June 17, 2010


(Bill C–40. On the Order: Government Orders:) June 16—Bill C-40, An Act to establish National Seniors Day—the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.


CPC

Jay Hill

Conservative

Hon. Jay Hill (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I do have a second motion dealing with Bill C-40. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-40, An Act to establish National Seniors Day, shall be deemed to have been read a second time, referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

I believe my colleague, the Minister of Public Works, also has a point of order and a motion.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Celebrating Canada's Seniors Act
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

We had better deal with this one first.

Does the government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion in relation to Bill C-40?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Celebrating Canada's Seniors Act
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Celebrating Canada's Seniors Act
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Celebrating Canada's Seniors Act
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Celebrating Canada's Seniors Act
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage, and deemed read the third time and passed)

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Celebrating Canada's Seniors Act
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CPC

Rona Ambrose

Conservative

Hon. Rona Ambrose (Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I made reference during question period to a document, which I would like to table in both official languages. It is the summary report of the hearings on maternal and child health, sent to me and my colleague the Minister of International Cooperation from the Conservative members of the status of women committee.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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LIB

Hedy Fry

Liberal

Hon. Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the minister refers to a minority report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. As chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, who tabled the report on maternal and infant health yesterday in the House, there is no such thing as a minority report from that committee on that issue. When I tabled it, there was no minority report.

Mr. Speaker, you ruled it out of order when the parliamentary secretary tried to do that earlier on. I do not know what the minister wishes to table, if it is a shopping list or a new list of books she intends to read over the summer, but there is no such thing as a minority report of this committee.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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CPC

Rona Ambrose

Conservative

Hon. Rona Ambrose

Mr. Speaker, as I said, I made reference to the report during question period. I have tabled it with you in both official languages. It is the summary report of the hearings on maternal and child health that was sent to me and my colleague the Minister of International Cooperation by the Conservative members of the status of women committee.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
Permalink
LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

I must advise the House that ministers can table any documents they want in the House. What the minister has tabled is a copy of a letter addressed to another minister, which has attached to it some material which I have not had a chance to read. Ministers can table what they want. It was not tabled, as I heard it, by the minister as a kind of report from a committee. It is a document. I do not know the full contents. But, I believe, ministers can table what they want.

The hon. member for Don Valley West is rising on a point of order.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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LIB

Rob Oliphant

Liberal

Mr. Robert Oliphant (Don Valley West, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, this morning the chair of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs tabled a report following a study of the new veterans charter. The report was fine work. It was collaborative among the parties and done by consensus.

However, the tabling of the report included a title page which was not considered by the committee. The Liberal Party would like to register a concern about the title of the report that seems to trivialize the work that we did and the concerns that we had regarding the new veterans charter. The title of the report is “A Timely Tune-up for the Living New Veterans Charter”. We think a timely tune-up could be construed by some veterans as not having taken their concerns seriously.

We would like to register this concern. That title was not agreed to. It caught members by surprise today. I am not laying blame on who did it, but I want it recorded that we do have a concern. We would like a neutral title that simply says a review of the new veterans charter.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

I am sure the hon. member can raise that issue with the committee and have it dealt with there.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs
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LIB

Rodger Cuzner

Liberal

Mr. Rodger Cuzner (Cape Breton—Canso, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order now that my blood pressure is back down to 120/80. When we hear such egregious dreams coming from the other side, I have to rise on this point of order.

Following a reply to a question, the Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency stated that it was his government that cleaned up the Sydney tar ponds and that our government did nothing. I just want to clarify that in the 2003 budget, $340 million was appropriated. It was announced in 2004 by a Liberal government. The member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville did a full panel review.

I will give the minister an opportunity to withdraw his statement. What he said today was the equivalent of my paper boy taking credit for the editorial in the Cape Breton Post. All he did was come up and make the announcement. We did the work on it. The member for Sydney—Victoria--

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

The hon. member knows that disputes as to facts are not points of order as interesting as it might be to argue about them. I know the member can put his question down as a late show and have a debate with the minister or parliamentary secretary on the matter another day. I am sure he would enjoy the debate very much.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Oral Questions
Permalink
CPC

David Sweet

Conservative

Mr. David Sweet (Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As the chair of the veterans affairs committee, I just wanted to assure the House that over a period of almost a year there was work done on the review of the new veterans charter. We passed that in order to ensure it was tabled in the House prior to the House rising because of the importance of the work for veterans. All routine motions were done at the end and the title was left in those routine motions to be covered by the clerk.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

The Chair is now prepared to make a statement regarding the question of privilege pertaining to documents on the treatment of Afghan detainees in response to interventions by the hon. member for St. John's East, the hon. government House leader, the hon. member for Wascana, the hon. member for Joliette, and the hon. member for Vancouver East.

As hon. members will recall, on April 27, 2010, the Chair provided the House with a detailed ruling on the questions of privilege raised concerning the Order of the House of December 10, 2009, pertaining to documents on the treatment of Afghan detainees. Having carefully considered all sides of this complex issue, I made the determination that there was, in fact, a prima facie question of privilege related to the failure of the government to produce the documents as required by the House Order.

However, rather than immediately proceeding to the next step for dealing with a question of privilege, as is normally the case, that is allowing a member to move a motion related to the matter, I opted to defer such action in favour of giving all parties two weeks to work together to reach a compromise.

On Tuesday, May 11, following a request from all parties, an extension to Friday, May 14 was granted.

On May 14, the Minister of Justice announced that an agreement in principle had been reached between the parties and proceeded to table the agreement. In doing so he stated:

All parties agree that the details of this proposal will be further outlined in a memorandum of understanding signed by all party leaders.

Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to table that, in both official languages, and indicate to you that it is the agreement between the members that the memorandum of understanding would be in place by May 31, 2010.

This can be found in Debates, p. 2848.

On May 31, the Minister of Justice again rose in the House, this time to indicate that more time was required to finalize the memorandum of understanding. No date was given for the completion of discussions or for the tabling of a signed final document.

On June 15, the government House leader made a statement indicating that the government, together with the official opposition and the Bloc Québécois, had arrived at an agreement. Yesterday, that agreement, duly signed by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Bloc Québécois, was tabled in the House by the government House leader.

When, on April 27, 2010, the Chair enjoined the parties to find a solution to the impasse in which the House found itself at that time, I stated: “...the Chair believes that the House ought to make one further effort to arrive at an interest-based solution....”

Later, in the same ruling, I expressed my hope for a compromise which prompted me to grant members additional time in which to find a resolution to the imbroglio.

The memorandum of understanding tabled by the government House leader makes it apparent to the Chair that a resolution has indeed been found. A consensus has been reached between the government and two of the opposition parties. The Chair notes, in particular and most significantly, that the party whose motion gave rise to the House order of December 10, 2009, is a signatory to the agreement.

In considering this matter, the Chair has taken great care to assess whether the existence of this consensus satisfies the broad conditions that were imposed on the parties in the ruling of April 27.

I must stress that it is not for the Chair to examine the details of the agreement or to compare it to the agreement in principle tabled on May 14. I am responding to the interventions that have been made on behalf of an overwhelming majority of members who have stated that they are satisfied with the consensus agreement that has been tabled.

The Chair can only conclude, therefore, that the requirements of the ruling of April 27, 2010, have indeed been met and, accordingly, I will not call on the hon. member for St. John's East to move a motion at this time.

Instead, the Chair will allow time for the processes and mechanisms described in the agreement to be implemented. Should circumstances change, members will no doubt ensure that the Chair will again be seized of the matter, but for now I will consider the matter closed.

I wish to thank the parties for taking the time required to arrive at this understanding, which is in keeping with the best traditions of this place, and I thank the House for its attention.

I have another ruling.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Provision of Information to Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan--Speaker's Ruling
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on June 10, 2010 by the hon. member for Mississauga South concerning the admissibility of a third report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates which was presented to the House earlier that day.

I would like to thank the member for Mississauga South for bringing this matter to the attention of the House and the member for Eglinton—Lawrence for his comments.

In his remarks, the member for Mississauga South explained that the subject matter of the third report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates was based on a study of claims that the member for Scarborough—Rouge River was actively lobbying the Government of Canada while sitting as a member of Parliament. He argued that the authority to look into any claims related to the Conflict of Interest Code or the conduct of members of Parliament lay with the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(a)(viii) and not the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

He claimed that the committee had strayed beyond its mandate and that the report was therefore out of order.

The member also complained that the dissenting opinion to the report, which he understood had been submitted by the member for Scarborough—Rouge River, had not been appended to the report and so rendered the report incomplete.

Let me deal with this matter immediately. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(a) such appendices to reports must be proposed by committee members only. As the member for Scarborough--Rouge River is not a member of the committee, his dissenting opinion could not be appended to the report. This in no way invalidates the report nor does it render it incomplete.

Now, let us turn to what I see as the central question the Chair faces: whether the report in question is procedurally invalid by virtue of the committee having undertaken to study and report on a matter that is beyond its mandate as prescribed by the House.

That committees are empowered to deal with issues delegated to it by the House is indisputable. As House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, states at page 985:

Like all other powers of standing committees, the power to report is limited to issues that fall within their mandate or that have been specifically assigned to them by the House. Every report must identify the authority under which it is presented.

The member for Eglinton—Lawrence was correct when he stated that even though committees are masters of their own agenda and they can do what they wish, they have been created by the House and must reflect the intent of the House in carrying out their work.

Limitations on committees are again spelled out in House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, which states at page 1048:

These freedoms are not, however, total or absolute. First, it is useful to bear in mind that committees are creatures of the House. This means that they have no independent existence and are not permitted to take action unless they have been authorized/empowered to do so by the House.

It continues to read:

...committees are free to organize their proceedings as they see fit provided that their studies and the motions and reports they adopt comply with the orders of reference and instructions issued by the House.

The text further emphasizes that orders of reference, instructions, the standing orders and rulings by the Speaker take precedence over any rules a committee may adopt.

In other words, while the actual decision to proceed with a study may be taken according to established committee procedures, the fact remains that no committee can simply usurp the powers of another. Rather, a committee must seek the authority from the House to widen an order of reference. Beauchesne's 6th edition, on page 233, citation 831(3) states:

When it has been thought desirable to do so, the House has enlarged the Order of Reference of a committee by means of an instruction.

Objections to committees acting beyond their mandate are nothing new. For example, on May 15, 2008—see debates, page 5924—during the 39th Parliament, the Chair determined that the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics went beyond the committee’s mandate and thus was out of order. An identical conclusion was reached in relation to the second report of the Standing Committee on Finance when I ruled that report out of order on April 2, 2009—see debates, pages 2301-2.

In that ruling, I acknowledged that

...the House has taken great care to define and differentiate the responsibilities of its committees, particularly where there might at first glance appear to be overlapping jurisdictions.

In the case before us, I have carefully reviewed Standing Order 108 (3)(c), which delineates the powers of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

It is clear to the Chair that the House did not grant that committee the authority to study issues related to lobbying. The member for Mississauga South is right in his assertion that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(a)(viii), has been given the necessary authority to look into any claims related to the Conflict of Interest Code or the Conduct of Members of Parliament. Authority for considering other issues related to lobbying have been conferred upon the Standing Committee on Information, Privacy and Ethics, including examination of reports from the Commissioner of Lobbying.

Therefore, for those reasons I must conclude that the third report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates is out of order. Accordingly, I rule that the report be deemed withdrawn. Furthermore, with regard to the motion on the order paper standing in the name of the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre, I am ordering that this motion for concurrence in the third report be deemed withdrawn and that no further proceedings may take place in relation to this report.

In conjunction with this, I will reiterate an important message contained in my ruling on April 2, 2009, when I stated:

While it is true that the House has given its committees broad mandates and significant powers, with such power and authority comes the responsibility of committees to respect their mandates and not exceed the limits of their authority.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates--Speaker's Ruling
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BQ

Michel Guimond

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

First, I would like to apologize for almost interrupting you earlier when you were beginning to read your second ruling.

On behalf of the chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, the member for Don Valley East, I request the unanimous consent of the House for permission to table a report from this committee.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates--Speaker's Ruling
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

Does the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord have the unanimous consent of the House to table this report?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates--Speaker's Ruling
Permalink

June 17, 2010