House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was conservative.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Kitchener Centre (Ontario)

Lost her last election, in 2011, with 31% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2008-09 June 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am in total agreement with proceeding this way, but I would like it to be noted that the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River had to leave the chamber.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2008-09 June 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, Liberals will be voting in favour.

Business of Supply June 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, committees, historically and in my experience, have been very non-partisan places. I have been on finance, foreign affairs and health committees where there have been unanimous reports brought forward.

Unfortunately, in this climate, it has become very partisan and my colleague from Cambridge, who was the Conservative chair of that committee, I think felt somewhat uncomfortable, but continued to bang down the gavel and allowed government members to be acknowledged and filibuster.

Basically, it was all in avoidance of dealing with the Chief Electoral Officer and Commissioner of Elections Canada, who have refused to give rebates to the Conservative Party alone due to an in and out scheme. The Conservatives' refusal to deal with this motion and have it voted on at committee is what led to seven months of filibustering by government members.

Business of Supply June 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend for the faith that he puts in whips, all of us as a group. I do enjoy working with my three fellow whips.

However, this decision and this change is very important. It is appropriately debated in this House and it is appropriately voted on in this House. While one of the avenues would be to go through procedure and House affairs, and because that committee is suspended and not working, I would say that this is an appropriate venue and again would reiterate that any decision of any committee would end up back here in the House and be voted on by all members of Parliament.

I would also underscore that this impacts every member of this House and their ability to function as parliamentarians. Therefore, it needs to be dealt with expeditiously. I would also point out that the bugbear of any kind of legislation for me is always unintended consequences.

We have not had this ethics legislation for very long. Clearly, we are working our way through this. I think the commissioner did express her view in the report on my colleague from West Nova and therefore it is appropriate that we both debate and vote on this today.

Business of Supply June 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak on this point today. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence.

I am speaking in support of this motion sponsored by my colleague, the member for Scarborough—Rouge River. This is a very important motion. As a matter of fact, it is fundamental to how we operate as members in the House of Commons.

There are several objectives in this motion.

First, it affirms the confidence of the House in the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. I think that is fundamental to this motion. This in no way says that we disagree with the commissioner. As a matter of fact, I was very impressed with my colleague when he stood up to say that he did accept the ruling of the commissioner.

Second, it amends the Conflict of Interest Code for members of the House, which is an appendix to our Standing Orders. Our Standing Orders are basically the rule book under which this House and committees operate.

Third, it refers an inquiry report that concerns specifically my colleague, the member for West Nova, and which was tabled in the House on May 7, 2008, back to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner for reconsideration in light of the amendment we are considering today.

Finally, the motion calls upon the House to reaffirm all of its well-established privileges and immunities, especially with regard to the freedom of speech. It is this privilege in particular, the freedom of speech, on which I want to concentrate my remarks today.

Parliamentary privilege is defined in the House of Commons Procedure and Practice on page 50. It states:

--the rights and immunities that are deemed necessary for the House of Commons, as an institution, and its Members, as representatives of the electorate, to fulfil their [parliamentary] functions. It also refers to the powers possessed by the House to protect itself, its Members, and its procedures from undue interference, so that it can effectively carry out its principal functions which are to inquire, to debate and to legislate.

These rights and immunities can be grouped into two categories, the first group being the rights of the House as a collectivity. The second group consists of the rights and immunities of individual members of the House.

With respect to the rights and immunities of individual members, the most important aspect of freedom of speech is in parliamentary proceedings. Quite frankly, without it, members would be unable to function in their parliamentary roles. These functions include debating issues and legislation as well as being able to ask questions: questions of the government, questions of other members, and questions of witnesses who appear before our communities.

Any form of interference or intimidation that impedes these privileges which allow the members of the House of Commons to fulfill their parliamentary functions must be dealt with immediately. I would like to remind members of the comments of Speaker Bosley on December 11, 1984, in a ruling concerning an alleged contempt of Parliament.

On page 1114 of the House of Commons Debates, and I know, Mr. Speaker, that you have probably read these many times, Speaker Bosley notes:

--the privilege of a Member of Parliament when speaking in the House or in a committee is absolute.

I underscore the word “absolute”. Of course, this important privilege, this absolute, carries with it great responsibility. As past Speakers have stated, members must use great care in exercising their right to speak freely, both in the House and in committee.

In the end, all members of the House are ultimately accountable to their constituents and may well pay a political price for abusing this privilege that is necessary in order that each of us individually, and all of us collectively, are able to carry out our parliamentary functions.

Why must our freedom of speech be free of intimidation or obstruction when we seek to debate issues and when we seek to legislate or inquire? Quite simply, to get to the truth and to better serve our constituents.

Our privileges are so fundamental that the Speaker, on behalf of all members, seeks these privileges at the beginning of each Parliament. Therefore, it is appropriate to deal with this motion today and to allow all members of the House to express their views on the motion before us.

In the end, a final decision as to whether or not the Standing Orders need to be amended belongs within the House as a whole. In the end, if modifications to the Conflict of Interest Code are required, that decision rests with this House as a whole.

True, the motion in the name of the member of Scarborough—Rouge River, if adopted, would amend the Conflict of Interest Code for members of the House of Commons. However, in her ruling concerning the member for West Nova, the Ethics Commissioner admits that the code could be adjusted.

Earlier today, the member for Dufferin—Caledon, as well as other Conservative members, suggested that any proposed amendment to the Standing Orders or to the Conflict of Interest Code should be done appropriately at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. He suggested that there, and only there, was the proper place for such matters.

He blamed any logjam on the opposition. There is indeed a logjam, as this committee has been filibustered for seven months by government members to the point where it is now suspended without a chair because there is nobody from the government willing to stand up and have this committee go forward.

I believe the member for Dufferin—Caledon needs to be reminded that any proposed amendment to the Conflict of Interest Code or Standing Orders made by a standing committee such as the committee on procedure and House affairs must ultimately be ratified by this House as a whole.

The member also suggested that other avenues existed to make these proposed changes. Again, it is the House of Commons as a whole that has the final say on these matters, regardless of what avenue is chosen to pursue them.

Allowing all members to express themselves, it is appropriate that this motion be here today. This motion follows a ruling of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner on May 7 with regard to the member forWest Nova. In order to not take up a lot of House time or to be repetitive, I would invite all members to actually read this report.

By concluding that being a defendant in a libel lawsuit constituted a private interest, the Ethics Commissioner's ruling prevents the member forWest Nova from speaking on certain matters, not to mention that this report purports to remove the right of the member for West Nova to vote on the Mulroney-Airbus matter.

This is indeed a very slippery slope. The effect of this ruling potentially validates and gives credibility to a libel claim of any person or corporation deciding to sue a member of this House, before there is any conclusion to the suit. This libel chill could ultimately be used to prevent members from speaking freely in the House or during its proceedings.

I want to remind all members that this does not just apply to my colleague, the member for West Nova. It applies to each and every one of us in this House as parliamentarians. The best way to describe the seriousness of this issue is to quote my colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River, when he stated on May 26, 2008:

Our free speech privilege is here. It is living. It is protected from the police. It is protected from the king. It is protected from the powerful. It is protected from the press. How could it be lost by the simple filing of a lawsuit at the hands of a single plaintiff who makes such an allegation?

To the credit of the Ethics Commissioner, she does state on page 20 of her May 7 report that the member for West Nova:

--expressed a concern that a Member's role not be lightly set aside and that recusals based on lawsuits against Members could create a chilling effect upon Members' ability to fulfil their public duties and functions.

She went on to say:

I agree that Members should not be precluded from participating in parliamentary votes and debates unless there is a serious justification for doing so.

In essence, the Ethics Commissioner did report the legitimate concerns of the member for West Nova. She also agreed about precluding a member from the House of Commons from participating in parliamentary votes and debates unless there is a serious justification for doing so.

In her final observation, she admitted that the code could be adjusted to except libel suits from the “ambit” of private interest.

The motion sponsored today by my colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River simply does what the commissioner suggested be done in her report, while at the same time expressing confidence in her as the commissioner. I am sure all members from all parties will be able to support this important non-partisan attempt to protect and reaffirm members' rights and privileges.

Business of Supply June 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the parliamentary secretary and find his logic just a bit inconsistent.

In my 11 years of being in the House of Commons, the Standing Orders have changed from time to time. I have to tell the House and Canadians who are watching on television that I venerate this institution and I do not think changes should be made lightly.

However, there is no doubt that from time to time Standing Orders change. As a matter of fact, the Standing Orders were changed substantially when there was a Liberal minority government. The opposition members at the time, and the member's party was then in opposition, were very enthusiastic about changing some of the parameters around opposition days and what was votable.

Those changes seemed to be a success and have been made permanent. However, any change to the Standing Orders, regardless of the venue through which it flows, must come back to the House for a vote, an expression of the will of the House of Commons.

I find a disconnect in his logic. He argues that this is not the place where the debate should happen or where the vote should take place. In essence, this is where the House expresses its will, no matter in what avenue this change is brought to the House. Our motion does support the Ethics Commissioner in her decision, in which she asked for clarity around this. This is an appropriate motion and this is the place where we should be debating and voting on it.

Foreign Affairs June 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, weeks ago we asked questions about all of the documents that had ever been in the possession of the former minister of foreign affairs and we were told that they were indecent questions.

Today, foreign affairs admits that it has no idea if all the classified documents have been returned to the government. Canadians deserve serious answers from the Prime Minister about serious security concerns.

What proof does the government have that all of the classified documents have been recovered by the department?

Foreign Affairs June 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, today we read shocking reports from the foreign affairs department that it does not even know if it has all of the classified documents that the former minister had in his possession. We do not know if they have been recovered. Who knows what other information is floating around?

Yesterday, the Prime Minister told Canadians that he would answer substantive questions in the House about the security breach. How about this? Given that even now the Department of Foreign Affairs cannot account for all of the documents, on what basis did the Prime Minister, a week ago in Paris, assure Canadians that there were no security concerns?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, we are in agreement to proceed in the following way, but I would point out that the member for Halton has left the chamber, so that is one less Liberal.

Foreign Affairs May 27th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the government is not taking this issue seriously. It is simply dismissing these questions of national security and calling them silly. As a matter of fact, the only party in this House that is taking this issue less seriously than the government is the NDP.

While this strong, embarrassing saga is being played out in the media around the world on CNN, in the China Post, on BBC News and on USA Today, just to name a few, are we to believe the government did nothing?

Why did the minister only resign after a television station started asking the kind of serious questions the government should have dealt with weeks ago?