House of Commons Hansard #104 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The member for North Island—Powell River is rising. Was there a technical problem?

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have two members who are not on the dashboard who are in the room who voted, so I am wondering if the Table could review that to make sure the numbers are correct.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I thank the member.

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

Vote #181

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I declare the motion carried.

Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Alleged Intimidation of a Committee Witness by a Member of ParliamentPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege, for which I gave notice earlier this same day, regarding the conduct of the member for St. Catharines, who attempted to intimidate Scott Benzie, a witness appearing before a committee of the Senate studying Bill C-11, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts, as reported yesterday by the Globe and Mail.

While I appreciate that this attempt to intimidate relates to proceedings of a Senate committee currently studying Bill C-11, the culprit in this case is a member of the House, and that same witness appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage during its deliberations on Bill C-11, an appearance where Mr. Benzie, no doubt, first established himself as an undesirable witness for the government on the merits of Bill C-11.

Normally, it is members who bring to the attention of a committee of the House the matter of outside actors intimidating witnesses before committee, but this case is unique in that it is a member of the House of Commons doing the intimidating in another jurisdiction, the Senate. In addition, it relates to a bill, for which I have responsibility for as the shadow minister of Canadian heritage, that originated in the House of Commons and is now before the Senate. While this type of offence may not fall within one of the specifically defined categories of privilege, the category of contempt allows the House to deal with the unorthodox nature of this case.

On pages 81 to 82 of Bosc and Gagnon, they state:

Throughout the Commonwealth most procedural authorities hold that contempts, as opposed to privileges, cannot be enumerated or categorized. Speaker Sauvé explained in a 1980 ruling: “...while our privileges are defined, contempt of the House has no limits. When new ways are found to interfere with our proceedings, so too will the House, in appropriate cases, be able to find that a contempt of the House has occurred”.

Another perspective of parliamentary privilege is the notion that the behaviour of members falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of this House. At pages 181 to 183 of Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, it clearly states that the House of Commons' jurisdiction over its members is absolute and exclusive, whereby the House has the power to enforce discipline on members of the House of Commons. Page 76 of Bosc and Gagnon refers to one of the rights of the House recognized by the Supreme Court, which is disciplinary authority over its members.

The next question is why the House would exercise its disciplinary authority over a member in this case. Simply put, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Attempts by anyone to intimidate a witness before a committee is considered a contempt. It is particularly offensive that it is a member of the House who is attempting to interfere with the work of a committee in a manner that would be considered a contempt, had it been attempted by a member of the public.

The Globe and Mail story I referred to earlier reports:

A Liberal MP has asked the lobbying commissioner to investigate an outspoken critic of the federal government's online-streaming bill for failing to immediately disclose funding from YouTube and TikTok.

The Heritage Minister's Parliamentary secretary...asked Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger to launch an investigation into Digital First Canada, an organization that advocates for YouTubers and people posting videos on platforms.

The article continues:

[Executive director] Mr. Benzie questioned the motivation of the minister's parliamentary secretary in referring him to the lobbying commissioner. He said the MP had not asked for a probe into organizations receiving outside funding, both public and private that had given evidence in favour of Bill C-11....

Mr. Benzie said that he was speaking out about the bill because no other group was representing the views of individuals posting videos on YouTube — including “creators making $16 a month” — and he was concerned about the impact of the legislation on their livelihoods.

A similar situation occurred on December 4, 1992. The then member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell rose in the House to bring to the attention of the Speaker the intimidation of a witness appearing before a committee of the House for remarks she made during testimony at that committee. The CBC threatened a lawsuit against the witness because of evidence she presented at the committee. The Speaker ruled the matter to be a prima facia question of privilege. Also noteworthy in that case is that the Speaker came to this conclusion without a report from a committee. In this case, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage is threatening an investigation against a witness because of evidence he presented to a committee.

Page 267 of the 24th edition of Erskine May states, “Any conduct calculated to deter prospective witnesses from giving evidence before either House or a committee is a contempt.” Similar statements are made at page 82 of Bosc and Gagnon, which explains that witnesses are protected from threats or intimidation.

Paragraph 15.23 of Erskine May, 25th edition, states, “Both Houses will treat the bringing of legal proceedings against any person on account of any evidence which they may have given in the course of any proceedings in the House or before one of its committees as a contempt.”

On April 13, 2000, the Senate Standing Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders presented its fifth report dealing with allegations about reprisals against a witness. The report stated, in part, as follows:

The Senate, and all senators, view with great seriousness any allegations of possible intimidation or harassment of a witness or potential witness before a Senate committee. In order for the Senate to discharge its functions and duties properly, it must be able to call and hear from witnesses without their being threatened or fearing any repercussions. Any interference with a person who has given evidence before a Senate committee, or who is planning to, is an interference with the Senate itself, and cannot be tolerated.

Our privileges are necessary to allow us to perform our duties and to defend against threats against the authority of this Parliament. The fact that this threat came from within this place is particularly distressing.

Mr. Speaker, even if you have some doubts about this case involving a Senate committee and the conduct of a member of the House of Commons, I urge you to give this case the benefit of the doubt.

I refer the House to Maingot, second edition, Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, page 227, which I will quote for everyone's benefit. It states:

In the final analysis, in areas of doubt, the Speaker asks simply: Does the act complained of appear at first sight to be a breach of privilege...or to put it shortly, has the Member an arguable point? If the Speaker feels any doubt on the question, he should...leave it to the House.

In a ruling on October 24, 1966, at page 9005 of the Debates, the Speaker said:

In considering this matter, I ask myself, what is the duty of the Speaker in cases of doubt? If we take into consideration that at the moment the Speaker is not asked to render a decision as to whether or not the article complained of constitutes a breach of privilege...and considering also that the Speaker is the guardian of the rules, rights and privileges of the house and of its members and that he cannot deprive them of such privileges when there is uncertainty in his mind...I think, at this preliminary stage of the proceedings the doubt which I have in my mind should be interpreted to the benefit of the member.

Further, on March 27, 1969, page 7182, the Debates states the following:

[The member] has, perhaps, a grievance against the government in that capacity rather than in his capacity as a member of parliament. On the other hand, hon. members know that the house has always exercised great care in attempting to protect the rights and privileges of all its members. Since there is some doubt about the interpretation of the precedents in this situation, I would be inclined to resolve that doubt in favour of the hon. member.

Mr. Speaker, there are ample precedents to allow you to put this matter to the House and to have it decide on the best course of action and what it might be. If you do give this matter the benefit of the doubt and find a prima facie question of privilege, I am of course prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Alleged Intimidation of a Committee Witness by a Member of ParliamentPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

4:55 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Senate)

Mr. Speaker, we have had an opportunity to hear this question of privilege and would like to get back to you with some comments. If you would be so kind as to give us a couple of days to do that, it would be greatly appreciated.

Alleged Intimidation of a Committee Witness by a Member of ParliamentPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for bringing this to our attention and the NDP reserves the right to reply.

Alleged Intimidation of a Committee Witness by a Member of ParliamentPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Alain Therrien Bloc La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have duly noted my colleague's comments and we reserve the right to reply or respond at a later date.

Alleged Intimidation of a Committee Witness by a Member of ParliamentPrivilegePrivate Members' Business

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

I thank everyone for their interventions. We will take this under advisement and come back to the House as soon as possible.

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, Health; the hon. member for St. Albert—Edmonton, Foreign Affairs; the hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, Persons with Disabilities.

Industry and TechnologyCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

September 28th, 2022 / 4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology entitled “How Can Canada Remain a Leader in the Global Quantum Marathon?”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Natural ResourcesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Liberal

John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties, and if you seek it, I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, presented on Monday, June 20, be modified to append the dissenting opinion of the Bloc Québécois.

Natural ResourcesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

All those opposed to the hon. member's moving the motion will please say nay.

It is agreed.

The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.

(Motion agreed to)

Brain Stem GliomaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I want to talk about brain stem glioma. This incurable disease is the leading cause of brain tumour death in children.

Together with my colleagues, the member for Toronto—Danforth, the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, the member for Sault Ste. Marie and the member for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, I am presenting a petition signed by more than 13,000 people.

The petitioners are calling on us to designate May 17 of each year as national brain stem glioma awareness day in order to raise awareness about this disease, give hope to Canadian families, ensure that there is enough research funding and save young lives.

On behalf of Isabelle and the little warrior, Florence, let us unite for the young children who suffer from this rare disease.

FertilizersPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Mazier Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Mr. Speaker, I proudly rise today to present petition e-3940, which has been signed by over 800 Canadians who are calling on the Liberal government to cancel the planned fertilizer reduction policy.

Canadians understand limiting fertilizer would decrease food production and, therefore, further increase the cost of food at a time of record inflation. They also know limiting fertilizer would increase the costs to farmers and hinder economic growth. This also comes at a time when Canadians are using food banks at record rates.

Canadians want their government to stand up for Canadian farmers and cancel the fertilizer reduction plan. I wholeheartedly support them.

AquaculturePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise and present a petition on a burning issue for my constituents, which is the plight of Pacific salmon. It is a species on the brink.

Petitioners call on the Government of Canada to remove the conflict of interest found within the Fisheries Act, which calls on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as a promoter of salmon aquaculture and also a regulator of salmon aquaculture.

They call for the mandate of DFO to be specifically the promotion of sustainable fisheries and protecting the habitat of salmon. Petitioners call on the government to implement all the recommendations of the commission on salmon of Mr. Justice Cohen and also to ensure the government lives up to the Liberal election promise to get these toxic fish factories out of the water.

FirearmsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Conservative

Alex Ruff Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition today on behalf of a number of my constituents in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.

Specifically, they are identifying that, on April 29 of this year, the Liberal government introduced an order to provide further restrictions on licensed firearms owners, specifically via a shadow registry. They point out that the previous gun registry cost taxpayers over a billion dollars, and they point out that this unfairly targets Canadian firearms owners who possess legitimate possession and acquisition licences and restricted possession and acquisition licences. They are already the most vetted and daily-screened Canadians, and it is proven statistically that they are much less likely to commit a crime than non-PAL or RPAL holders.

They, therefore, call upon the government to immediately repeal the order that was passed on April 29, 2022.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand at this time.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand at this time.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Requirement of Royal Recommendation for Bill C‑290Points of OrderRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Denis Garon Bloc Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, recently the Chair sought the members' views on whether my bill about public sector integrity, Bill C-290, might require a royal recommendation. The Chair did not specify which part of the bill warranted its intervention, but I surmise that two sections merit analysis.

There is clause 5, which states that the chief executive must provide support to the public servant making a disclosure.

There is also subclause 3(3), which gives contract employees the same protection offered to public servants who disclose wrongdoing in the public sector.

In my view, these provisions do not generate any expenditures that would not be covered by an existing royal recommendation, and that is what I intend to argue today.

I would like to begin by saying a word about Bill C-290. It amends the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act to make it more effective. That legislation, as members will remember, was passed in the wake of the sponsorship scandal and was intended to provide protection to public servants who disclose wrongdoing in the public sector.

In many cases, only one person within the machinery of government becomes aware of wrongdoing, illegal acts, abuse of power or political interference in decisions that should be up to the non-partisan public service. The purpose of the act is to protect public servants who blow the whistle from reprisal and to create an institution responsible for enforcing the act, the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, that public servants can go to for help.

Even though the act was passed more than 15 years ago, it has not produced the expected results. In fact, the federal government has one of the worst whistleblower protection regimes in the world, according to the International Bar Association.

Add up the numerous flaws throughout the act, and it is basically useless. For example, because the definition of wrongdoing is too narrow, many disclosures are not protected by the act. If a public servant makes an unprotected disclosure, their complaint will be rejected, the act will not protect them from reprisal, and their anonymity cannot be guaranteed either. Furthermore, if the whistleblower's complaint is admitted and an investigation is launched, the act does not clearly protect witnesses.

In the case of an internal investigation conducted by a person in a position of authority, this is understandably problematic. It is these flaws that my public sector integrity bill aims to correct.

This brings me to clause 5, which specifies that the chief executive must provide support to a public servant who makes a disclosure. Although the bill does not specify the nature of the support, it is quite clear that it is not financial support. The bill provides for no new financial support, period. The support referenced in clause 5 would involve, rather, things like information, referrals, guidance or advice, all of which are part of the normal duties and functions of executives. In short, we need to ensure that when public servants see wrongdoing, they know their rights, they know where to go, and they are not left to fend for themselves.

This brings me to subclause 3(3) of my bill. It amends the definition of “public servant”, adding “every person retained under contract to perform services for the public sector”. Subclause 3(5) adds that the government cannot terminate a contract as a result of a disclosure. This provision does not generate any expenditure that is not already foreseen, and here is why.

First, the current act already contains provisions about contracts. Under section 42.2, the government may not “withhold any payment that is due and payable in respect of any...contract”. It may not “terminate any contract...by reason only that the other party to the contract or any of that other party's employees has...provided information concerning an alleged wrongdoing”.

Furthermore, a disclosure is not considered a reasonable ground for refusing to enter into a new contract. The problem is that the definition of contract is restrictive. According to the act, contract “does not include an agreement by a public servant, or by a person appointed by the Governor in Council or by a minister of the Crown, to perform the duties to which their employment or appointment relates”.

A construction company that reports wrongdoing at a federal government work site is protected, yet a person hired under contract to provide a service to the government on a temporary basis may not be covered. Because that person meets the definition of a casual worker under the Public Service Employment Act, I gather that they are excluded because they carry out the duties of a public servant but do not enjoy the other protections that public servants have because they are a casual worker.

One example is someone who is offered a three-month contract with the Canada Revenue Agency during income tax season. Because they have no job security, people with precarious status are precisely the ones who need protection the most.

It should be noted that they are not completely unprotected at this time. They are afforded some protection through their contract, which is binding on the Crown. That is how it works right now. Under contract law, which is governed by the Civil Code or by common law, the government cannot unilaterally modify or terminate a contract in an arbitrary manner. This is already the case.

The government's financial commitments are those set out in the contract, whether or not Bill C-290 is passed, but the remedy for contractors who experience retaliation is a civil suit. Bill C‑290 simply changes the administrative process following a complaint.

If Bill C‑290 passes, contractors will be able to file complaints with the commissioner and they will remain anonymous. The complaint will go through the process and the contractor can expect to see an investigation that will result in an end to the wrongdoing. In the event of reprisals in the form of termination of contract, the contractor can seek assistance from the commissioner, who will then reach out to the government, if appropriate, saving contractors from having to sue in court to enforce the provisions of their contracts. This does not, however, change the terms of the contract or the financial obligations thereof.

In short, Bill C‑290 in no way alters any of the government's contractual obligations. These obligations are already binding in civil court and must be met under part III of the Financial Administration Act. Bill C‑290 in no way changes those obligations. It will not generate any expenditure beyond what is already set out in the existing legal framework. It changes neither the amount of the expenditure, nor its terms or any associated conditions. In conclusion, I do not feel that it requires royal recommendation and I am confident that the Chair will come to the same conclusion.