March 19, 2002

CA

Reed Elley

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Reed Elley (Nanaimo--Cowichan, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, today I met with the Manitoba chiefs to discuss their concerns about the proposed first nations governance act and how it is to be implemented in Manitoba under the existing framework agreement initiative. The FAI is in place until the year 2004 and through negotiation is intended to take Manitoba first nations out from under the Indian Act.

How does the minister intend to get a first nations governance act equally applied across the country when he already has a signed agreement in force to do the very same thing with the Manitoba first nations?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Aboriginal Affairs
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LIB

Bob Nault

Liberal

Hon. Robert Nault (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is factually incorrect.

We have an agreement to negotiate and discuss governance with the first nations in Manitoba. We have been doing that for the last almost eight years. We are a long way from arriving at an arrangement outside the Indian Act. We will move forward with the governance initiative as an interim step toward self-government in the future.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Aboriginal Affairs
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BQ

Antoine Dubé

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Antoine Dubé (Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the entire area of Lévis fought to save Davie Shipbuilding Limited, and now the shipyard is in danger of falling victim to a grave injustice by the federal government, which is apparently contemplating awarding a frigate repair contract to the second lowest bidder, in Halifax.

Given that we all fought for this shipyard, does the minister of public works intend to assure us that this contract will be given to the lowest bidder, Davie Shipbuilding, and not to another yard?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Shipbuilding
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LIB

Don Boudria

Liberal

Hon. Don Boudria (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question, and I also thank my colleagues, the Secretary of State responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, who raised this issue yesterday, as well as other members from this side of the House.

Davie Shipbuilding, through its trustee, was the lowest bidder. Earlier today, I asked that Davie be given an extension until Friday at 4.00 p.m. to produce the necessary guarantees that they have not been able to provide until now to satisfy the call for tenders. If they cannot, then obviously at that point, but not before then, the government will have to go to the next lowest bidder.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Shipbuilding
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PC

Loyola Hearn

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's West, PC/DR)

Mr. Speaker, one of the main flaws with the Canada student loans program is that it does not take into consideration the issue of regional disparity.

Will the minister responsible make the necessary revisions so that loans are adjusted for students who live in the more affluent areas and require extra funding and for people who come from outside the university towns where board and lodging is a factor? Both groups need much more than the average funding they can get under the present program.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Post-Secondary Education
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LIB

Jane Stewart

Liberal

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, assisting Canadians with higher education is a priority for the government. That is why every year we invest $1.6 billion in the Canada student loans program and assist 350,000 Canadians. That is also why we have expanded our Canada study grants. It is why we introduced the millennium scholarship program. It is why in 1998 we introduced and implemented a series of debt management measures and expanded interest relief and debt reduction.

We continue to look at the effective tools that Canadians need. We will commit to work with Canadians to ensure that in the 21st century they have what they need to participate fully in our economy.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Post-Secondary Education
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LIB

Dominic LeBlanc

Liberal

Mr. Dominic LeBlanc (Beauséjour--Petitcodiac, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it was vital that minority language communities in Canada be able to develop.

Can the Minister of Human Resources Development tell us what measures she has taken to ensure that these rights are respected by her department?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Linguistic Minorities
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LIB

Jane Stewart

Liberal

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce today that $24 million will be allocated over two years to official language minority communities throughout Canada.

Our objective is to assist both language communities in building their capacity to improve their socioeconomic development. The government will continue to work with minority communities, in French and in English, to ensure they have the tools they need to be full participants in Canada.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Linguistic Minorities
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CA

Garry Breitkreuz

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton--Melville, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, documents from the justice minister's own department reveal that he has already lost track of over 38,000 licensed firearms owners, despite the fact that firearms owners can get a two year prison term if they do not report their change of address.

The same problems that plagued the old handgun registry since 1934 are clearly evident in the new one, namely huge errors in the system.

How can the police rely on a gun registry that is missing hundreds of thousands of guns and missing tens of thousands of gun owners?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Gun Registry
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LIB

Martin Cauchon

Liberal

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, first of all the government is very proud of the choice it has made in terms of policy. We are proceeding with gun registration, making sure as well that to carry sidearms in this country will be seen as a privilege and not as a right, and including the framework to ensure we will continue to have a safe and secure country and communities.

Second, the gun registry system works well. Of course we did proceed with it lately and public works department will proceed with outsourcing to ensure that we keep offering the population very good services. The licence process is over and now we are proceeding with the registration.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Gun Registry
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BQ

Claude Bachand

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Claude Bachand (Saint-Jean, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, recently, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency fired about 20 customs officers who had excellent evaluation reports and who had been given increased powers by the federal government to protect our borders.

At a time when the government claims that national security is the number one priority, how does the Minister of National Revenue explain that she is firing valuable and well-trained officers and replacing them with students who do not have the necessary qualifications, and who are not authorized to use the increased powers provided under the law?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
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LIB

Elinor Caplan

Liberal

Hon. Elinor Caplan (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question because in fact there is a misperception.

Customs officers are not replaced by students. There has been a student program in place at customs since 1960. That is for summer students. Since 1987 students have been hired year round for peak periods. All students are properly and appropriately trained for the duties that they have. They have full supervision. They pose no security risk whatever. In fact, they are properly and appropriately supervised and trained. As a result of monitoring the work they do, they provide excellent work. I hope the member will support the student program.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
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NDP

Libby Davies

New Democratic Party

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, the federal court recently struck down the expropriation of Nanoose Bay by the federal government. Now we have learned that the government is not only seeking a stay of judgment, but is going forward with an appeal amid speculation that it is a stalling tactic while negotiating a sweetheart deal with Gordon Campbell.

Will the Minister of Public Works and Government Services assure the House that the terms of a new lease will include an assurance that no nuclear powered vessels or weapons will be allowed at Nanoose and that there is a commitment to clean up the horrible mess that is already there? Will he give that assurance?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Nanoose Bay
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LIB

Don Boudria

Liberal

Hon. Don Boudria (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that Canada has appealed the decision by the federal court and has filed an application for a stay of the order pending a hearing of the case. Given that the issue is now back before the court, obviously it would be inappropriate to discuss anything else about the case.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Nanoose Bay
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?

The Speaker

Before proceeding with orders of the day, there are a number of issues that the Chair has to deal with.

I received notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Mercier regarding an incident that took place in committee today. We will consider this matter first.

We will then go on to hear the members who are replying to a question of privilege raised on February 28 by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister relating to comments made in connection with the inquiry now before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. They are the hon. member for Portage--Lisgar, the hon. member for Lakeland, the hon. member for Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke and the House leader for the official opposition.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Nanoose Bay
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BQ

Francine Lalonde

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, let me first present the facts.

A motion was tabled on February 14, 2002, and adopted on February 19, to have Mr. Gagliano appear before the committee, regarding his appointment to the position of Canadian ambassador to Denmark. This notice to appear was made in compliance with Standing Orders 110 and 111, and more specifically Standing Order 111(2), which reads, and I quote:

(2) The committee, if it should call an appointee or nominee to appear pursuant to section (1) of this Standing Order, shall examine the qualifications and competence of the appointee or nominee to perform the duties of the post to which he or she has been appointed or nominated.

This is the reason why Mr. Gagliano was summoned.

We had a right to expect to be able to ask appropriate questions regarding the candidate's ability to duly fulfill his duties, including his previous work experience, considering that he does not come from the diplomatic circles.

In fact, the House of Commons Procedure and Practice provides the following on page 876, and I quote:

The scope of a committee's examination of Order-in-Council appointees or nominees is strictly limited to the qualifications and competence to perform the duties of the post.

This is precisely why we wanted to ask him about his qualifications and his competence. His curriculum vitae, as forwarded by the minister, dealt only with his political and ministerial experience.

However, the opposition's questioning, particularly mine, was interrupted and not allowed by the chair, who felt that any questions regarding Mr. Gagliano's previous work history as a minister were out of order, because they were irrelevant to his ability to perform the duties of ambassador.

She referred to page 876 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice , which provides that:

Questioning by members of the committee may be interrupted by the Chair, if it attempts to deal with matters considered irrelevant to the committee's inquiry.

But, still on page 876, it is also clear that, and I quote:

Any question may be permitted if it can be shown that it relates directly to the appointee's or nominee's ability to do the job.

It is therefore obvious that the chair was in no way entitled to use this passage to interrupt the opposition's questions.

Furthermore, in a Department of Foreign Affairs document, it is stated that:

Ethical values such as honesty, integrity and probity, which mean the ability to hold a public trust and to put the common good ahead of any private or individual self-interest must be considered.

The decision by the Chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade not to allow me the right to question the witness properly prevented me from examining the appointment of Mr. Gagliano as ambassador pursuant to Standing Orders 110 and 111.

The opposition appealed this decision to the committee, to no avail. That is why I am appealing to you, Mr. Speaker, as, to quote House of Commons Procedure and Practice , at page 261:

—guardian of the rights and privileges of Members and of the House as an institution.

My parliamentary privileges have been violated. I have been denied freedom of speech. Yet, this same reference work says, again on page 261, that:

Freedom of speech may be the most important of the privileges accorded to Members of Parliament; it has been described as:

—a fundamental right without which they would be hampered in the performance of their duties. It permits them to speak in the House without inhibition, to refer to any matter or express any opinion as they see fit, to say what they feel needs to be said in the furtherance of the national interest and the aspirations of their constituents.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Privilege
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NDP

Svend Robinson

New Democratic Party

Mr. Svend Robinson (Burnaby--Douglas, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am intervening in support of the matter of privilege raised by my hon. colleague from Mercier.

I too was in committee this morning, and as you are well aware, Mr. Speaker, this affects more than what goes on in committees. The chair is indeed the guardian of the privileges of all members of parliament.

Standing Order 111(2) of the House states:

The committee...shall examine the qualifications and competence of the appointee or nominee to perform the duties of the post to which he or she has been appointed or nominated.

In calling Alfonso Gagliano before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade today an essential element of the responsibility to examine qualifications and competence was to examine the standards in place for heads of missions representing Canada.

The standards are set out in the conflict of interest and post employment code for the public service. Mr. Gagliano signed a document certifying he had read and understood the code. According to the code every employee shall conform to the following principles:

Employees shall perform their official duties and arrange their private affairs in such a manner that public confidence and trust in the integrity, objectivity and impartiality of government are conserved and enhanced.

It is clear that in his capacity as the head of mission the ambassador to Denmark is in a position to make decisions with respect to the hiring of locally engaged staff. He is also in a position to let contracts. Clearly the ambassador designate has had experience in precisely those roles. The letting of contracts and the hiring of personnel are within his qualifications and competence and should have been permitted in the context of the examination.

It was denied. As members of the committee we were muzzled, shut down and prevented from doing our job on behalf of the people of Canada. For that reason this is a serious question of privilege.

The chair of the committee is here today. I have great respect for the chair but she made it clear she would not permit any questions that related to the conduct of the minister prior to his appointment as ambassador to Denmark. How on earth can we examine the qualifications and competence of the minister if we are not in a position to ask questions that relate directly to his role as ambassador about the time that he served as minister?

The Speaker knows there was a serious cloud with respect to the conduct of the minister. There are suggestions he hired and recommended the hiring of friends and political cronies. There are suggestions he helped his son in law's firm get a contract. All this is directly relevant to the qualifications and competence of the ambassador designate but we were not permitted to ask questions about any of it.

Mr. Speaker, we are in your hands.

For this reason, it is very clear that I very strongly support the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Mercier.

If the ambassador were in Denmark at this time, he would be having to make very important decisions concerning embassy employees and contracts. If there is already an odour of corruption surrounding this former minister as a result of his actions while minister, it is totally unacceptable and repugnant for the committee members not to have been able to ask questions on his behaviour while a minister.

For this reason, I support the question of privilege of the hon. member for Mercier.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Privilege
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CA

Brian Pallister

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Brian Pallister (Portage--Lisgar, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the motion brought by the hon. member for Mercier. I will add some comments I hope will help you in your deliberations.

Our diplomatic corps is vital to the effective execution of Canadian foreign policy. It is clear that our diplomatic corps should represent Canadian values and interests abroad. Canadian ambassadors are the standard bearers for our country and Canadian values. Given the importance of the role it would seem important to select ambassadors according to a rigorous screening process. However such is not the case for political appointees.

New ambassadors recruited from within the foreign service typically possess a minimum of 20 years experience. They must go through a competitive and exhaustive process to ensure their merits are examined in detail and taken into account before they are made into ambassadors.

The current nominee has no diplomatic experience. Today's committee meeting was to be our sole means of reviewing his merit or lack thereof.

It is central to our responsibilities as members of the committee to examine behaviour. Ethical behaviour is vital for an ambassador. That goes without saying. One must adhere to the values Canada wishes to project abroad if one is to represent those values.

I think most Canadians consider fairness, honesty and merit to be ethics we should follow and associate ourselves with at all times. There have been numerous accusations against the nominee we were to question today that call into serious doubt his adherence to those ethics. Today again was our sole opportunity to examine his ethics.

Oxford defines ethics as the moral principles governing or influencing conduct. If we are unable to consider and examine the conduct of an applicant how can we possibly examine the ethics of the person?

The responsibilities charged to us under the standing order tell us we should examine the qualifications and competence of appointees. Today we were not permitted to raise questions about numerous well publicized allegations concerning the former public works minister. I will not repeat the allegations here but they are numerous.

I can understand the chair, to a degree at least, trying to make sure factual information is presented prior to a question being asked. However when the chair decides to rule out all references and questions relating to past political activity it is going too far.

Mr. Speaker, what that does and what you will do if you do not rule in favour of the motion is say it is all right to charge committees with responsibility for examining the competence of individuals but render them unable to examine the way the individuals have fulfilled their responsibilities. In other words, we would be totally unable to make references to past behaviour in the examination of witnesses. If we cannot make references to past behaviour how can we possibly establish whether a person before us is credible or not?

My father used to tell me not to listen to what a man says but to look at what he has done. That is the way to evaluate a person's ethics, capabilities and competence. How can we possibly do that in committees which are not allowed to raise questions about a person's past conduct?

Mr. Speaker, I understand you will need to rule based on certain precedents. On numerous occasions the committee has examined applicants for foreign ambassadorial postings. If you examine the minutes of those meetings you might well find that questions about the past activities of such applicants as Sergio Marchi and others abound. Questions about their behaviour, decisions and conduct as ministers of the crown are in the minutes of the committee meetings.

There is a well established precedent of the committee being charged with the responsibility of examining and evaluating the capability of applicants. Perhaps not all applicants have been burdened with the same allegations of misconduct as this one. Nonetheless, applicants have had to be examined by committees of their former colleagues which were able to raise questions about their past decisions and activities as political people.

Departing from that precedent would render the committee unable to ask questions about the past actions of applicants. When the Prime Minister chose to appoint colleagues to foreign ambassadorial positions ahead of others who were much more deserving, as he has continued to do, the committee would be unable to properly examine them.

Why have the committee? It would be a rubber stamp. It would exist only to give the appearance of credibility to something incredible. It would give the perception of validity to something totally invalid. It would give the appearance of legitimacy to something entirely illegitimate. The activity this morning was an insult to the intelligence of the Canadian people.

Mr. Speaker, I urge you to find in favour of the suggestion of my hon. colleague from Mercier.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Privilege
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PC

Bill Casey

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bill Casey (Cumberland--Colchester, PC/DR)

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the motion by the hon. member for Mercier.

I will be brief. There are two issues I will raise. First, at an earlier meeting I asked that the committee be allowed to hear witnesses to explain how the process of appointing ambassadors or high commissioners works. We were refused the witnesses. We were told we could have access to all the material the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade had. We were told we could have briefings and all the information ambassadors are provided with.

We went along with that. We had a briefing. However when we asked for the material it was refused until this morning at 9 o'clock. The moment the meeting started it was placed on our table. We had asked for it as early as February. The instructions said the committee did not need witnesses because we had access to the material. However we were denied the material until 9 o'clock this morning, the minute the committee started. It made it impossible to do any homework or be prepared for the meeting.

Second, in the briefings we had with foreign affairs officials we asked what the criteria were for ambassadors or high commissioners. One of the main ones is the quality of the people and their track record of ethical behaviour. The only way we can determine whether the ambassador designate has a good track record or strong principles is to question him about his track record as a minister. We were denied the right to ask even one question about his background. We wanted to ask him about certain allegations but we could not do our job and determine whether he had done a good job in the past.

It is not we who are making the allegations. In the paper today it says “Boudria blames predecessors: Gagliano was in charge of department”. The opposition is not making the charges. The government is making them. We want to find out if they are real.

If an ambassador representing our country is tainted with allegations which may or may not be true we should find out if they are true. If he is tainted it taints the entire foreign service. It tarnishes the reputation of Canada which is so important to all of us. I therefore support the motion.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Privilege
Permalink
LIB

George Baker

Liberal

Hon. George Baker (Gander--Grand Falls, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I will say a few words concerning the motion. You will have noticed that the hon. member from the official opposition mentioned the word ethics a moment ago. He asked, how else can we as a committee examine the word ethics? Then he gave a definition of the word ethics. Mr. Speaker, you know full well that the word ethics does not appear in the outline of any examination of any witness who appears before a standing committee that is to judge the person's qualifications as an ambassador, or of anybody else.

Where does the word ethics come from? It comes from the direction to the U.S. senate. The senate in the United States, under the U.S. constitution, examines the qualifications of every ambassador, by law.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Privilege
Permalink

March 19, 2002