies distributed or even providing for their destruction once they had been studied. The result of these discussions would in no way affect his decision, the Speaker's intention was simply to offer a final delay to allow time to reach a compromise.

In the current situation, the order adopted provides that the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel first examine the documents, redact them using specific criteria and discuss them with the members of the Special Committee in camera. The Minister of Health was also called to appear, and did so on Monday, June 14, in an effort to continue some form of dialogue. It is, however, not up to the Chair to judge the extent of the measures taken, but to note that they were considered. There is thus no reason to allow an additional delay.

The second question relates to the government arguing that there is now a more appropriate forum to deal with documents having national security implications, namely the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. The committee, which was created by statute in 2017, is composed of members of both Houses with top secret security clearance, who are bound by oaths of confidentiality.

Paragraph 8(1)(c) of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act allows the committee to consider “any matter relating to national security or intelligence that a minister” refers to it. The Minister of Health indicated that she has formally asked the committee to review the documents at issue. However, as the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent and the member for St. John's East have pointed out, the act also made clear that, despite its composition, this body is not a committee of Parliament. It exists outside of Parliament.

In these circumstances, the Chair cannot conclude that the documents submitted to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians fulfills an order of this House or of its committees. Nothing in the act affects or limits the privileges of the House to order the production of documents, even those with national security implications. It is for the House and not for the government to decide how such documents are to be reviewed and what safeguards are to put in place, if any.

As a result, in the opinion of the Chair, the failure to comply with the order of the House of June 2, 2021, constitutes a prima facie question of privilege.

There is one last point to settle. The Chair has read the wording of the motion suggested by the member for Louis‑Saint‑Laurent in his written notice. It departs considerably from established practice. The scope of this type of motion is limited, as indicated in House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, at page 150, and I quote: “The terms of the motion have generally provided that the matter be referred to committee for study...”

A review of the rare exceptions shows that there was a certain consensus on the procedure to follow and, thus, on the wording of the motion. As Speaker Milliken confirmed in a ruling on March 9, 2011, at page 8842, “The Chair is of course aware of exceptions to this practice, but in most if not all of these cases, circumstances were such that a deviation from the normal practice was deemed acceptable, or there was a unanimous desire on the part of the House to proceed in that fashion.”

There are also precedents that support censure. In short, given that the parameters for such motions are clear and that the practice is well established, the proposed motion should be a motion of censure or to refer the matter to the appropriate committee for study.

Under the circumstances, and since discussions are required, the Chair reserves its ruling and will return to the House as soon as the member is ready to move the appropriate motion.

The table officers and I are available to support and guide the hon. member as he drafts his motion.

I want to thank hon. members for their attention.

The hon. member for Carleton is rising on a question of privilege.

Alleged Breach of Members' Right to Vote on a New TaxPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, you have notice from me of a question of privilege.

I am rising today because of the government's imposition of a new tax without needed approval of the House of Commons. It has breached the privileges of all members and has done so in contravention of Standing Orders 79(1), 80 and 83.1, as well as principles laid out on pages 827, 828, 829, 831, 833, 835, 841, 893 and 906 through 908 of Bosc and Gagnon's House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, 2017. There are also numerous rulings by the Chair and most important of all section 53 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

In essence, I am rising today to ask that you find a prima facie case of breach of privilege because of the government's imposition of a secretive and insidious tax designed to raise funds for it to spend at the expense of the Canadian people without holding appropriate votes in the House of Commons and possibly in direct contravention of other laws that have been passed by this House.

The new tax of which I speak is designed to raise more money for the government to spend. In fact, it raised more money for the government to spend in the last fiscal year than all other sources of revenue combined. This tax should be called the inflation tax, which is—

Alleged Breach of Members' Right to Vote on a New TaxPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I am going to interrupt the hon. member for Carleton as we have a point of order from the member for Kingston and the Islands.

Alleged Breach of Members' Right to Vote on a New TaxPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you consider what the member is suggesting to be a question of privilege and rule whether it is admissible for him to try to filibuster time in the House of Commons right now, which is clearly what appears to be the objective here. Can the Speaker provide some kind of insight as to whether what we are hearing in the House right now is actually a question of privilege?

Alleged Breach of Members' Right to Vote on a New TaxPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I am going to let the member for Carleton continue. I have not quite grasped exactly where he is going with it, so I will let him keep going.

The hon. member for Carleton has the floor.

Alleged Breach of Members' Right to Vote on a New TaxPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I speak of this illegal inflation tax, in which the government is funding its spending with newly created currency that increases consumer prices through the levy of inflation.

Before I go any further, let me clarify the difference between inflation and the inflation tax. It is not a tax when, independent and separate from government, consumer prices rise due to supply and demand dynamics. However, when they rise because the government and central bank coordinate to expand the money supply, thus raising consumer prices above what they would otherwise be and force consumers to pay what they would otherwise pay, that is a tax.

I do not raise this question of privilege lightly, but after careful consideration of the nature of the government's actions and their real-world effects on Canadians, both of which I have described. As well, I rely heavily on the jurisprudence from the Chair and the clear legal definitions of a tax.

To prove this breach, I would have to show three parts. First, that there is a privilege for members of Parliament at stake, and that the privilege is governments cannot tax what the House does not expressly approve through votes by each member in the chamber. Second, I would need to prove the policy in fact imposes a tax. Finally, I would need to provide proof the House did not approve this tax. Together, these points prove the government committed a prima facie case of breach of my parliamentary privilege by denying me the opportunity to vote on this tax increase before it took effect.

Let me start with the first part. Is there a privilege for each member to vote on any new taxes introduced or imposed on Canadians? The answer is yes. In fact, this privilege on Canadian soil originated with the British North America Act, section 53 of the Constitution, which reads:

Bills for appropriating any Part of the Public Revenue, or for imposing any Tax or Impost, shall originate in the House of Commons.

This constitutional principle is further enshrined in Standing Order 80(1), which states:

All aids and supplies granted to the Sovereign by the Parliament of Canada are the sole gift of the House of Commons, and all bills for granting such aids and supplies ought to begin with the House, as it is the undoubted right of the House to direct, limit, and appoint in all such bills, the ends, purposes, considerations, conditions, limitations and qualifications of such grants, which are not alterable by the Senate.

The failure of this House to “direct, limit, and appoint” revenue-raising measures is accordingly not only a violation of the Constitution but also of the privileges of members of the House set out in the Standing Orders.

In the Eurig Estate case, the courts considered the constitutional implications of a tax raised through such improper and indirect means. Justice Jack Major, writing for the majority, wrote that section 53 of the Constitution “...codifies the principle of no taxation without representation, by requiring any bill that imposes a tax to originate with the legislature.”

Justice Major goes on to say “My interpretation of s. 53...prohibits not only the Senate, but also any other body other than the directly elected legislature, from imposing a tax on its own accord.”

Any other body—

Alleged Breach of Members' Right to Vote on a New TaxPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I am going to interrupt the hon. member. I appreciate the multiple examples, but I would ask him to be concise and get to the crux of his point. He can submit what he has on paper to the table and we can look at it.

I will let him continue, but I would ask him to be as concise as possible.

Alleged Breach of Members' Right to Vote on a New TaxPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I appreciate very much your wise counsel. However, I missed the last three paragraphs and I was wondering if he could repeat them because I did not quite get the point he was making. For clarity's sake, it might be good if he clarified it.

Alleged Breach of Members' Right to Vote on a New TaxPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I will let the hon. member for Carleton continue as he wishes. It is his time.

The hon. member for Carleton.

Alleged Breach of Members' Right to Vote on a New TaxPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, Justice Major made clear that it is his interpretation that no body, other than the House of Commons, can initiate a tax increase. I would submit that “no body” includes the Bank of Canada itself, in collaboration with the government.

When the court said “there should be no taxation without representation”, it got to the heart of my point here today. It stated:

...the Lieutenant Governor in Council cannot impose a new tax ab initio without the authorization of the legislature.... “The Governor in Council has no power, proprio vigore, to impose taxes unless under authority specifically delegated to it by Statute. The power of taxation is exclusively in Parliament.”

The court went on to say that section 53 “ensures parliamentary control over, and accountability for, taxation” and quoted the distinguished legal scholar Elmer Driedger, as follows:

Through the centuries, the principle was maintained that taxation required representation and consent. The only body in Canada that meets this test is the Commons. The elected representatives of the people sit in the Commons...and, consistently with history and tradition, they may well insist that they alone have the right to decide to the last cent what money is to be granted and what taxes are to be imposed.

Elsewhere, the court similarly held in the Westbank First Nation case:

...the Canadian Constitution (through the operation of s. 53 of the Constitution Act, 1867) demands that there should be no taxation without representation. In other words, individuals being taxed in a democracy have the right to have their elected representatives debate whether their money should be appropriated, and determine how it should be spent.