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View Peter Milliken Profile
Lib. (ON)
Order, please. I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on March 10, 2011, by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development concerning an alleged sit-in at his Parliament Hill office.
I wish to thank the minister for having raised this matter and the members for Churchill and Yukon for their comments.
In raising this question of privilege, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development explained that on Wednesday, March 9, 2011, the member for Churchill arrived at his office, uninvited and accompanied by a group of the Sayisi Dene and media representatives, pressing his staff for an immediate meeting despite his absence. In his view, this constituted a protest and a sit-in. Characterizing the incident as a serious breach of trust and a serious matter from a security standpoint, the minister expressed concern that his employees were made uncomfortable and prevented from doing their work.
The member for Churchill countered that the visit was simply an attempt to obtain a meeting with the minister and not an orchestrated event with the intention of obstructing the work of the minister's office.
As all hon. members will recall, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 108 states:
Speakers have consistently upheld the right of the House to the services of its members free from intimidation, obstruction and interference.
It also notes, on the same page, that:
Over the years, members have regularly brought to the attention of the House instances which they believed were attempts to obstruct, impede, interfere, intimidate or molest them, their staffs or individuals who had some business with them or the House.
In the case before us, the Chair is being asked to determine whether the unauthorized presence in the minister's office of the member for Churchill, a delegation of the Sayisi Dene and the media was tantamount to intimidation or obstruction of the minister's staff. To assist me, I reviewed the report on this matter prepared by House of Commons security, who attended the scene after being called upon for assistance by the minister's staff. It is clear to the Chair from the submissions, as well as the security report, that those occupying the minister's office were uninvited and did not have proper authorization to be there. As well, the Chair believes that the minister's staff was indeed uncomfortable, though they appeared to have handled the situation with aplomb and good grace.
I am troubled that the member for Churchill, without prior warning, took it upon herself to lead a group to another member's office. That media representatives were part of this group makes the situation that much more unfortunate. No matter how well intentioned the member for Churchill was, or how amicable the outcome of this particular incident, it was an unauthorized presence in a minister's office that left ministerial staff uncomfortable enough to warrant the assistance of security. It is a credit to the minister's staff, and it must be said to the unexpected visitors as well, that this incident did not escalate further and that the tone of the exchange was respectful.
It is well understood that members need access to ministers to fulfill their parliamentary functions but it is equally true that there are various well-known, entirely acceptable avenues available to secure such access. Members are expected to avail themselves of these mutually agreed upon opportunities rather than resorting to other unorthodox means that may place colleagues in untenable situations. Because of the actions of the member for Churchill, for almost an hour, her guests occupied the office of the minister without a previously arranged appointment. This is a clear abuse of the usual practices that all members are expected to follow. The Chair is disappointed that the member for Churchill showed a complete disregard for the common courtesies that are to be observed between members. In this case, the situation was well managed, but we may not always be so lucky.
It does not require a great deal of imagination to foresee the kind of circus atmosphere that could result if all members took it upon themselves to escort constituents, delegations or other citizens—however worthy their cause or objective—to whichever other member's office they chose.
That being said, in this particular case, in large part due to the calm, measured approach taken by the minister's staff in handling the situation, there is little evidence to suggest that the staff of the minister were obstructed in the fulfillment of their duties. The minister himself was careful not to overstate the impact of the incident on his staff. In view of the very high threshold required in adjudicating such situations, in this circumstance the Chair cannot find that a prima facie question of privilege has arisen in this matter.
The Chair expects that all members will heed the lesson of this incident in an effort to maintain the integrity of the precinct as a work environment where all members feel secure and respected.
I ask for the active collaboration of all members in this and I thank all members for their attention.
View Hedy Fry Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Hedy Fry Profile
2011-03-25 12:43 [p.9269]
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 14th report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women concerning violence against aboriginal women.
This is an interim report.
Mr. Speaker, if I may be permitted to congratulate you on your sterling record and to say what a joy it was to know you as a colleague and a friend.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2011-03-24 11:38 [p.9177]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's speech. I want to take this opportunity to mention some things that I believe are missing from the budget, and the member should feel free to comment on any of them.
We want the northern health accord, which is very important to the north, extended for five years. Last year it was only extended for two years. There is nothing new this year.
One of our biggest needs is affordable housing and shelter. There is virtually nothing substantial for seniors or students, as the member mentioned. There is embarrassingly little in the budget for aboriginal people. The MAP program has not been restored, the money that was cut from museums. The 15 arts programs that were cut have not been restored, including travelling museum exhibits, which are very important for the north.
The dental therapy school has been closed, which is very important for the north. The Canadian Environmental Network is not funded again. It does great work across Canada. The friendship centres have not received a cost of living increase. Also missing is the great CAIRS project in the Yukon for healing. There is nothing for and search and rescue for the north, which I have been pushing for five years. Apparently the Senate has just confirmed its support for me on that. There are tourism cuts to the Canadian Tourism Commission. Of course there is nothing for child care.
View Jack Layton Profile
NDP (ON)
View Jack Layton Profile
2011-03-24 11:39 [p.9178]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the Yukon for his comments about what is missing from the budget.
There is no question that when it comes to housing and shelter, for example, that we are a country that should be able to provide affordable housing and a roof over everybody's head, typified by the legislation brought forward by my colleague, the member for Vancouver East, calling for a national housing program. We saw no steps forward in the budget to deal with the housing crisis.
When it comes to the situation facing aboriginal people, when we look at how young children in aboriginal communities, by the thousands, cannot even get access to drinking water or water to clean themselves without burning themselves with the chlorine, if they are lucky enough to even have a plant that will generate clean water with chlorine, it is outrageous. What do we see but a scandalous effort to try to scam these communities and abscond with the funds that rightly belong to them to give them that basic necessity of life? The AFN was right to condemn the budget as inadequate.
The comments on child care, the environment and many other issues are all very valid points.
View John McCallum Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John McCallum Profile
2011-03-24 12:29 [p.9184]
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.
I will give three reasons why the Conservative budget so richly deserves to die and why Canadians deserve much better.
The first reason is the budget makes bad choices. Because they go so far as to commit $6 billion to corporate tax cuts, the Conservatives are left with a pittance to support ordinary Canadian families that are struggling to make ends meet. Canadians deserve better than that.
Second, there is no fiscal accountability, as I will explain in a minute. When the Liberals made cuts, we itemized every line item in the budget that would be cut. The Conservatives give no information and therefore have no credibility on the savings that they propose in the budget. Once again, Canadians deserve better than that in terms of fiscal accountability.
Third, the government seeks to balance the books on the backs of the most vulnerable. Canadians are a caring, generous people. They will not go for this. Again, Canadians deserve better.
On my first point, that the Conservatives are left with a pittance to support ordinary struggling families, given their commitment on corporate tax cuts, let me give two examples.
The first of these is to compare the Liberal home care program and the Conservative home care program. There are three reasons why theirs is just a pale shadow, a totally inadequate shadow of our plan.
First, the maximum amount of money that the caregiver will receive is $300 under the Conservative program. It is $1,350 under our program.
However, it is worse than that. Our credit, the $1,350, is refundable, which means if people are so poor that they do not pay taxes, they get the money. If they are so poor that they do not pay taxes, they get zero under the Conservative program, even though they have offered only a paltry $300.
Finally, our program, in addition to those grants, offers an additional six months employment insurance relief for caregivers.
The Conservative plan is pathetic because the government is saddled with this $6 billion in corporate tax cuts so there is no more money in the bank to provide meaningful help to families.
The second example is with respect to post-secondary education. The Conservatives are providing $34 million in additional help for students. That might sound like a significant amount of money, but it is about $1 per Canadian. It is about $34 per student. Nowadays students desperately need government support. The unemployment rate for young people is way up, so it is harder for them to get jobs. Often their families are hard-pressed and less able to support the education of their children.
The Conservatives are offering a meaningless, paltry $34 per student. Our Liberal program has not yet been announced, but our leader is passionate about support for learning and for post-secondary education. Unlike the Conservatives' program, our program will be meaningful, more in the order of magnitude, greater than their program. That is because we think very strongly that post-secondary education is crucial, not only to provide equality of opportunity but also to promote a strong economy and higher productivity through well-educated Canadians.
Through those two examples, and I could go on but I have limited time, I am making the point that the Conservatives put up window dressing as if they are supporting Canadian families, but the amounts of money are so small that they are virtually meaningless. Canadians will see, once the election campaign gets under way, that Liberal support for Canadian families is real. Conservative support is paltry to non-existent.
That is one of the reasons why I say Canadians deserve better.
This government makes bad choices. This government does not have any money to seriously support families because it insists on giving tax breaks to large corporations. Canadians deserve better. Canadians will see, over the course of the election campaign, that they will receive more from the Liberal platform.
The second point is fiscal accountability.
When we were in government in 2005, we saved $11 billion over five years. In the 2005 budget, line by line, and that information still exists, it said which programs would be cut, by which amounts, over how many years.
The Conservatives similarly claim that they will find savings of $11 billion over seven years, but they tell us nothing about where that money will come from.
I can give one example. On page 203 of the budget, we have alleged savings of something on the order of $500 million for one department, Human Resources and Skills Development. What are the sources of the savings? Let me read it:
Improve alignment of program funding with actual needs
Find efficiencies through improved program management and use of technology
Improve use of internal resources and administrative efficiency
Align program activities with core mandate
Refocus programming to benefit all Canadians
That is all the Conservatives tell us. It is gobbledygook. Those are weasel words. They mean nothing at all. There is no accountability, no transparency and therefore no credibility in any of these projected Conservative savings.
I come now to my final point, and that is the question of balancing the books on the backs of the most vulnerable.
As I said at the outset, Canadians are generous. Yes, they want to balance the budget, but they do not want to do so at the expense of the most vulnerable members of our society.
My point is the Conservatives are balancing the books on the backs of the most vulnerable, both internationally and at home.
Internationally, last year, fully one-quarter of the savings were through freezing foreign aid, through freezing the CIDA budget. Therefore, one-quarter of the money to reduce the deficit was on the backs of the poorest people in the world. That was in sharp contrast to Britain, which favoured foreign aid. Even though everywhere else was getting draconian cuts, foreign aid was spared the cuts because of British commitment to poor countries. Canada is the opposite. Last year, the Conservative government got a quarter of the savings on the backs of the poorest in the world, and this from a starting point where Canada's foreign aid relative to GDP is embarrassingly low.
Not only that, but the finance ministe committed to me personally that he would have something for microcredit in his budget. We had a unanimous resolution to that effect. He agreed that microcredit was important for the poorest on the plant. There was zero in the budget for it.
It is not as if this balancing the books at the expense of the poor is only international. It is also here at home.
Consider the non-refundable tax credits for firefighters. A poor firefighter gets nothing. A well-off firefighter gets something, not much but something. A poor caregiver with income not high enough to pay taxes gets nothing to look after an aging parent. A richer caregiver, even though it is not very much, at least gets something.
Again, it is at the expense of the poorest and the most vulnerable. The fact is if a person is a poor firefighter or a poor caregiver, he or she gets nothing.
Finally, let us consider housing. Who is more vulnerable than aboriginals living on reserves in poor housing and other Canadians in poor housing?
The Conservatives singled out housing to receive no extension, whereas every other infrastructure program did. Hundreds of millions of dollars have disappeared from the budget in support for affordable housing on reserve and repairs to social housing. There are no Canadians more vulnerable than those people.
As examples, poor firefighters, poor caregivers, poor people living in substandard housing are bearing the brunt of the Conservatives' efforts to balance the books.
Canadians are a generous people. We want to balance the books, but not on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our country and abroad.
View Anita Neville Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Anita Neville Profile
2011-03-24 14:33 [p.9203]
Mr. Speaker, Bill S-11 is the Conservative plan that would grant power to the Indian Affairs minister to impose drinking water systems on first nations bands. Bruce Carson was responsible in the PMO for aboriginal policy and, as legislative director, he helped develop Bill S-11.
Could the government confirm that the bill was key to his plan to skim off his $80 million share of the $1.6 billion pot of money that was destined to help desperate aboriginal communities?
View John Baird Profile
CPC (ON)
View John Baird Profile
2011-03-24 14:34 [p.9203]
Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely outrageous.
The Liberals are showing absolute contempt for Canadian voters. Normally in Canada the winner of the election gets to form a government, but not with the Liberals. They have such contempt for the Canadian electorate that they want to form a risky, unstable government with the Bloc Québécois and the NDP. They do not have the courage to be open and transparent with Canadians.
Rather than spend $400 million on an unnecessary election, let us focus and put that money to work for Canadian seniors who desperately need our help through the guaranteed income supplement.
View Anita Neville Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Anita Neville Profile
2011-03-24 14:35 [p.9204]
Mr. Speaker, this is about the Prime Minister's judgment.
How does a man like that get put in charge of drafting government legislation? How does a disbarred lawyer, who served time in jail and was being chased by Revenue Canada, get the highest security clearance? Why did all of those ministers or their officials meet with him when they knew Bruce Carson was banned from lobbying?
We now learn that his son, Craig Carson, was a senior ministerial adviser to Jim Prentice and even to the current House leader. Did he have any role in setting up these—
View John Baird Profile
CPC (ON)
View John Baird Profile
2011-03-24 14:35 [p.9204]
Mr. Speaker, it is more slander, more smear from the Liberal Party.
The Liberals are bankrupt of ideas. They have nothing to show Canadians on jobs, the economy and economic growth.
We have a low tax plan to help create jobs. We have a budget before the House that will support the most vulnerable seniors by increasing the guaranteed income supplement.
What we have is a Liberal Party that has contempt for the Canadian electorate. It wants to force an unnecessary election rather than do the right thing and help Canadian seniors.
View Raymonde Folco Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Raymonde Folco Profile
2011-03-24 14:36 [p.9204]
Mr. Speaker, Bill S-11 would give the Conservatives the power to impose their solution for drinking water on the first nations. Telling the first nations that they are not competent to make that decision for themselves is insulting enough. Through this scheme, Mr. Carson's fiancée allegedly pocketed $80 million in commissions for selling water filtration systems.
Are they not ashamed of profiting from the misfortune of the first nations?
View John Baird Profile
CPC (ON)
View John Baird Profile
2011-03-24 14:37 [p.9204]
Mr. Speaker, not one single dollar went to that company, not a single dollar. If the Liberal Party has any evidence of that, I would encourage it to table it before the House.
The reality is the Liberal Party is making it up as it goes along. It will not be honest and transparent with Canadians about its plan for a coalition government with the Bloc Québécois and the NDP. This would be unstable and would cause great damage to our country.
There is a great Canadian tradition that the person with the most votes wins. That should apply to Canadian democracy. The Liberals should stop their contempt for the Canadian electorate.
View Raymonde Folco Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Raymonde Folco Profile
2011-03-24 14:37 [p.9204]
Mr. Speaker, we do not have to make it up. The facts are awful as they stand.
Mr. Speaker, Bruce Carson did it all: chief of staff for the Prime Minister, special advisor to environment minister Jim Prentice and special advisor to the last two ministers of natural resources, including the Prime Minister's Quebec lieutenant. Mr. Carson even drafted a bill that would have given him access to part of the $1.6 billion allocated to the first nations.
And the Prime Minister had no idea what was going on? How can Canadians believe that?
View John Baird Profile
CPC (ON)
View John Baird Profile
2011-03-24 14:38 [p.9204]
Mr. Speaker, a former British prime minister said the following:
I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.
That is the Liberal Party. When it comes to jobs, the economy and economic growth, the Liberals have absolutely no solutions to offer the Canadian people. Our government is focused on jobs. Our government is focused on helping the most vulnerable seniors in Canada.
View Gerard Kennedy Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Gerard Kennedy Profile
2011-03-24 14:43 [p.9205]
Mr. Speaker, Bruce Carson was given privileged access by the Prime Minister to inside information about Canada's energy and environment policy. He was not alone.
The Conservatives gave $15 million for a new program while Mr. Carson was advising the Prime Minister on energy and environment. He was then made the executive director of the same program, but it now turns out that the deputy director, Mr. Adamson, is a former Conservative policy adviser to the Minister of Industry, who had funded the program in the first place. To top it off, the program's current chair, Mr. Heidecker, is the former vice-president of the Alberta Conservative Party.
The question is no longer whether the Prime Minister is giving—
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