February 9, 2004

LIB

Bob Speller

Liberal

Hon. Bob Speller (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member said, the international peer review panel reported in the United States last week, and it had reported to us. It has not tell us the same things as it has told the Americans because there are different situations depending upon the country.

As I told the hon. member, first and foremost what is important is that Canada and the United States co-ordinate these measures. That is why next week officials will be sitting down with our American counterparts to do exactly that.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Agriculture
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BQ

Ghislain Fournier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Ghislain Fournier (Manicouagan, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, a crisis is quickly brewing in Baie-Trinité in the riding of Manicouagan. Some 72 seasonal workers soon will have no income because of an unfair and inadequate employment insurance system. The new employment insurance criteria do not suit Baie-Trinité, on the North Shore, since there is no alternative for seasonal workers.

Will the Minister of Human Resources Development try to understand this and help my fellow citizens by providing some flexibility in the system, which has a $45 billion surplus?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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LIB

Eleni Bakopanos

Liberal

Hon. Eleni Bakopanos (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development (Social Economy), Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the department and the ministry are committed to EI being responsive to the needs of all Canadians. I want to assure the hon. member that the programs are made to respond to that type of need. We are looking at a number of solutions to these problems. We will continue to work to improve our EI system.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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LIB

Anita Neville

Liberal

Ms. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Western Economic Diversification. As our population ages, the government needs to focus more on the needs of the elderly and the families that support them.

On Friday in Winnipeg the federal government helped launch the Canadian Virtual Hospice, a unique project to assist families dealing with issues surrounding palliative care.

Could the minister update the House on this project please?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Health
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LIB

Rey D. Pagtakhan

Liberal

Hon. Rey Pagtakhan (Minister of Western Economic Diversification, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the website, www.virtualhospice.ca, for this project offers Canadians high quality and well-organized information about palliative care, a truly laudable initiative for those coping with death and dying. It has been funded in my department under the innovation and community investment program.

This project supports community participation in the new knowledge based economy while serving a public good.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Health
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BQ

Christiane Gagnon

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Christiane Gagnon (Québec, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, last year the Bloc Quebecois spoke out about the pollution of the water table at Shannon, caused by the Department of National Defence. Now we learn that the pollution has spread, contaminating the water supply of a primary school.

One of the objectives of the throne speech is to clean up contaminated sites. If the Prime Minister wants the speech to be more than a meaningless wish list, what is he waiting for before assuming his responsibilities, decontaminating the site and restoring the quality environment the people of Shannon are asking for?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   The Environment
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LIB

David Price

Liberal

Hon. David Price (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, as the corporate entity responsible, the Department of National Defence is greatly concerned by what is happening to those living on or near the military base.

I believe the Speech from the Throne was very clear with respect to the environment and the importance we attach to it. I cannot comment on Shannon, because the matter is before the courts at the present time.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   The Environment
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NDP

Alexa McDonough

New Democratic Party

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, on January 15 the government wrote to Secretary Rumsfeld, pledging cooperation with Bush's missile defence. For home consumption, the defence minister issued a press release stating opposition to space weaponization, though the letter to Rumsfeld was suspiciously silent on the subject.

Current U.S. Missile Defense Agency budget estimates remove all doubt about U.S. intentions to weaponize space, with the stated objective of 300 or more space based interceptors between 2008 and 2012.

When will the government admit that U.S. documents make it crystal clear that the U.S. intends to weaponize space and retract the--

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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LIB

Bill Graham

Liberal

Hon. Bill Graham (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, as we have constantly repeated in the House, several things about this issue are clear. We are presently having discussions with the United States of America to assure ourselves that we are giving the best possible defence to Canadians in a shared security with the United States about the North American continent.

In that context we have told our American partners that we have no intention of participating in any program that would involve the weaponization of space.

There are those in the United States who are talking about requesting funds. Actually, they are putting it off into the future. They are not bringing it forward. They are putting it back. I think the member should--

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the hon. Gary Collins, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader for British Columbia.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Presence in Gallery
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Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Presence in Gallery
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The Speaker

I also draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of Mr. Mike Harcourt, former premier of British Columbia.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Presence in Gallery
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Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Presence in Gallery
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The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville on February 3 concerning information contained in the Department of Justice performance report for the year ending March 31, 2003. I would like to thank the hon. member for drawing this matter to the attention of the Chair. I would also like to thank the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader for his intervention.

In his presentation, the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville stated that information regarding expenditures by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade that was provided in the government response to Question No. 194 of the second session contradicted information found in the Department of Justice performance report for 2002-03. The hon. member added that, in his opinion, a statement in the report that professed to represent the views of the Auditor General did not correspond to the opinions expressed in the Auditor General's report itself. The hon. member made reference to other information contained in the performance report that he believed to be erroneous, a list of which he provided to the Chair. He concluded that the Minister of Justice, in tabling the report, had misled the House and was therefore guilty of contempt.

In his response to the matter, the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader stated that there was no provision in the rules that required the Speaker to review government responses to questions. He added that in similar cases in the past, Speakers had consistently ruled that it was not the role of the Chair to determine whether or not the contents of documents tabled in the House were accurate. Nor was the Speaker required to assess the likelihood of an hon. member knowing whether or not the facts contained in a document were correct.

With regard to the accusation of contempt, the parliamentary secretary stated that there is considerable onus on a member who alleges a contempt to establish that the accused member knowingly included false information in a report and did so with an intention to mislead the House.

The need to provide the House and all its members with accurate information is very important. Hon. members have frequently pointed to the difficulties caused when confusing or inaccurate information is tabled in the House. The Chair agrees that all hon. members should strive to be accurate in the information they present.

The hon. member for Yorkton--Melville provided the Chair with detailed material outlining specific instances where he disputed the accuracy of the information presented in the performance report, and I have reviewed the material with interest. However, I must remind the hon. member that the Speaker has no role in settling disputes as to fact. House of Commons Procedure and Practice states on page 443:

There are no provisions in the rules for the Speaker to review government responses to questions... The Speaker has ruled [on a number of occasions] that it is not the role of the Chair to determine whether or not the contents of documents tabled in the House are accurate nor to “assess the likelihood of an Hon. Member knowing whether the facts contained in a document are correct”.

Previous Speakers have consistently ruled that it is not the role of the Chair to judge the quality of information. For example, in her ruling recorded in the Debates on February 28, 1983 at page 23278, Madam Speaker Sauvé said in a situation similar to this one:

The essence of [the] submission was...that the documents tabled in the House contained errors of fact...Clearly, the Chair cannot make such a determination even on a prima facie basis. It is not the function of the Chair, furthermore, to determine whether or not the contents of documents tabled in the House are accurate. Neither is it the function of the Chair to assess the likelihood of an Hon. Member knowing or not knowing whether the facts contained in a document are correct.

I can see no grounds for departing from this practice in the present case.

With regard to charges of contempt, providing incomplete information has not been found, in and of itself, to constitute a prima facie contempt of the House. To find someone guilty of contempt would require, as the parliamentary secretary pointed out, proof that the person provided false information with the intention of deliberately misleading the House.

I refer hon. members to a Speaker's ruling given on December 6, 1978, and described on page 87 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice. In finding that a prima facie contempt of the House existed, Mr. Speaker Jerome ruled that a government official, by “deliberately misleading a Minister, had impeded a Member in the performance of his duties and consequently obstructed the House itself”. It is this element of deliberately seeking to mislead the House and not the presentation of information subject to differing interpretations that is key. In the case before us today, I have found no indication that there is any basis for alleging that such a contempt has taken place.

I thank the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville for his usual vigilance and for bringing this matter to the attention of the Chair. However, I can find no prima facie breach of privilege or a contempt of the House at this time.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Privilege
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LIB

Jacques Saada

Liberal

Hon. Jacques Saada (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I wish to give notice that, with respect to the consideration of Government Business No. 2, at the next sitting a minister of the crown shall move, pursuant to Standing Order 57, that debate be not further adjourned.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Business No. 2
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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)

moved, seconded by the member for Hamilton East,for leave to introduce Bill C-474, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (unpaid wages to rank first in priority in distribution).

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to rise today to introduce and give first reading to a private member's bill that seeks to amend the bankruptcy act so that in the event of a bankruptcy, any unpaid wages, benefits or pension contributions would rank as the first priority in dividing the assets of a bankrupt company.

I am especially pleased to acknowledge and thank my co-sponsor, the member for Hamilton East, for the dedication and commitment that she has shown to workers' rights and especially for the political courage she has shown in leaving her partisan politics at the door and doing what is right on behalf of working people in this case.

I am optimistic that if my colleagues from all parties are free to vote their conscience on the bill, they will do the right thing and put the interests of hard-working Canadians first, ahead of the banks and other secured creditors.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act
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LIB

John Bryden

Liberal

Mr. John Bryden

Mr. Speaker, I would like to have my name added as a seconder to the bill that was just before the House. Or if that is not in order, then I would seek unanimous consent to have that done.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act
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The Speaker

I am sure there are ways and means of doing this. Is there unanimous consent that the hon. member's name be added as a seconder to the bill?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act
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February 9, 2004