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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was chairman.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Conservative MP for Dufferin—Caledon (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House June 20th, 2005

moved:

That the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, presented on Tuesday, May 10, be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to move the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

The committee's mandate gives it responsibility for matters concerning Canada's Information, Privacy and Ethics Commissioners, with respect to their responsibilities under the Parliament of Canada Act relating to public office holders.

During the course of meetings with the commissioners to discuss their main estimates, the committee was made aware of longstanding concerns about how officers of Parliament were funded. The Information Commissioner, John Reid, advised the committee that because of inadequate funding, the Information Commission faced a continuing and growing backlog of cases requiring investigation. Mr. Reid said:

We are in a financial crisis. The cause of that has been that resources have not kept pace with the workload that is imposed on the office...Despite repeated attempts to convince Treasury Board to properly fund the full range of the commissioner's mandate, including several exhaustive reviews by independent, outside consultants, taken jointly with the Treasury Board Secretariat, emergency and partial funding has only been forthcoming.

The Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart's office, has two funding streams. Funding is provided under the Privacy Act and under the Personal Information Protection of Electronic Documents Act, which is referred to as PIPEDA. Her concerns about funding have less to do with the adequacy of her office's funding and more to do with how the office is funded. She told the committee:

In addition to the fact that we are an Officer of Parliament, we must consider the very nature of our ombudsman role on privacy issues for the public and private sectors. As an ombudsman and oversight agency of government for Parliament, we investigate and audit other federal departments and agencies. The necessary independence of our role as an ombudsman has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 2002 Lavigne decision which states that we are “--independent of the government's administrative institutions--”.

The committee recognized this concern by those commissioners and the committee therefore commenced a study to investigate the concerns raised by these officers of Parliament, and for the purposes of the study, the committee included the Auditor General of Canada, the Commissioner of Official languages and the Chief Electoral Officer.

Officers of Parliament are responsible directly to Parliament, rather than to the federal government or an individual minister. This emphasizes their independence from the government of the day. Therefore, as a result of this principle, concerns have been raised that the current budget determination process may not be the best method of ensuring the independence and functional integrity of these officers.

With the exception of the Ethics Commissioner and the Chief Electoral Officer, the officers of Parliament felt that the current funding mechanism raises the possibility of a conflict of interest between them and the government, or at least the appearance of one.

Over the course of study, the committee met with all of the officers of Parliament, with academics in the field and with the officials of the Treasury Board Secretariat in order to gather information to deal with this issue. Issues about the current funding mechanism for officers of Parliament included the adequacy of funding levels, the timeliness of the process, transparency, and the capacity to respond to changes in funding needs due to technological change, mandate expression and increasing demands for an officer's services.

Officers raised the difficulty that they have in seeking budget approval from the very government which they investigate. As Commissioner Reid put it:

With all due respect, it's very difficult for the government to play both roles as the funder and as the people who are being investigated. I think there's a certain friction that must take place under those circumstances. On balance, therefore, I prefer to have members of Parliament take on the responsibility of funding, rather than have it in the hands of the government.

The possibility of a conflict of interest for the government as both source of funding and subject of investigation arises with all the officers of Parliament that we examined, with the possible exception of two. The Ethics Commissioner, as described in chapter one, is already funded under a mechanism managed by Parliament. The Chief Electoral Officer receives most of his funding by statutory authority, under parameters set out in strict detail by the Canada Elections Act.

It should also be noted that the Chief Electoral Officer is not an ombudsman. He is responsible for the delivery of the right to vote and the right to be a candidate in an election. In accordance with this role, the independence of his office from political influence is safeguarded in a number of ways, including the funding mechanism.

Professor Craig Forcese of the University of Ottawa appeared as a witness and contended that there was a legal basis for the need of independence for the officers of Parliament. He told the committee:

--at least five officers of Parliament are obliged to meet court-like standards of independence. These five officers—the access, privacy, official languages, and ethics commissioners, and the Auditor General—have the powers of a court of record to compel the attendance of witnesses and the giving of evidence. They therefore have the power to punish for contempt in response to acts committed in their presence. Because they possess this power, the Constitution requires that these officers be sufficiently independent of the government.

The committee examined a number of funding models. The first was the model currently employed by the Office of the Ethics Commissioner. This model would have the budgets of officers of Parliament considered by the Speakers of the House of Commons and/or the Senate, who would transmit them to the President of the Treasury Board for tabling along with the government estimates for that year. The budgets would not be vetted by the Treasury Board Secretariat.

There was a U.K. model that the committee reviewed and it also had its supporters. In the United Kingdom, an all party commission of parliament, created by statute, examines the proposed estimates of the national audit office and tables a report to parliament with any modifications it sees fit. Known as the public accounts commission, it is composed of the chair of the public accounts committee, the leader of the house of commons and seven other members of parliament appointed by the house, none of whom may be a minister of the crown.

Another model proposed was a panel of experts otherwise known as a blue ribbon panel. The Auditor General proposed that the panel could be composed of three persons, one appointed by each of the Speakers of the House of Commons and the Senate, and the third appointed by the Treasury Board. Another model involved long term funding as proposed by Professor Forcese in his appearance before the committee. He stated:

The thought I had was that a multi-year formula that establishes a baseline for funding for officers, so officers aren't in the present position of being obliged to go to Treasury Board each year, distances officers from at least the perception that their activities in a given year might influence the receptivity of government to funding them fully. It grapples with the independence issue and it also grapples with the cost associated with setting up this blue-ribbon panel.

After a number of meetings, the committee concluded that the status quo for funding officers of Parliament was totally unacceptable because, at the very least, it raised the perception that the critical functions of these officers could be impeded by budgetary restrictions. There was a general consensus that the budget must be removed from the exclusive domain of the executive, Parliament must play a greater and more critical role in budget determination and resource allocation must be based on objective expert analysis.

The committee felt that a parliamentary body similar to the United Kingdom model should be established to examine estimate submissions of officers of Parliament.

Finally, it was suggested that a pilot project be launched for the fiscal year 2006-07 and 2007-08 with the existing House of Commons Board of Internal Economy acting as the parliamentary budget determining body and the Information, Privacy and Ethics Commissioners as the initial participants. The committee also recommended that the Auditor General be considered for inclusion in this trial.

That was the decision of the committee in its recommendations to the House. I would like to elaborate somewhat on two of the recommendations.

First, the committee recommended that a new parliamentary body be created as the budget determination mechanism for the funding of all officers of Parliament. The new parliamentary body and the new funding process established for it should have the following features: First, the membership of this body should be representative of both the House of Commons and the Senate, and equally comprised of the government and opposition representatives; second, the officers' annual budget submissions would be made directly to this body along with an accompanying submission by the Treasury Board Secretariat setting out budget parameters and providing analysis, challenges and advice on the feasibility of the officers' submissions; third, the parliamentary funding body may obtain advice from experts, as well as from appropriate parliamentary committees to assist its deliberations; and finally, the recommendations of the new parliamentary body should be submitted to each House of Parliament, as appropriate, which would provide the recommendations to the Treasury Board for tabling as part of the government-wide estimate process.

The second and final recommendation of the committee was that the Board of Internal Economy serve as the parliamentary budget determination body for the offices of the Information, Privacy and Ethics Commissioners on a trial basis in the same manner proposed in the first recommendation. As I indicated, this project would be instituted for two years, 2006-07 and 2007-08, and shall be subject to parliamentary review immediately thereafter.

Those were the two recommendations put forward by the committee. The committee did spend a substantial amount of time reviewing the different positions of the officers of this place. The following people appeared before the committee: Ethics Commissioner Shapiro, along with Micheline Rondeau-Parent, Director, Communications and Parliamentary Relations and the Director of Corporate Services; and Commissioner John M. Reid, office of the Information Commissioner of Canada.

On another day, the following people appeared before the committee: Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada; Jean-Pierre Kingsley, office of the Chief Electoral Office, along with Diane R. Davidson, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer and chief legal counsel.

We also had Commissioner Dyane Adam from the office of the Commissioner of Official Languages appear before the committee. Steven Wallace, acting Assistant Deputy Secretary of Government Operations with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat appeared twice, with a number of people from his office. Auditor General Sheila Fraser, appeared, along with Jean Ste-Marie, the Assistant Auditor General, legal services. I also indicated that Craig Forcese, law professor from the University of Ottawa, appeared.

As members can see, we spent a great deal of time deliberating and coming to the conclusions that we made. I would recommend to those in the House to read the report if they have not already.

I would like to summarize some of the items from the conclusion of the report. It states:

There is no doubt that the current budget determination process for the funding of Officers of Parliament raises serious concerns.

I think the immediate concern was raised by Commissioner John Reid who would make his presentation to the Treasury Board for funding and acknowledged that there might be an investigation going on at Treasury Board. The question is whether the whole process can be independent, that someone seeking money from someone that he is investigating be independent. The committee concluded that was not the case, which is why the committee concluded that the status quo was unacceptable.

At the very least, it raises the perception that the critical functions of these officers would be impeded by budgetary restrictions imposed by the very body whose actions they are charged in scrutinizing.

We thought that justice must appear to be done. We did not make any specific allegations against anyone but in that situation, particularly when Commissioner Reid said that he was receiving totally inadequate funding, it gave us grave concern.

The report goes on to state:

All of our witnesses, including officials from the Treasury Board Secretariat, had concerns about the present funding mechanism; however, there was a divergence of views over how to best address this issue.

We felt that the recommendations we made was a fair compromise of the various positions that were given to us.

The report continues to state:

Although not everyone could agree on the particular funding model that should be applied to Officers of Parliament, it appeared to us that there was a general consensus on what should guide the development of an alternative mechanism. Primarily, the budget determination process must be removed from the exclusive domain of the executive; while at the same time, an appropriate performance review, budgetary challenge, and accountability mechanism must be maintained.

The committee finally concluded that:

Parliament must play a greater and more critical role in the budget determination process, and resource-allocation decision-making must be based on objective and expert analysis.

This would allow members of this new committee to receive advice from different experts on different areas that were being raised.

The report goes on to state:

The process should be practical, transparent, simple, and expeditious. Finally, the system should take into consideration the differing mandates in reporting mechanisms of the various Officers.

The positions are different. We believe that the proposal that the committee is putting forward deals with that issue.

The report continues to state:

The Committee feels strongly that some form of parliamentary body must examine the Estimate submissions of Officers of Parliament. This body could be similar to the Public Accounts Commission in the U.K. in that it should be representative of all parties, and it could incorporate the Senate, perhaps by having both Speakers as ex officio members of the commission, thereby addressing the fact, for example, that some Officers report to both the House of Commons and the Senate. Like the U.K. Commission, and indeed the House of Commons Board of Internal Economy, this parliamentary body should have a permanent existence, and like the board, its membership would be equally comprised of government and opposition representatives.

Given the expertise already developed by the Treasury Board Secretariat in the areas of challenging, analyzing and advising ton the budgets of Officers of Parliament, we feel that it is imperative that the Secretariat continue this function by assisting the parliamentary body. The Secretariat could provide a separate submission that would accompany the Estimates proposals of the Officers.

Those are my submissions for the House to consider on behalf of the committee. I think this is a good proposal to develop some independence in determining how the officers of the House of Commons, and indeed the Senate, should be dealt with. I would ask the House concur in the motion.

Canada Health Act June 20th, 2005

Motion No. 50, Mr. Speaker.

Information Commissioner June 20th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, last week a motion from the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics was overwhelmingly supported by a vote held in this House, 277 to 2 in favour of extending Information Commissioner John Reid's term by one year.

Can the government advise this House if Commissioner Reid's term has been extended on the order of this House, and if not, why not?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments June 16th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, it is amazing the member is talking about a plan. Those members write plans on the back of napkins. They have a lot of gall talking about what we are going to do.

The Conservatives are going to put the moneys for child care in the pockets of parents, not in institutions.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments June 16th, 2005

The member has pointed out that it is going to cost $12 billion. There is no way that we have enough money to pay for all that. We will have to raise taxes to pay for it. When I say we, I mean this institution. The money is not there. That is a lot of money.

Poll after poll has been taken and the people of the country do not want the institutionalized type of day care that the government is proposing, which is all children be put in institutions.

I come from a riding which does not have a lot of those types of institutions. There are some but they are out in the country. People out in the country simply do not have the resources and the availability to bring their children to those institutions. They would rather raise them themselves. If we are to help people raise their children, why in the world would they put them in institutionalized type of day care?

The Conservative Party of Canada believes in choice and that is the only answer as to raising the children of this country.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments June 16th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal child care program, or day care program, has been talked about for 12 years.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments June 16th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak to Bill C-48, which has been described as a New Democratic-Liberal budget bill, notwithstanding it is described as an act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments.

It is a very strange bill. Normally when the finance minister prepares a budget, the finance minister holds hearings. The finance minister could have his people go all over the country and listen to Canadians as to what should be in the budget. The finance minister receives correspondence and briefs from different groups around the country. The finance minister listens to committees. Then the finance minister finally prepares a budget, which could be quite thick, and makes a presentation giving in very specific detail what is in the budget.

This document, which I say is not a budget, is the most vague piece of legislation that we have seen in this place for a long time. I am repeating some of the things that have been said but I hope the Liberals will finally get it. The word “may” is used throughout the bill.

The bill says that for the fiscal year 2005-06, payments may be made. There is no guarantee that those payments are going to be made. It is the same for 2006-07, that payments may be made. We do not know whether they are going to be made. They may be made; they may not be made.

Then the bill gets into what the allocations are going to be. It says that payments shall be allocated for the environment. What in the world does that mean? It does not say how much. It does not say what they are going to do specifically. It just says “for the environment”.

Then it says “including for public transit”. That is the same thing. What does that mean? The question of public transit has been talked about. Most of the gas money for public transit that has already been given, which is outside this amount, has been given, at least in the province of Ontario, to the city of Toronto. What about the rest of the province? Why can the rest of the province not receive moneys for transit? Why is it all being allocated to the city of Toronto? I live in an area where there is minimal transit, albeit, but the fact is I do not think we are going to see one dime for transit in my riding of Dufferin--Caledon. I do not think we are going to see it under Bill C-48.

The bill states, “For an energy-efficient retrofit program for low-income housing, an amount not exceeding $900 million”. Again, we have no idea what that means. We know it is going to be up to $900 million, but we are not sure.

The bill goes on and on. It talks about training programs and enhancing access to post-secondary education.

Of course those are wonderful things. Why can those people not tell us what they are going to do with the money? Why can they not be specific and outline the programs that they are going to spend on? Why be vague? Why be cute about it?

The bill talks about foreign aid. There is a blanket statement, “for foreign aid, an amount not exceeding $500 million”. What does that mean?

All these statements are vague and really, I think, designed to dupe us. The NDP members of course have been duped. They think they got something. They do not have anything. They have no idea what this bill means. They really do not know. Furthermore, they say, “If you pass this budget, if you pass C-48, the cheque will be in the mail tomorrow”.

Do members remember when the 2004 budget was approved in this House? It was approved after the introduction of the 2005 budget.

Maybe they are going to get the money, maybe they are not. Whatever it is going to be, if it is anything, it is going to be a year from now.

It is a very deceptive bill. As I said, the word “may” is used, “The Governor in Council may specify the particular purposes”. Then it talks about all these other programs that the government may get into. It is may, may, may.

Why do they not use the word “shall”? Why do they not outline the programs? Why are they being so deceptive?

The other issue I would like to talk about is that it appears the moneys will be paid out of surplus. The bill says it will make certain payments out of the annual surplus in excess of $2 billion. I must confess that I find this whole process of making payments out of surpluses very strange.

There was a surplus set aside for 2004 and a huge surplus set aside for 2005. Then the government almost failed a few weeks ago. Does everyone remember when the government made all the commitments of payments? It was an enormous amount of money, something like $1 billion in a very short period of time. That is strange. I thought this place decided the specifics of how we would vote on certain programs, but the finance minister and the Prime Minister decided how this would happen.

The leader of the New Democratic Party thinks he has decided. He met with the Prime Minister in a hotel room in Toronto, wrote the budget out on the back of a napkin and that was okay, but that is not the way it is done. That is not the way it is supposed to be done in our country. That is one of the many reasons why I am voting against Bill C-48. It is the most inappropriate way to deal with the finances of our country, on the back of a napkin. What a strange process.

There is no plan whatsoever in this budget. It was done on a wing and a prayer. We expect better from the government and we are not getting it.

I would like to look for a moment at a trend set by the government when it comes to spending Canada's tax dollars without a plan.

Since the 1999-2000 program, spending has gone from $109.6 billion to $158.1 billion, an increase of 44.3%, a compound annual growth of 7.6% when the economy itself managed to grow by only 31.6%, a compound annual growth rate of 5.6%. Once the Liberals had our money, they could not resist spending it even faster than the economy was growing. It is not surprising that there is so much waste by the government with little planning. Bill C-48 is a prime example. I groan at the waste that will come out of this bill.

Often the government responds in a knee-jerk way by throwing money at programs and it confuses spending money with getting results. This is one of them. Bill C-48 is a prime example. The example has been given over and over about the firearms registry. There is absolutely no plan to deal with that. Originally it was estimated that it would cost $2 million. Now it is around $2 billion. It has crept up to that.

The government does not like us to talk about that because it has been a complete failure. Bill C-48 will be a complete failure.

The public saw children high on gasoline on television reports and the Liberals threw money at David Inlet without a plan. The community was moved into new housing a few miles away at a cost of $400,000 per person but the problems went with them.

The Quebec referendum has been referred to by many people on this side of the House. The Liberals responded by throwing money at it but did not have a plan. The result was the sponsorship scandal, this thing that has consumed the government and this place the entire session. There were $250 million of wasted money and $100 million illegally funnelled to Liberal friends and the Liberal Party. Even worse, it reinvigorated Quebec separatism. The Liberals claim they are trying to solve the problem, but they have created the worst problem the country has ever seen.

I could go on and on talking about matters that have been brought up here tonight. The fact is this not the way we should be spending the public's money, simply on the back of a napkin. I hope that there is opposition in the House to defeat this bill.

Committees of the House June 14th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for South Surrey--White Rock--Cloverdale for his comments with respect to this important motion to reappoint John Reid for a year as the Information Commissioner.

As commissioner, he has personally advocated for reform of this act, this legislation, since his annual report in 1998. In yesterday's Globe and Mail , Hugh Winsor aptly described him as one of the most persistent thorns in the government's side.

Does the member think this is the real reason why the government is not prepared to appoint a very competent individual who has proven his way to deal with information, not only as a member of this Parliament but as Information Commissioner for the past seven years?

Committees of the House June 14th, 2005

I understand that. The member for Mississauga South says that she is not an officer of Parliament, but she is appointed by the government.

The member clearly pointed out in his speech that the access to information legislation is badly outdated and badly administered. The Information Commissioner has talked in the access to information committee about how he was blocked each way, how he was underfunded and understaffed and all kinds of things.

Clearly the legislation cries out for change. The Minister of Justice has indicated that he was prepared to introduce legislation in the fall, so something has to be done over the summer to get ready for this. We know there is going to be an election soon. Perhaps not, but it appears that in the next 12 months there will be an election, and maybe sooner.

The last speaker, the member from the Bloc Québécois, said that all the government is doing is delaying things. That is all it is doing.

My question is similar to the question that was just asked. Why will you not appoint a most qualified man who is up to snuff on how this is going to happen in the near future? A lot is going to be happening with respect to information. Why will you not appoint a very experienced and qualified man to lead this process?

Committees of the House June 14th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the appointment for one year, it is not a novel idea. The government extended the Governor General's term for a period of time.