May 16, 2017

LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table the 2017 spring reports of the Auditor General of Canada.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(g), these documents are deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Auditor General of Canada
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LIB

Marc Garneau

Liberal

Hon. Marc Garneau (Minister of Transport, Lib.)

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.

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

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Transportation Modernization Act
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LIB

Julie Dzerowicz

Liberal

Ms. Julie Dzerowicz (Davenport, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to rise in the House today to present an e-petition that was initiated by Ken Robertson, an urban aboriginal autism activist and a constituent of mine in my riding of Davenport.

This e-petition calls on the federal government to gather data on urban aboriginal children with autism and the length of the wait list for support for off-reserve children. In addition, it calls for the federal government to work with the provinces, territories, and stakeholders to develop a pan-Canadian strategy for autism spectrum disorder, including awareness and education campaigns; child, adolescent, and adult intervention; and innovative funding arrangements for financing therapy, surveillance, respite care, community initiatives, and basic research.

I look forward to our government's response.

I would like to thank the almost 700 Canadians for supporting this important initiative.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Autism
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Murray Rankin

NDP

Mr. Murray Rankin (Victoria, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from thousands of my constituents in Victoria.

Falun Gong practitioners have faced persecution in China for over 20 years. Hundreds of thousands of people have been arrested, tortured, and put in prison where many were systematically killed to supply organs for a state-run transplant industry. As many as 100,000 such transplants have occurred every year in Chinese hospitals since 2000.

These petitioners are calling upon the Government of Canada to establish measures to end the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China and to urge the Chinese government to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Falun Gong
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Carol Hughes

NDP

Mrs. Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I rise once again to table petitions regarding the Algoma passenger train.

The petitioners indicate that the economic impact in Northern Ontario is huge. A $2.2 million subsidy was giving a return of over $48 million in economic stability.

The petitioners are concerned that this train is still not on the rails. They are asking that the Minister of Transport put the Algoma passenger train back in service in order to ensure the mission of Transport Canada, which is “To serve the public interest through the promotion of a safe and secure, efficient and environmentally responsible transportation system in Canada”.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Algoma Passenger Rail Service
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LIB

Denis Paradis

Liberal

Hon. Denis Paradis (Brome—Missisquoi, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to present a petition that concerns Lake Champlain and is addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

People in Brome—Missisquoi who live along the shore of Lake Champlain drink the water from that lake. For years now, proliferation of cyanobacteria has been negatively affecting water quality to the point where the situation is critical. Consuming water contaminated with cyanobacteria poses a health risk to shoreline residents. All matters relating to the water quality of Lake Champlain are governed by the International Boundary Waters Treaty and the International Joint Commission. In 2008, that commission looked into the water quality problem in Missisquoi Bay, but its work has since ceased.

Protecting Lake Champlain is of paramount importance, and we are calling on the minister responsible for Global Affairs Canada to review the mandate of the International Joint Commission so that it may resolve the issue of water quality in Lake Champlain.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Water Quality
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Elizabeth May

Green

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

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise this morning to present two petitions. The first is a really critical issue that is unexamined in this Parliament. There is successful legislation in the Province of Quebec, as the petitioners point out, to ban something called SLAPP suits. It is an acronym for strategic litigation against public participation.

Petitioners from my riding point out the case of Fraser v. Saanich in British Columbia as an example of a corporation's use of the courts to shut down public opposition to that corporation's activities, or in other areas of public policy.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Justice
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Elizabeth May

Green

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

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is also from residents of Saanich—Gulf Islands. The threat of HIV/AIDS, while less in our public consciousness than it was a number of years ago, is still a threat. The petitioners call for the government to embrace the notion of a national AIDS strategy using the proven principle of treatment as prevention.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   HIV/AIDS
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LIB

Marwan Tabbara

Liberal

Mr. Marwan Tabbara (Kitchener South—Hespeler, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I wish to present petition e-739, which I sponsored and which has been certified by the clerk of petitions. The petition has been signed by 1,863 Canadians. It calls on the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to review and potentially modify the new selection process for parents and grandparents sponsorship applications.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship
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CPC

Matt Jeneroux

Conservative

Mr. Matt Jeneroux (Edmonton Riverbend, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition in support of private member's Bill C-316. This sensible proposal has been brought forward by my colleague and friend the member for Calgary Confederation.

The petitioners are calling on the House to improve the organ donation system in Canada by making the process to register as an organ donor easier. This would be achieved by adding a simple question to our annual tax returns. Currently, 90% of Canadians support organ donation, but only 25% are registered. Some 46,000 Canadians are awaiting a live-saving transplant. We know that making the registration process easier will save more lives.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Organ Donation
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Jenny Kwan

NDP

Ms. Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I rise to table two petitions. The first petition is petition 154, on health care services. The petition notes that the Canada Health Act ensures access to emergency medical care and hospital stay. However, it notes that many Canadians pay out of pocket for prescription medications, for psychologists and registered therapists, and for ambulance services as well. They are calling on the Government of Canada to amend our health act to include prescription medications, psychologists, registered therapists, and ambulance services as a right for all Canadians, regardless of their ability to pay.

The petition is signed by more than 500 people calling for this action.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Health Care
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Jenny Kwan

NDP

Ms. Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, my second petition has to do with animal cruelty. The petitioners note that the vast majority of Canadians support modern and enforceable legislation that protects all animals from deliberate and reckless acts of cruelty. They also note that animal cruelty is considered a property offence under the provisions of the Criminal Code, which have not significantly been revised since they were first enacted in 1892. The amendments to the provisions, which Parliament passed in April 2008, merely raised the potential penalties for the few accused persons who can be convicted and did not materially improve protection for animals. The petition further notes that amendments to the Criminal Code are still required to close the loopholes that allow perpetrators of animal cruelty to avoid conviction.

Petitioners feel that Canada has weaker legislation than other jurisdictions and are therefore calling on the government to modernize the animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code to effectively protect all animals from deliberate acts of cruelty.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Animal Welfare
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LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand at this time.

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

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

Dianne Lynn Watts

Conservative

Ms. Dianne L. Watts (South Surrey—White Rock, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to offer additional submissions on the question of privilege which was raised last week by the hon. member for Victoria and supported by the hon. member for Perth—Wellington.

In his remarks on Friday afternoon, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons quoted from one press release in an effort to exculpate the government's arrogant approach to setting up the Canada infrastructure bank while Parliament is seized with legislation proposing its creation.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer you to the job postings at the appointments.gc.ca website maintained by the Privy Council Office. Those documents are the ones any serious candidate interested in the positions would be reviewing. Nowhere on there is there any suggestion that Parliament's approval has yet to happen. A reader might be forgiven for concluding that the bank already exists, that this is a fait accompli.

Not only do these job postings suggest that the bank is a done deal, but they also treat the particulars of the bank's mandate, which are actually details buried in the government's omnibus budget bill, Bill C-44, in the same fashion. Let me quote from the job postings as found on the government's website on Friday.

On the posting for the bank's chairperson, we read, “The new Canada Infrastructure Bank is being established to initiate and invest.... ” That also appears in the postings for directors and the president.

Then, we read the following concerning the mandate of the Canada infrastructure bank:

The Bank will be mandated to invest $35 billion into projects.... The Bank will also act as a centre of expertise on infrastructure transactions...and provide advice to all levels of government in that context. In addition, the Bank will lead a data initiative to improve knowledge....

Those same phrases appear in all three job postings.

Now, if we turn to the proposed Canada infrastructure bank act, which would be enacted by clause 403 of Bill C-44, we see the following: Proposed paragraph 7(1)(e) of the proposed act would establish the bank as “a centre of expertise on infrastructure projects” . Proposed paragraph 7(1)(f) would give the bank a mandate to “provide advice to all levels of government with regard to infrastructure projects”. Proposed paragraph 7(1)(g) would authorize the bank to “collect and disseminate data”.

Proposed section 23 of the proposed act reads in part:

The Minister of Finance may pay to the Bank, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, amounts of not more than $35,000,000,000 in the aggregate

Later in the job postings for the chairperson and directors, we see this comment: “The Board of Directors of the Bank will be composed of the Chairperson and 8 to 11 other Directors.”

Looking at the proposed act, proposed subsection 8(1) states, “The Bank has a board of directors composed of the Chairperson and not fewer than eight, but not more than 11, other directors.”

These are all details which are currently before the House of Commons and could theoretically be amended at committee, at report stage, or even by the other place, but the government treats them as final and settled, given how those job postings read.

The parliamentary secretary's defence of the government's arrogance seems to be that some other document that includes a passing reference to parliamentary approval should get them off the hook.

Speaker Milliken ruled on May 29, 2008, at page 6276 of Debates, on advertisements about pending amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. He stated:

It is with these precedents in mind that I reviewed the advertisements in question. They contain phrases such as “the Government of Canada is proposing measures”, “These important measures, once in effect,” and “These measures are currently before Parliament”. In my view, the advertisements clearly acknowledge that these measures are not yet in place. I am therefore unable to find evidence of a misrepresentation of the proceedings of the House or of any presumption of the outcome of its deliberations.

There is nothing in the job postings to suggest that Parliament has yet to approve the bank's creation or that it could, in its work, tweak the government's proposed details. The job postings most certainly presume the outcome of deliberations in the House.

Most recently, the Speaker's predecessor, the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, was also asked to rule on a procurement notice seeking audit information concerning the financial impact of scrapping the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly, a policy initiative in the 2011 Conservative platform. His ruling on September 28, 2011, at page 1576 of Debates, held:

The notice itself presents a hypothetical scenario. It does not foresee a specific timetable for legislative action, let alone presume the outcome of such action. As I see it, the notice and task force terms of reference form part of a planning process that might be expected in contemplating the possibility of the repeal of the Canadian Wheat Board Act. I know the member for Malpeque does not expect the Chair to monitor all internal processes undertaken by the government as part of its preparatory work in advance of proposing legislative measures to the House. Accordingly, I cannot agree with the hon. member for Malpeque's statement that “The government presumes that the act has been repealed, which in fact it has not”. I see no evidence of such a presumption.

In the present instance, I do not believe that the wording of the text of the notice of procurement posted on the MERX site is ambiguous: rather, in my view, it presents a hypothetical case and seeks information on the impact of such a scenario.

There is, to put it simply, nothing hypothetical about how these job postings read. Given that the appointments.gc.ca website is administered by the Privy Council Office, I can only assume that it was acting on the express instructions of the Prime Minister's Office, which would have been micromanaging the rollout of a marquee initiative of the budget.

Mr. Speaker Parent, on March 13, 1997, at page 8987 of Debates, was also called upon to rule on advertisements, and offered this piece of advice to government communications staff:

Those whose duty it is to approve the wording of communications to the public for a minister must surely be aware that the terms used in parliamentary language have a very specific meaning. Trying to avoid them or to use them for advertising purposes shows a lack of consideration for the institution of Parliament and the role of the members in the legislative process. If there is no ambiguity in the choice of terms the public will be better served and the House can get on with its work without being called upon to resolve the difficulty caused by such misunderstanding.

Unfortunately, this sound counsel was simply ignored by those in the PMO who approved the wording of these job postings. The whole episode is, sadly, yet another example of a prime minister and a government who are dismissive of Parliament, and simply find the House of Commons to be an irritant and speed bump on their path to governing.

The House of Commons is, and must always be, seen as more than a rubber stamp for the government's legislative proposals. To address this attack on the authority and dignity of the House of Commons, I urge you to find a prima facie case of privilege.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank
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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock for the submission she made to add to the submission of the hon. member for Victoria. I am aware that the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons has also made a submission on this question of privilege. I will take it under advisement, and look forward to coming back to the House with a ruling.

I understand that the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman wishes to make additional arguments on his question of privilege.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank
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CPC

James Bezan

Conservative

Mr. James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I rise again today to provide an addendum to the submission I made on May 3 to my original question of privilege raised on April 4, 2017.

As you will recall, and the record will show, my original question of privilege concerned statements made by the Minister of National Defence in this House concerning the hardship benefits, danger pay, and the tax relief status of members of the Canadian Armed Forces stationed in Kuwait on Operation Impact.

The additional information and evidence supporting my question of privilege comes from a briefing note provided to the Minister of National Defence and obtained through the Access to Information Act by my office on Friday, as well as a ministerial order issued by the President of the Treasury Board on April 17, 2017. The briefing note reads in part:

The initial assessments for the Op IMPACT (Kuwait) locations were conducted on 11 June 2015 (with an effective date of 5 October 2014, the start of the operation) and established a Risk Level of 2.13. In accordance with the Income Tax Act, the Minister of National Defence requested that the Minister of Finance designate Op IMPACT (Kuwait) locations for Tax Relief. The Minister of Finance concurred with the request and designated Op IMPACT (Kuwait) for Tax Relief.

Therefore, under the previous Conservative government, all members of the Canadian Armed Forces deployed to Operation Impact in Kuwait were provided with a tax relief status on their hardship and risk pay effective October 5, 2014. This was able to occur because former defence minister Jason Kenney took the initiative to request that then finance minister Joe Oliver designate Operation Impact, Kuwait location, for tax relief. The request was approved without question simply because it was the right thing to do.

The solution to this problem is rather simple and should have never reached this point. The briefing note goes on to say that the tax relief status was re-evaluated on March 31, 2016, under the current Liberal government. The result of this re-evaluation was that our troops stationed at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait could no longer receive the benefit, effective September 1, 2016.

According to the briefing note that was prepared by the Minister of National Defence on November 24, 2016, all troops stationed in Kuwait on Operation Impact were receiving the benefit effective the first day of the operation, October 5, 2014, until September 1, 2016. The minister and his office were aware of this.

However, the Minister of National Defence said in the House on March 21, 2017, “the previous government was the one that actually sent our troops to Iraq without the tax-free benefit.” In question period on March 8, he said, “I would also like to correct the member in terms of the previous government's actions on this. It actually sent troops into Kuwait without the tax-free allowance”. On March 9, during a debate on this very issue, the minister said, “Our troops did not have tax-free status when they were actually deployed for that operation. It was in February 2016, after my visit to Kuwait.” During that debate, he also said, “I cannot change reality. When I visited the troops, they did not have a tax-free allowance.”

The minister has already apologized once for his attempt to change reality. I hope he does so again, and this time actually takes responsibility for his wrongdoings. The Minister of National Defence's first visit to Kuwait was in November 2015. As I read in my original question of privilege and the addendum, the tax relief status was effective from October 2014 until September 2016. Therefore, while the minister was visiting troops in November 2015 in Kuwait, the tax relief status was still in place.

We now have several documents in our possession that prove all soldiers deployed to Kuwait on Operation Impact were receiving tax-free status on their hardship and risk pay effective from the date that the operation began, October 5, 2014, until September 1, 2016, including a briefing note prepared specifically for the minister and a response to an Order Paper question with the minister's signature.

Furthermore, due to the government's lack of willingness to take action to correct the mistake of cancelling the tax-free status for the soldiers in Kuwait in Operation Impact, I had to table a motion on March 9, 2017, on behalf of the official opposition which reads:

That the House call on the government to show support and appreciation for the brave men and women serving in the Canadian Armed Forces by reversing its decision to take away from the soldiers fighting against ISIS the tax benefit which provides them with $1,500 to $1,800 per month for the hardship and risk associated with their deployment, and to retroactively provide the payment to members stationed at Camp Arifjan whose tax relief was cancelled as of September 1, 2016.

The motion was passed unanimously. The minister told this House, “We support the motion related to Canadian Forces members at Camp Arifjan, who were deployed when the risk level was adjusted.”

However, on April 17, 2017, the President of the Treasury Board issued a ministerial directive to provide personnel at Ali Al Salem Air Base tax exempt status until August 16, 2017, while those at Camp Arifjan, a mere 40 kilometres away, were only provided the tax exempt status until December 18, 2016.

Furthermore, the access to information request I referenced also notes that the chief of the defence staff provided direction to evaluate the Kuwait region as a whole rather than each base separately. This direction was ignored, which is evidenced by the ministerial order that extended the tax exemption for Ali Salem Air Base to August 2017, while Camp Arifjan had its benefit cut as of December 2016. I hope the government is not being vindictive and penalizing our troops at Camp Arifjan for speaking out about this unfair situation.

Therefore, the government did not reverse its decision to take away the tax benefit. It only provided retroactive payments for three and a half months, leaving soldiers deployed for up to eight months without the tax exemption.

To summarize, on multiple occasions in this House, the Minister of National Defence accused the previous government of deploying troops to Kuwait and Iraq without the tax exemption. We now have a response to Order Paper Question No. 600 with the minister's signature, multiple access to information requests, and a quote from the minister in an April 19 press release from DND that say otherwise.

Furthermore, by supporting the Conservative motion on March 21, 2017, the minister agreed to retroactively pay the tax relief benefit to soldiers at Camp Arifjan. However, a ministerial directive issued by the President of the Treasury Board on April 17, 2017, and a press release issued by DND on April 19, 2017, state that those troops will only be receiving retroactive payments for three and half months and not for their full deployment.

The Minister of National Defence has a clear, intentional, and repetitive pattern of making misleading statements.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I submit, for your consideration, the following documents: the access to information request I just referred to; the ministerial order from the President of the Treasury Board issued on April 17, 2017; the response to Order Paper Question No. 600, signed by the Minister of National Defence; and the press release issued by the Department of National Defence on April 19, 2017, confirming the ministerial order and that troops deployed to Kuwait for Operation Impact had the tax exempt status effective on the first date of their deployment.

I look forward to the ruling on my question of privilege.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Comments of Minister of National Defence
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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman for his additional arguments. I will take the matter under advisement. Assuming there are no further arguments on this question of privilege, I look forward to bringing a ruling in due course.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Comments of Minister of National Defence
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LIB

Bardish Chagger

Liberal

Hon. Bardish Chagger (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That in relation to the Senate amendments to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Public Service Labour Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board Act and other Acts and to provide for certain other measures, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of said stage of the bill; and

That fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration of the Senate amendments of 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:   Public Service Labour Relations Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-7—Time Allocation Motion
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May 16, 2017