Mr. Chair, I want to thank my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster for his comments.
Manitoba is home to one of the largest Canadian Filipino communities, including in Selkirk—Interlake. Our hearts and prayers are with them and their families and the work they are on relief efforts in the Philippines.
We are fortunate that we have such a great Canadian Armed Forces. The members of the DART are first-class citizens of our country, the best of the best. They are over there representing us well.
Panay Island has had a fairly significant Canadian footprint over time because of the work of CEDA. There have been lots of projects done in the area. It is an island that is only about the size of Cape Breton Island, with over four million people. These people have a great need.
Our military is very happy to go there and support those four million people who have been so devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.
One of the things that made it possible for us to get there quickly is our strategic lift. We purchased the C-17 Globemasters and now we can move troops and equipment very rapidly. We just proved that.
We were actually the second major country to go in there. We did not have logistical capabilities, like the United States, which is mainly focusing where the typhoon made landfall in Tacloban.
The United States has resources at Guam. It has a base in Okinawa, Japan. Both are only three or four hours away. The U.S. was able to move marines and equipment in.
We are moving equipment and personnel over 16,000 kilometres. It is an amazing accomplishment. We have a bigger presence there than the majority of countries.
Mr. Chair, I want to thank my colleague from Ottawa Centre for his intervention tonight and how important this debate is. It is to show and demonstrate that members in Parliament are standing in unison with Canadians across the country, especially with the Filipino Canadian community in so many urban centres and across Canada in rural communities like mine in Selkirk—Interlake. These are fantastic people and they are very concerned about their loved ones back home.
Again, I appreciate the words of support coming from the opposition, knowing full well that the government is going to match all private donations, dollar for dollar, until December 8. Money that has been flowing into all sorts of charities at this point in time and any donation that has been made by Canadians to those charitable organizations, those NGOs are the best route to deliver aid on the ground and work through other agencies, which are specialists in humanitarian crises.
I would ask my colleague to talk about that and encourage Canadians to continue to give and donate. Those matching funds can be used to double those donations and essentially make a difference because the Philippines has been so badly devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.
Mr. Speaker, I have had an opportunity to go to my friend's riding of Selkirk—Interlake. It is a great spot. We visited just after the major floods that I believe happened about four years ago. I know a lot of the talk around that time concerned global warming and was that what was to be expected going forward.
The concern I have, which is not dissimilar to the last question, has to do with science and the science sector. We see this outcry from scientists over the last number of months, and really the last couple of years, stating that science has been devastated. We have heard that from Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I am sure the government is taking money from all other sources and, like a shell game, moving it around.
What is my colleague's take on the outcry from the science community? Are we to pay no attention to what it has been saying? It is adamant that the government has turned its back on science. I would like his comments on that.
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise today to speak on behalf of my constituents from Selkirk—Interlake about how important the building Canada fund is to our municipalities and about the importance of our economic action plan to our farmers, commercial fishers, and small businesses throughout the riding.
This fall, as I do every year, I went on a tour. My riding is bigger than Nova Scotia. It is 56,000 square kilometres. I went out in September and drove over 6,000 kilometres. I visited more than 55 communities, multiple times, to see how things were going, to talk to people on the street, to visit people in the coffee shops, to meet with my municipal leaders, and to meet with businesses and tour their operations. It was to just get a good feel for how things were going.
I can tell the House that the one thing my municipal leaders were telling me was that they are excited about the new building Canada plan. They really believe that the $53 billion commitment we would make over the next ten years would greatly benefit them.
The one thing they are extremely excited about is the community improvement fund. There would be over $32 billion available to them to invest in their public community places, roads, and recreational facilities.
They really appreciate that first of all, we have made the gas tax fund a permanent fixture in ongoing transfers from the federal government to municipalities. They appreciate that we doubled the gas tax fund a couple of years ago. Now we would untie it so that they could actually use it for whatever they see as being important to them rather than just for green infrastructure or things that help with mass transit. These do not really work well in rural municipalities, because we do not have buses in most of my communities. We do not have a rapid transit system in any of them. Actually having the gas tax fund untied so that they could use it on roads and public places, such as halls and recreational facilities, skating rinks, or the curling rink is important to small, rural communities. It is important, because that is where people gather, meet, have fun, get healthy, and see their kids or grandkids participate in sports. It is important to have those community focal points invested in through the gas tax fund, and now through the building Canada fund, because of the changes we would make to the community improvement fund.
There would be over $14 billion in the building Canada fund to be used on provincial, national, and regionally significant investments. We know that this could be anything from investing in port facilities to help with our trade to ensuring that we have expanded highways and artery systems to move our truck transports and commuter transports to make our roads safer. I know that it is also extremely important to my communities.
We would also see the ongoing investment of $6 billion for the continued existence of the infrastructure programs we already have in place with the provinces, municipalities, and territories for 2014-15 and beyond.
These are big, significant improvements for those municipalities or major projects that want to look at private-public partnerships. The P3 fund is also there for them. We have renewed that at $1.25 billion.
Of course, the riding of Selkirk—Interlake is a large, agricultural riding with grain farming, ranching, and a lot of mixed operations. The measures in the budget really do speak to their ability to continue to grow and prosper and take advantage of marketplaces, as we just saw with the new comprehensive economic and trade agreement with Europe. The European Union is a huge market that is now available to my farmers, ranchers, grain farmers, and beef and cattle operations. They are all really excited about that trade deal.
One thing in this budget they are excited about and that really would help the next generation enter farming is the doubling of the restricted farm loss income tax rule. For more than 20 years, it has been $8,750 per person who works part-time. They can claim that amount of their off-farm income as a restricted farm loss. That actually works to their benefit. We would double that to $17,500. That would really help with those new entrants who still have off-farm jobs. In reality, if we look at it, about two-thirds of farmers today have off-farm employment.
This is a really good measure to help out younger farmers and to help those who rely on off-farm income take some of those earnings and use them against any of their farm losses. It is a really positive measure that people in my riding are talking about.
The other thing they appreciate is our changes to the lifetime capital gains exemption. Not only have we increased it to $800,000 per person, but we have indexed it to inflation so it will not erode. We will not have to continually increase the lifetime capital gains exemption for those farmers who are exiting the industry or making sales. This exemption will be in place against any of their lifetime capital gains.
This is important not just to our farmers, but to our commercial fishers and our small businesses. It helps with the intergenerational transfer of those operations, whether it is the ma and pa store, or a family farm operation, or a family commercial fishing operation. It helps with those transfers to the next generation.
We often talk about those farmers who live pretty much cash poor and asset rich. They are sitting on a lot of land or sitting on a lot of capital assets, but they often do not realize their true economic net worth, because they have had some difficult times in the marketplace. If they have had good times, like they are having this year in both the cattle industry and the grain industry, they invest back into the farm, buy more land, more equipment and machinery and pay off debt. The only time they really get to cash out is when they transfer their farm operations to the next generation. This really comes into play for a farm operation, whether it is a family operation, a partnership with other families, or a corporation. Even corporate farms in my area are still family farms. They have just been incorporated because that is the best way to go forward from the standpoint of a tax basis.
The other big announcement is our continued support for Genome Canada of $165 million. The biggest benefits that have been generated in both western and eastern Canadian agriculture have been through animal and plant breeding. Those increases in productivity, the ability to reduce the need for more input into our farm operations because of better plant and animal breeding really does pay off dividends and puts money into the pockets of our farmers. The cattle industry, the hog industry and the grain and oilseeds business are really excited about that.
A lot of people are often shocked to learn that Selkirk—Interlake in Manitoba, out in the Prairies, has a huge commercial fishery. It too will benefit from things that will happen through the budget. I talked already about increasing the lifetime capital gains tax exemption and indexing it to inflation, but our fisheries overall, from both the commercial and recreational standpoint, is so important, like at Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba.
This budget contains a $10 million conservation fund to help enhance the fishery and to help protect wildlife habitat to ensure that those highly-valued fish species that people want to catch, whether it is walleye, northern pike or even mullet, are protected and that it will not just protect the habitat, but enhance tourism and opportunity and work toward the overall fishery from both a commercial and recreational standpoint. The focus really is on recreational fishing and all the tourism dollars and the enjoyment that people get out of fishing.
The streets in my community are completely loaded with small business enterprises. This budget really speaks to them. The main reason we have seen one million net new jobs is because of our small businesses first and foremost. They represent 98% of all businesses in Canada. Over two-thirds of Canadians work in small and medium-sized enterprises, and they make up a large portion of my riding from a business standpoint. The lifetime capital gains exemption works for them.
The budget also contains a hiring credit for small business of $225 million for one year. This will help them increase employment and job opportunities in our riding. We are extending and expanding the hiring credit for small businesses. The costs associated with creating those jobs will be offset as a result of this budget.
We are excited about what is happening and how it is impacting my riding of Selkirk—Interlake.
Mr. Speaker, I seek some clarity from you. First, I would like to commend my two friends from Selkirk—Interlake and Saint Boniface. It was noted that they did not participate in the vote. I think that was the correct thing to do, and we offer them our commendation for having chosen to take that step.
My question to you is this. We were engaged in the process of a prima facie case of privilege that the House was then seized with. It was only, by my estimation, 30 minutes into the conversation when the government sought to adjourn a debate on a question of privilege. In typical House procedure, that is something that properly dominates the business of the House and supersedes all other business, particularly a question as important as this one of members rightfully sitting in the House. Therefore, I seek some clarification from you in the use of adjournment to shut down a debate that had just begun on so important an issue to Canadians and all of us here in the House of Commons.
Mr. Speaker, may I add my comments to those of my colleagues that your ruling was considered, your ruling was certainly thought-provoking because it highlighted to all members in this place the difficulty the Chair had been placed with this issue. The process, frankly, that you have followed in making many rulings on questions of privilege in the past does not seem to be clear in this instance. You yourself noted the lack of clarity.
However, I also think the conundrum that you find yourself in, Mr. Speaker, the difficulty that you have in an almost untenable situation, is your ability to determine the rights of all members vis-à-vis the rights of the individual, particularly when we look at the sub judice convention, which, as all members know, prevents members from speaking in the House of an issue currently before the courts that might be prejudicial to the individual who is before the courts.
In other words, that very wise convention was put in place to prevent members in this place making either prejudicial or inflammatory comments that might then become part of the public purview and influence the court's decision on a matter currently before the court.
Mr. Speaker, how do you balance them, the rights of the individual as to the collective? Your suggestion to refer this to the procedure and House affairs committee is a very wise decision because there has to be consideration given to the process and the procedures of the House when dealing with a matter that we currently have before us, a procedure that has not been identified or articulated ever before, to my knowledge at least, in the history of this place, this institution.
Your observations and your words, Mr. Speaker, give us, I believe, as parliamentarians, much to consider. Also, it certainly would give the member for Selkirk—Interlake time to consider his options under Standing Order 20.
Therefore, while members opposite are arguing for a long debate this afternoon, it appears to me that there needs to be more time to reflect and to consider both your words, Mr. Speaker, and the implications of your decision.
In that light, and because of that, I move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
Mr. Speaker, the question and comment of my colleague from Toronto—Danforth reminded me of his rather loquacious intervention that he made with respect to this question of privilege. He raises the nub of the issue from our perspective.
My colleague from Scarborough, in a conversation, said that perhaps we were looking for some sort of interim relief, some sort of temporary relief pending either, ultimately, the disposition by the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba or a decision of the House with respect to whether the member for Selkirk—Interlake should continue to sit and vote. From our perspective, the prudent thing would be for the member not to sit and vote, because as I said, the legislation is prescriptive. It does not say “may” or ”might”, it says “shall”. We think the legislation is very clear.
In the absence of either a court decision that the House chooses to enforce or a decision of the House itself, the member for Selkirk—Interlake should not be sitting or voting during proceedings of the House.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking you for having studied this important issue. It is clear that you looked closely at any precedents as well as House procedure, and we thank you for your careful consideration of this question.
I think all members will acknowledge, and the Speaker's ruling makes it clear, that this is not an easy situation, and it is one for which not many precedents exist. I think a great deal of merit has been given to the question of privilege raised by my colleague, the member for Avalon.
Mr. Speaker, you have obviously given a great deal of attention to the interventions of other colleagues on this question of privilege, and for that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you profoundly.
The issue has been and continues to be, from our perspective, the issue of members of Parliament having earned the right to take their seats in this House. Those of us who are privileged enough to represent our constituents in this great democratic assembly also have the obligation to arrive in this place having followed every single section, every principle and every precedent of the Canada Elections Act and the various court cases over the years that have interpreted the application of Canada's electoral legislation.
This is a relatively simple concept. Every voter has the right to vote in a fair election. The person who wins the most votes wins the privilege of representing their constituents in the House of Commons.
However, the election itself still needs to be fair, fair to all of the parties and all of the candidates who are running. When a candidate chooses to flout election rules, the vote is, by definition, unfair. Democracy pays the price.
As I stated earlier, I think, and I agree with the Speaker, that the procedure and House affairs committee of the House of Commons is the place for members to properly understand the application of the Canada Elections Act and also the rights and privileges of members of this House to sit, debate and vote with colleagues who arrive here having followed all of the prescriptions of the Canada Elections Act.
I think it would be instructive, as we begin a debate on this very important matter, for my colleagues to be reminded of subsection 463(2) of the Canada Elections Act, which my colleague from Avalon raised, which says:
An elected candidate who fails to provide a document as required by section 451 or 455 or fails to make a correction as requested under subsection 457(2) or authorized by 458(1) shall not continue to sit or vote as a member until they are provided or made, as the case may be.
I would draw attention to the words “shall not”. The legislation, from our perspective, is unambiguous. It is prescriptive. It does not say “may not”. It does not say “might not”. It says “shall not”.
That is why, Mr. Speaker, you were in the difficult position of having to reconcile that section of our election legislation with other sections that provide, for other offences or other non-compliance measures, an opportunity to seek a judicial review before the appropriate court of competent jurisdiction.
That is why we will continue to ask—and we will repeat our demands—that any member who does not comply with the law be stripped of the right to vote and sit in the House.
If, after the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has looked into the matter, the House concludes that in a specific case the member should have the right to sit in the House, the House of Commons has that power and privilege.
However, for the moment, the House has not ruled on this matter. That is why we continue to have serious concerns about the member's right to sit and vote in the House after having received an official letter from the Chief Electoral Officer regarding the section cited.
The statute passed by the House, the Canada Elections Act, is very clear. It says that members who are not compliant with the act shall not sit and vote. This is the case, as we now know, with respect to at least one member of the Conservative Party, the member for Selkirk—Interlake.
If the House, in its wisdom, chooses to stay this proceeding, having been informed by the Speaker, as you have just done, of the receipt of this communication, and it allows colleagues to continue to sit and vote, that is properly a privilege and right of the House. However, as we stand here today, we are in the absence of that opinion from the House.
Whether the law was well drafted, desirable for some Conservative MPs, pleasant, agreeable or nice, it is very clear: those members for whom an official communication has been received by the Speaker shall not sit or vote.
Once the procedure and House affairs committee, I hope at an early opportunity, is seized of this matter following your ruling, and I hope, following a vote in the House, it is our intention to continue the argument that in the absence of a decision by the House to the contrary, the legitimacy of these members is unquestioned. That comes directly from statutory authority, in the Canada Elections Act.
To conclude, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for your ruling. I believe that you have taken the time to reflect. You spoke about the difficult situation that you find yourself in because this is setting a precedent.
I do not disagree. Obviously, I would not disagree with the Speaker. I do not disagree in terms of the procedure and House affairs committee's role in this. However, I would ask colleagues, and we will ask our colleagues on the committee, to reflect on this question: In the absence of a decision by the House, as you correctly noted in your ruling, Mr. Speaker, how legitimate is it for members to sit and vote in the House when they have been subject to a communication under that section of the Elections Act, which is prescriptive?
If the House wants to change the elections legislation and that section of the Canada Elections Act, there is a procedure to amend that statute. We are obviously waiting. The government has talked often about making amendments to the Canada Elections Act. It does not seem to be in a big hurry to do so, although it has perhaps briefed the Conservative caucus, in its horror, on allegedly toughening up the elections legislation. It has since run for cover.
If Parliament wants to amend the act, that is a separate issue from the application of the current legislation to members who were elected in the general election of 2011. That should properly be the subject of the discussion in the House this afternoon.
I hope that my colleagues on the procedure and House affairs committee will act forthwith to rectify what is an untenable situation for the members themselves, who are subject to this communication, for the Chair himself, who received this communication, and for members of the House, who we believe have not had their privileges respected because of the continued presence of members who have not complied with the Canada Elections Act.
Mr. Speaker, election overspending is a serious offence, but Conservative MPs seem to think election laws are optional.
Elections Canada has now said that there are three Conservative MPs who are not entitled to sit or vote in this place: the member for Selkirk—Interlake, the member for Saint Boniface and now the member for Essex. Last week the member for Peterborough tried to abuse his parliamentary privilege and interfere with an Elections Canada investigation in his riding.
The law is clear. Why does the Conservative government refuse to enforce the Canada Elections Act?
The electoral district of Selkirk--Interlake (Manitoba) has a population of 90,807 with 66,937 registered voters and 218 polling divisions.
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