December 5, 2017

LIB

Yvonne Jones

Liberal

Ms. Yvonne Jones (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, under the provisions of Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the 2014/15 Annual Report on the State of Inuit Culture and Society. I request that this report be referred to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs.

In addition, under the provisions of Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the Yukon Land Claims and Self-Government Agreements Annual Report 2011-2012. I request that this report be referred to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Indigenous Affairs
Permalink
GP

Elizabeth May

Green Party

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to present a petition which relates to the ongoing human rights abuse of practitioners of Falun Dafa and Falun Gong in the People's Republic of China.

The petitioners call on the Canadian government to condemn the current practice of the Communist Party in the People's Republic of China in systematically murdering Falun Gong practitioners.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
Sub-subtopic:   Falun Gong and Falun Dafa
Permalink
LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

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

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

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

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

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

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

I would like to take a moment to address the remarks of the hon. member for Durham made November 24, 2017, concerning a recent statement of the Minister of Canadian Heritage that he alleged to be contradictory to those of a former nominee for the position of Commissioner of Official Languages.

On May 31, 2017, the same issue was raised as a point of order by the member for Outremont. The member for Durham has now raised this again, urging the Chair to rule on the matter prior to any nomination of a new Commissioner of Official Languages.

By raising the matter, the member is trying to establish a link between the events of the spring and the upcoming nomination. However, I fail to see the linkage, or what might justify bringing up this question once more.

As members will recall, I delivered a ruling on May 29, 2017, when this issue was fully dealt with. When the matter was raised several days later, on May 31, 2017, I stated that I had already ruled on this. While I considered the matter closed, I agreed to review any additional information and would come back to the House, but only if necessary.

Upon review of the complete evidence before us today, I am not convinced that there is anything more to add to this issue. I consider the matter closed.

I thank all hon. members for their attention.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Commissioner of Official Languages—Speaker's Ruling
Permalink
CPC

Pat Kelly

Conservative

Mr. Pat Kelly (Calgary Rocky Ridge, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege regarding misleading statements made in the House by the Minister of National Revenue.

On page 111 in the 22nd edition of Erskine May, it states: “The Commons may treat the making of a deliberately misleading statement as a contempt.”

Speaker Milliken, when ruling on a matter of privilege involving misleading statements in the House, stated on February 1, 2002, “The authorities are consistent about the need for clarity in our proceedings and about the need to ensure the integrity of the information provided by the Government to the House.”

One of the authorities to which Speaker Milliken was referring was the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, which states on page 115, “Misleading a Minister or a Member has also been considered a form of obstruction and thus a prima facie breach of privilege.”

On October 23, 2017, in response to a question during question period, the Minister of National Revenue said, “I would remind my colleagues opposite that the law has not changed in any way. How the law is interpreted has also not changed in any way.”

Again, on October 24, she said, “I want to assure my colleague opposite that the law has not changed. There have also not been any changes to the way the law is interpreted.”

She continued with the same message on October 30, 2017, when she said the following:

I would like to reassure Canadians that no changes have been made to the eligibility criteria for the disability tax credit.

No changes have been made to the act or the way it is interpreted, and we are going to ensure that people continue to receive the tax credits to which they are entitled.

Then, on November 8, 2017, she said, “I also want to emphasize that the eligibility criteria for the tax credit have not changed. The rules are the same and apply just as they always have. The law is the same. Nothing has changed.”

She made these claims time and again during question period, on October 30, and on November 7, 9, 21, 22, and 23. She even provided this false information to the finance committee during its meeting on November 23.

I do not believe that anyone could argue that the minister's statements in this House and elsewhere are not deliberate. The minister wants the House to believe that no changes have been made to the eligibility criteria for the disability tax credit, as well as the way it is interpreted.

I would like at this time to present to you, Mr. Speaker, an internal CRA memo of May 2, 2017, which was obtained through access to information by Diabetes Canada and forwarded to me. In this memo, the Minister of National Revenue's officials tell a very different story than what the minister has been telling the House. It states:

This is to inform you of updates to the current [life-sustaining therapy] procedures and verses relating to adults with diabetes.

Going forward, follow the procedures below for claims for [persons with disabilities] over 18. [...] Insulin Therapy Procedures will be updated shortly to reflect the changes.

Send a clarification letter when the [medical practitioner] has not indicated any exceptional circumstances to support the 14 hours per week criterion.

Disallow without clarification when

the [medical practitioner] has indicated less than 14 hours per week, or

the [medical practitioner] has included activities that do not count toward the 14 hour per week criterion such as carb counting, and activities related to exercise.

Allow claims when the [medical practitioner] has indicated exceptional circumstances which support the 14 hours per week criterion.

Example of exceptional circumstances; Other chronic conditions that affect the time taken by the [persons with disabilities] to manage insulin therapy or the need for assistance from others to manage insulin therapy, such as poor manual dexterity or poor vision.

Determine end date on a case by case basis depending on the severity of the [persons with disabilities'] condition.

Consult with RO as needed to determine eligibility and for the number of years to allow. Refer to HQ as necessary.

Note: No changes have been made for claims for [persons with disabilities] under 18.

The updates are in the attached and will be put into production tomorrow afternoon.

Thanks.

Procedures and Medical Review Team

On November 3, 1978, the member for Northumberland—Durham raised a question of privilege and charged that he had been deliberately misled by a former solicitor general. Acting on behalf of a constituent who suspected that his mail had been tampered with, the member had written in 1973 to the then solicitor general who assured him that, as a matter of policy, the RCMP did not intercept the private mail of anyone. However, on November 1, 1978, in testimony before the McDonald commission, the former commissioner of the RCMP stated that they did indeed intercept mail on a very restricted basis.

The member claimed that this statement clearly conflicted with the information he had received from the then solicitor general some years earlier.

The Speaker returned to the House on December 6 and ruled the matter to be a prima facie case of contempt against the House of Commons. The Speaker found that the letter from the solicitor general to the member for Northumberland—Durham could be considered a proceeding in Parliament for the purpose of privilege.

In the 1978 case, it was the letter from the minister that contained information that was later revealed to be false during the testimony of the minister's own officials at the McDonald commission. In this case, the minister is saying one thing in the House and her officials are saying something different in an internal memo.

Further, on page 234 of the second edition of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, Maingot states:

before the House will be permitted by the Speaker to embark on a debate in such circumstances...an admission by someone in authority, such as a Minister of the Crown or an officer of a department, an instrument of government policy, or a government agency, either that a Member of the House of Commons was intentionally misled...and a direct relationship between the misleading information and a proceeding in Parliament, is necessary.

In an internal memo, we have the minister's procedures and medical review team clearly contradicting what the minister has been saying in the House of Commons.

On February 1, 2002, Speaker Milliken accepted a minister's assertion that he had no intention to mislead the House, yet he stated that, “Nevertheless this remains a very difficult situation.”

He went on to conclude:

On the basis of the arguments presented by hon. members and in view of the gravity of the matter, I have concluded that the situation before us...merits further consideration by an appropriate committee, if only to clear the air.

I submit to you that this issue also requires clarification. It is confusing to my constituents, who are being told one thing by the minister and another by officials from the minister's own department. Not only are they receiving false information, they are living the consequences as proof that the minister misled this House.

In conclusion, if you find this matter to be a prima facie question of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Statements by Minister of Revenue regarding the Disability Tax Credit
Permalink
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 like to take the information as noted and return with some thoughts on it at a later time.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Statements by Minister of Revenue regarding the Disability Tax Credit
Permalink
LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge and the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader. I look forward to hearing the arguments from the government's side in due course, hopefully before very long. I then look forward to coming back to the House in due course with a decision.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Statements by Minister of Revenue regarding the Disability Tax Credit
Permalink
NDP

Peter Julian

New Democratic Party

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

Mr. Speaker, I found the arguments that were raised by the member for Calgary Rocky Ridge very compelling. We will be coming back to this House at some point today to add further information for your due consideration.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Statements by Minister of Revenue regarding the Disability Tax Credit
Permalink
LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member for New Westminister—Burnaby for adding that commitment to the conversation.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Statements by Minister of Revenue regarding the Disability Tax Credit
Permalink
LIB

Marie-Claude Bibeau

Liberal

Hon. Marie-Claude Bibeau (Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, Lib.)

moved:

That, in relation to Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the bill; and

That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders of the day allotted to the consideration at 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 disposable of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Access to Information Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-58—Time Allocation Motion
Permalink
LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

The Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period.

I invite hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places so the Chair has some idea of the number of members who wish to participate in this question period.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Access to Information Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-58—Time Allocation Motion
Permalink
CPC

Peter Kent

Conservative

Hon. Peter Kent (Thornhill, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, this time allocation motion is for a highly imperfect piece of proposed legislation that deserves much greater debate and consideration by the Liberal government. It has been condemned by Canadians across the spectrum, by those who would demand the right to know how they are governed through access to information. It has been dismissed by the Information Commissioner herself as a regressive piece of legislation. She indicated quite clearly that the status quo would be preferable to the proposed law, which is being debated at third reading today.

The President of the Treasury Board has made excuses, and he urged Canadians, with a slight Churchillian twist, not to allow perfection to be the enemy of the good. Well, there is very little good in Bill C-58, which came through committee with some significant, but very few, amendments to correct a poorly written piece of legislation.

This piece of proposed legislation is beyond redemption. I would ask the President of the Treasury Board why he does not simply withdraw Bill C-58 and go back to the drawing board.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Access to Information Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-58—Time Allocation Motion
Permalink
LIB

Scott Brison

Liberal

Hon. Scott Brison (President of the Treasury Board, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Thornhill, who was a minister in the previous Harper government, is in fact very consistent. He is effectively advocating that we do nothing to update the Access to Information Act, which is consistent what the Conservatives did in the past, because for nine years they did absolutely nothing to strengthen the act, despite the fact their platform committed in 2006 to modernizing that act. They passed 250 pieces of legislation over the subsequent nine years, but not one of them touched access to information.

We are the first government in 34 years to act to significantly modernize, improve, and strengthen the access to information regime. For the first time ever, we would be providing order-making power to the Information Commissioner. For the first time ever, we would be applying the Access to Information Act to ministers' offices and the Prime Minister's Office for a strengthened regime of proactive disclosure, which is very much consistent with the principle of open by default.

Again, I commend my friend and colleague for his consistency, because today, by advocating that we not proceed with this modernization, he is fact being very consistent with the Conservative government he was part of, which did absolutely nothing to strengthen access to information. However, we are not necessarily listening to that, because we believe it is time to improve the access to information regime.

The member also referred to the amendments from committee that we have embraced and supported. Again, this was not something the previous Conservative government did very frequently. to actually engage committees respectfully and accept their advice. We believe that committees can help strengthen this legislation. In fact, some of the clarifications achieved through these amendments are consistent with our intention, which is to have a stronger and more accountable access to information system. We believe very strongly that these steps are in the right direction.

Furthermore, there will be a full mandatory review to commence within a year of this bill being passed. It would be the first five-year review, and subsequently there would be mandatory five-year reviews, which will ensure that the act never becomes as outdated as it is today. We are looking forward to engaging not just in terms of the specific changes proposed today, but we also believe that when we commence the first mandatory review, it will be informed by some of our understanding of the impact of these changes, which will help inform future changes.

The other thing is that in the movement towards proactive disclosure, as we see an increase in particular types of demand-based requests, that is a signal to our government and future governments to move them over to the proactive disclosure category.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Access to Information Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-58—Time Allocation Motion
Permalink
NDP

Peter Julian

New Democratic Party

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

Mr. Speaker, please be sure to allow about as much time for answers as for questions.

Once again, we are talking about the government steamroller. This is the 27th time it has used closure to shut down debate on these issues. Its record is even worse than the Harper government's. There have been 25% more closure and time allocation motions under the Liberals.

Is the real reason the Liberals are using this legislative bulldozer again, which they have used 25% more often than the Harper government, that they have ignored the Information Commissioner's recommendations? They have not dealt with the issue of delays or exemptions. However, they have created new loopholes so the public will be cut off from access to information.

Is that not the real reason they are shutting down debate today? The more debate there is in this House, the more that Canadians become aware that the Liberals are breaking yet another promise.

The President of the Treasury Board talked about consistency. I have to admit that the Liberals are very consistent in breaking their promises. Here again is a broken promise that the Liberal government is trying to shove under the carpet by bulldozing this bill through the House of Commons.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Access to Information Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-58—Time Allocation Motion
Permalink
LIB

Scott Brison

Liberal

Hon. Scott Brison

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. He and I served at committee together in opposition and he will recall how little regard the Conservative government had for opposition members' amendments at committee. That stands in contrast to what our government is doing.

We have worked with the access to information committee in accepting amendments that we believe strengthen the legislation. For instance, the Information Commissioner will be given the authority to force a department to obtain approval prior to denying a request for any reason. That significantly strengthens the role of the Information Commissioner. We have addressed many of the concerns raised through the committee process, which stands in stark contrast to the work of the previous Conservative government at committee.

Strengthening proactive disclosure is an important part of the Access to Information Act. When we were in opposition and the member for Papineau, now the Prime Minister, was the leader of the Liberal Party, we led the charge for proactive disclosure of MPs' expenses. The Conservatives followed through quite quickly because they understood the importance of it. The NDP were not that happy about proactively disclosing MPs' expenses. I guess they do not like proactive disclosure today either.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Access to Information Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-58—Time Allocation Motion
Permalink
LIB

Anthony Rota

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mr. Anthony Rota)

I just want to remind the hon. members that we only have 30 minutes. If they can keep their questions and answers as concise as possible, that would certainly be appreciated by everyone in the House.

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Access to Information Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-58—Time Allocation Motion
Permalink
GP

Elizabeth May

Green Party

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

Mr. Speaker, I do regret that the hon. President of the Treasury Board has taken so long with his answers when we opposition members are restricted to a finite 30 minutes to complain about the fact that our debate on this very important access to information bill will be restricted.

I want to put this directly to the President of the Treasury Board. I am very pleased that one of my amendments was accepted at committee, but even with that small measure, I cannot vote for this bill. As well, I do not know if we will be allowed to debate the bill that we cannot vote for, because access to information has become freedom from information under the government.

I would urge the President of the Treasury Board to release us from time allocation on this debate.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Access to Information Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-58—Time Allocation Motion
Permalink
LIB

Scott Brison

Liberal

Hon. Scott Brison

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member, my colleague and leader of the Green Party, will fulfill her function as a member of this place and determine how she wants to vote on this. However, let us be very clear that this bill is an advancement in Canada's Access to Information Act.

This bill provides the Information Commissioner with order-making powers for the first time. It actually expands the access to information regime to cover over 240 Government of Canada entities from the ports to the courts.

In terms of balance, we have heard concerns from the Privacy Commissioner that we may be going too far, and concerns from the Information Commissioner, which we have reflected in our acceptance of some amendments.

We are listening, but we are also acting. That is something that no government has done in 34 years.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Access to Information Act
Sub-subtopic:   Bill C-58—Time Allocation Motion
Permalink

December 5, 2017