February 26, 2015

CPC

Tom Lukiwski

Conservative

Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
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CPC
?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
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CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on January 28, 2015, by the hon. member for St. John's East about alleged misleading statements made by the Prime Minister during oral questions with respect to Canadian military engagement in Iraq.

I would like to thank the hon. member for St. John's East for having raised this matter, as well as the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, and the member for Winnipeg North for their comments.

In presenting his case, the member for St. John's East explained that, during question period on September 30, 2014, in the week leading up to the vote on October 7 with respect to Canada's role in the mission in Iraq to combat ISIL, the Prime Minister had answered that, “It is to advise and to assist. It is not to accompany” and “Canadian soldiers are not accompanying the Iraqi forces into combat”. However, the member for St. John's East contended that recent reports that Canadian ground troops have accompanied Iraqi forces and exchanged fire with ISIL forces were proof that the Prime Minister misled the House and Canadians in a deliberate attempt to downplay Canada's level of engagement.

Arguing that there is no possible way to interpret the current contradiction as a difference of opinion, the member for St. John's East went on to explain how the three criteria had been met for determining that a prima facie of privilege exists; that is, that the statement was misleading, the member knew the statement was incorrect when it was made, and the member intended to mislead the House by making the statement.

The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons responded that the mission is, in fact, to advise and assist and that Canadian Forces should have the right to defend themselves in doing this dangerous work. In support of this, he cited General Tom Lawson's recent testimony in committee regarding the nature of the intervention in Iraq. More specifically, he noted that General Lawson specified that their mandate is a non-combat operation to advise and assist, and involves the use of weaponry only for the purposes of self-defence. With no evidence to suggest that Canadian Forces have undertaken any offensive combat measures, the government House leader argued that, at its core, this matter amounts to nothing more than a question of debate and not a question of the House having been misled.

The integrity of parliamentary proceedings rests very much on the ability of members to give and receive accurate and truthful information. This explains, in part, why members look to the Chair for guidance and judgement when they feel that this integrity is being challenged or cast aside. This is not done lightly given that, as members know, the House is a forum that gives voice to different viewpoints and opinions. Speaker Milliken recognized this when he stated on December 6, 2004, at page 2319 of Debates: “Disagreements about facts and how the facts should be interpreted form the basis of debate in this place.”

As a result, such grievances are rarely found to be breaches of privilege. The member for St. John's East stated as much when he cited page 510 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, which states:

In most instances, when a point of order or a question of privilege has been raised in regard to a response to an oral question, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is a disagreement among Members over the facts surrounding the issue. As such, these matters are more a question of debate and do not constitute a breach of the rules or of privilege.

Members are well aware of the Speaker's clearly defined yet limited role in regulating such matters. As Speaker Milliken reminded the House in a ruling on January 31, 2008, at pages 2434 and 2435 of Debates:

...any dispute regarding the accuracy or appropriateness of a minister’s response to an oral question is a matter of debate; it is not a matter for the Speaker to judge. The same holds true with respect to the breadth of a minister’s answer to a question in the House: this is not for the Speaker to determine.

Yet while it is not for the Chair to interpret the meaning of members’ interventions, it has a solemn responsibility to ensure that certain conditions are met in disputes of the nature brought forward by the member for St. John's East. As Speaker, I must assess whether there exist the three conditions that would establish unequivocally that the House has been misled.

The conditions are admittedly and deliberately not easily met. This is because, as Speaker, I must take all members at their word. This underscores the way we function every day in our proceedings; all members rely on this and draw advantage from it.

This places an onerous burden on all members to ensure that their words are selected for their clarity as well as for their accuracy, so as to leave no room or cause for misinterpretation.

In order to find that the three conditions have been met, the Chair must be presented with undeniable evidence that there was a deliberate intent to mislead. Accordingly, having carefully examined the evidence presented, the Chair is unable to conclude that the House is confronted with a prima facie case of privilege in this case.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Statements made by Prime Minister regarding Presence of Canadian Forces in Iraq—Speaker's Ruling
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CPC

Peter Van Loan

Conservative

Hon. Peter Van Loan (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That in relation to Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the report stage and one sitting day shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill; and

That fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration of the report stage and on the day allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Respect for Communities Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-2—Time Allocation Motion
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CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Speaker

There will now be a 30-minute question period for members to participate in, and I would ask members to keep their questions or comments to around a minute and government responses to a similar length.

The hon. member for Vancouver East.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Respect for Communities Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-2—Time Allocation Motion
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NDP

Libby Davies

New Democratic Party

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, this is the 89th time that the government has put closure on debate on a bill. It really is a very shameful record. It is an historic but shameful record in the history of this Parliament.

This bill, Bill C-2, is a particularly grievous one and is fundamentally flawed. I find it very ironic that the government itself sat on this bill for months and months—in fact, the better part of a year—before it brought it forward for debate. Now, all of a sudden, it decides it wants to rush it through at report stage and third reading at the last minute.

I want to ask why it is cutting off debate, why it sat on this bill for so long, and why members of Parliament, who have the right to a thorough debate at report stage and third reading of this bill and to discuss all of the arguments that came out of committee, a legitimate process, are now being limited and foreclosed in the House.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Respect for Communities Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-2—Time Allocation Motion
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CPC

Rona Ambrose

Conservative

Hon. Rona Ambrose (Minister of Health, CPC)

First, Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on the member's notion that this bill is grievous. This bill is in response to a Supreme Court ruling, and it follows that Supreme Court ruling to the letter.

As for the amount of time that we have debated this bill, it has now received over 20 hours of debate. The House leader said it has been debated for 12 days. The NDP alone has delivered 64 speeches on this very topic and to date has asked 55 questions. This is third reading. This is the process that bills go through, and all parties have had an opportunity to discuss the bill in committee.

However, what is most shocking is that the NDP does not realize that unless this bill passes, we cannot come into compliance with what the Supreme Court has asked us to do when it comes to these establishments for supervised injection and community consultations.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Respect for Communities Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-2—Time Allocation Motion
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LIB

Hedy Fry

Liberal

Hon. Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of questions I would like to ask.

Obviously I agree with my colleague in the New Democratic Party that this bill was delayed for a very long time and that all of a sudden the government wants to rush it through. At report stage, members heard from many people who challenged these proposed measures by pointing out that they did not in fact meet the Supreme Court rulings but overstepped them and are going to be open to a charter challenge.

As well, when the bill was tabled by the Minister of Health, it did not go to the health committee. It actually went to an enforcement committee, the Standing Committee on Public Safety, which is a very strange and puzzling thing to happen. This tells us where the government is coming from. For the government, this is about enforcement and not at all about health. However, it is in fact about health.

The question I want to ask is this. Why is it that members do not have the time to discuss what they heard at report stage, when there were two dissenting opinions by the opposition party saying that what was heard from witnesses was not reflected?

This bill oversteps the Supreme Court ruling in many ways. The Supreme Court had five criteria. This bill, coming from a government that says health is a provincial jurisdiction, actually intrudes completely and in great detail into provincial governments, municipal governments, and local police rulings. In fact, those three groups—the provincial governments, the municipal governments, and the police—all put forward amendments that said this bill was intruding into their jurisdictions.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Respect for Communities Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-2—Time Allocation Motion
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CPC

Rona Ambrose

Conservative

Hon. Rona Ambrose

Mr. Speaker, I believe the member herself participated in the committee discussions. The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and I were both there. It is an issue that affects both health and public safety, and that is why both ministers appeared before the committee to answer any questions that members had.

I am disappointed that the opposition continues to delay the bill, because it has been debated at length and if we do not pass the bill, there will not be a framework for any community to move forward with any sort of an application in this process. Not only has it received ample debate in the House, it is now time for the legislation to proceed. In fact, community groups are asking for this bill to proceed. They are in favour of it. They have mentioned that at committee, and have written a lot of correspondence to me and to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to share their views. Organizations such as Safer Ottawa, along with various homeowners' associations and tourism-related businesses, have been very vocal in their strong opposition to safe injection sites and want to have the public consultations that are outlined in this bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Respect for Communities Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-2—Time Allocation Motion
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NDP

Christine Moore

New Democratic Party

Ms. Christine Moore (Abitibi—Témiscamingue, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I just want to say that this bill is especially important to me. We have just completed another stage. A committee study allowed members to hear from experts. I am not a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, so I think it is quite appropriate to talk about this bill. This bill has been on the table for quite some time. The government could have put it back on the agenda before now, since it is in charge of the schedule. It keeps moving time allocation motions without batting an eye.

I would like to know if the Minister of Health took the time to talk to the opposition to determine how many of hours of debate might be necessary for further consideration of the bill. What makes her think that a time allocation motion is absolutely necessary for moving forward with the bill? The government makes no effort to reach consensus. It moves time allocation and closure motions as a matter of policy, leaving no room for discussion. I think that is an irresponsible attitude.

Did the minister take the time to consult the opposition parties to discuss how they envision the next stages of the bill?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Respect for Communities Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-2—Time Allocation Motion
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CPC

Rona Ambrose

Conservative

Hon. Rona Ambrose

Mr. Speaker, the bill has been debated for 20 hours over 12 days. It went to committee. The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and I as health minister were there to answer questions. We are trying to pass this bill.

It is interesting that the member said that this measure is important to her, and that she wants to see it passed and thinks that we are delaying it, yet we continue to experience delays by the opposition.

It is important that this bill pass, because otherwise we have no framework with which to provide public consultations for any municipality or group that wants to apply to have a supervised injection site. The Supreme Court of Canada was clear that public consultations need to happen before any of these supervised injection sites can move forward. However, we have been unable to reach a consensus because the opposition members think that we should not have to consult the public. They think that any municipality or group should have the right to impose a supervised injection site without public consultation.

We do not believe that is the case. We agree with the Supreme Court of Canada and we will proceed with this bill to make sure that the public and neighbourhood groups, whether they be local politicians or the police, have their say.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Respect for Communities Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-2—Time Allocation Motion
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NDP

Peter Julian

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, the more the Minister of Health speaks, the more we understand the reason for this closure motion, which brings time allocation to the House for the 89th time.

The reality is that the government has refused to bring the legislation forward to the House for over a year simply because it was obvious after the first round of debates that there were many flaws in the bill.

The government has not been willing to accept amendments. There have been concerns raised about jurisdiction and about strangling the safe injection site and what that means for health. There was concern over a wide variety of community impacts as well. We have a government that brought forward a badly flawed bill last year and forced it through. Initial debates reflected very poorly on the government, so it hid the bill for a year and is now bringing it forward with closure, trying to ram it through the House with no due parliamentary consideration.

Is that not the real reason we are seeing closure today? Why did the government sit on the bill for over a year?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Respect for Communities Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-2—Time Allocation Motion
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CPC

Rona Ambrose

Conservative

Hon. Rona Ambrose

Mr. Speaker, we are, right now, debating. I am here to answer the member's questions. We have debated this bill for 20 hours over 12 days. It went to committee. The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and I were available for any questions, and we continue to be.

Canadian families deserve and expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children. The respect for communities act would give local law enforcement, municipal leaders, and local residents a voice that they want and deserve before a permit is granted for a supervised injection site.

This bill, just as the Supreme Court ordered, says that in my capacity as Minister of Health, I must consider specific factors when reviewing applications, and the big factor is public consultations. This bill has to move forward before we can have a framework in place that would allow for public consultations.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Respect for Communities Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-2—Time Allocation Motion
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LIB

Marc Garneau

Liberal

Mr. Marc Garneau (Westmount—Ville-Marie, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have to ask the hon. minister how she can say with a straight face that there is great urgency in passing the bill, given that it was taken off the table for such a long period of time.

Now it absolutely has to pass in record time. The Supreme Court is waiting. All of these arguments are being brought forward. However, if all of the arguments she has presented are compelling in terms of speed, why did the bill suddenly disappear off the face of the earth for a very long time?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Respect for Communities Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-2—Time Allocation Motion
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CPC

Rona Ambrose

Conservative

Hon. Rona Ambrose

Mr. Speaker, that is not true. We had consultations on the bill, we took it to committee, and we debated it for 20 hours over 12 days of debate. There has been lengthy debate and consultation on this bill to make sure that we get it right. However, it is time to move forward.

One of the five factors that the Supreme Court outlined in its ruling was expressions of community support or opposition. I know it is hard for the opposition to understand that, because they are on the record as saying that these sites should move forward if anyone desires to open a safe injection site in a community. However, that is not what the Supreme Court said, and it is not what we believe should happen.

We believe that local residents should have a say. At the end of the day, this is about supervised illicit drug use, and there are health and public safety factors to be considered. We believe without a doubt that the public has a right to consultation, and this bill would provide for that consultation.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Respect for Communities Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-2—Time Allocation Motion
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Elizabeth May

Green

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. Minister of Health, for whom I have immense respect. Much of the legislation that I have supported in the House has come forward from the Minister of Health.

Unfortunately, I do not support the bill before us. I think it has been designed to make it impossible to ever again set up a harm reduction site. It goes beyond consulting with communities and appears to be designed to create so many hurdles that no organization would ever be able to open a safe injection site.

For that reason, and because of the need to explore this issue in full debate, I am very concerned that we are again having closure. Closure makes it almost impossible for members of Parliament representing smaller parties, such as the Green Party, the Bloc, Forces et Démocratie, or the many independents who are now in this place to have an opportunity to participate in debate.

This institution exists to examine legislation and work on it together, not push it through like a bulldozer.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Respect for Communities Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-2—Time Allocation Motion
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CPC

Rona Ambrose

Conservative

Hon. Rona Ambrose

Mr. Speaker, that is far from what has happened. This bill has been considered for a lengthy period of time. We have had 20 hours of debate. We have had debate at committee and input from members from all sides of the House. We have had input from people all across the country. I receive correspondence from Canadians all the time on this issue.

However, the Supreme Court was clear about what it required us to put forward in this legislation. The most important requirement is public consultation and making sure that we hear from those in the community who will be impacted by this measure. If a supervised injection site is opened up next to a school, parents want to know. They want to have a say. If it is opened next to a condo complex, the people there would want to have a say. Local municipal leaders want to have a say.

Most importantly, these people are not well. These are people who are drug addicts. We want to make sure, if such an establishment were to open up, that there would be treatment options available. Is this merely a supervised injection site, or are there resources available?

We believe these people need help. They need intervention and treatment. We need prevention programs. We are focused on that and we deliver it, but we want to make sure that it is in concert with this measure.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Respect for Communities Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-2—Time Allocation Motion
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NDP

Robert Aubin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Robert Aubin (Trois-Rivières, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to speak to the bill itself because now is not the time, but it is the time to ask why a time allocation motion is being moved for the 89th time. Our procedural rules allow us to use a few exceptional measures in urgent matters, but that does not really apply here.

My question is quite simple. After 89 time allocation motions, are we still talking about exceptional measures or a way of governing?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Respect for Communities Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-2—Time Allocation Motion
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CPC

Rona Ambrose

Conservative

Hon. Rona Ambrose

Mr. Speaker, let us remember what this is. The bill is to provide an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act so that illicit drugs can be used in a legal way within an establishment. I think all members in the House agree that illicit drug use comes not just with health impacts but with public safety implications. Therefore, the whole genesis of the idea of public consultation is an important one.

We know that there are risks associated with the possession, use, and production of illicit substances, so it is just common sense that if the Minister of Health is going to provide an exemption for an establishment to allow the use of illicit substances, which we know have health implications and public safety implications for a community, we should have a framework that allows for full public consultations with everyone who is impacted.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Respect for Communities Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-2—Time Allocation Motion
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February 26, 2015