Inside Politics

Government turns tables on NDP with pointed parliamentary queries

Not satisfied, it seems, with waging passive aggressive war on the opposition by pointing out the high cost of keeping up with the seemingly endless stream of pesky written questions, the government now hopes to turn that particular parliamentary process to its advantage by using the very same tactic to put a price on New Democrat-backed private members' initiatives.

Earlier this week, a trio of Conservative backbenchers filed the first in what will almost be a continuing series of queries on the potential cost of various and sundry proposals put forward by NDP MPs -- everything from Peter Stoffer's bid to eliminate the GST from reading material to Alex Atamanenko's pitch to restore the now defunct Federal Apiarist position to coordinate bee-keeping research.

Under the Standing Orders, the government has 45 days to respond with its estimates, which will then be tabled in the House and, presumably, publicized by the inquisitive MP, presuming a sufficient number of eyebrow-raising zeros are involved.

(How much could it cost the treasury to allow veterans to deduct Legion dues, really? We'll soon find out, apparently!)

In the meantime, there's nothing preventing opposition members from adopting the very same approach by demanding full hypothetical accounting for Conservative private members' bills, thus ensuring that the quiet battle underway on the back pages of the Order Paper rages on.

For the record, here's the full list of questions, which were submitted en masse on March 20:

Q-1226 -- March 20, 2013 -- Mr. Tweed (Brandon--Souris) -- With regard to the Goods and Services Tax, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to increase the rebate for school authorities to 100% from 68%?

Q-1227 -- March 20, 2013 -- Mr. Tweed (Brandon--Souris) -- With regard to Registered Retirement Savings Plans, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to include within the deduction limit any one-time contribution to an RRSP of an amount that is paid to a taxpayer as a lump sum by his or her employer in respect of the taxpayer's loss of an office or employment, for reasons other than by dismissal for just cause?

Q-1228 -- March 20, 2013 -- Mr. Tweed (Brandon--Souris) -- With regard to the Goods and Services Tax, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to add to schedule VI of the Income Tax Act, reading materials, both printed and electronic, including in audio and video form?

Q-1229 -- March 20, 2013 -- Mr. Opitz (Etobicoke Centre) -- With regard to passport services, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to provide free passport services to veterans as defined in subsection 2(1) of the War Veterans Allowance Act, their spouses or common-law partners and to members of the RCMP and their spouses or common-law partners?

Q-1230 -- March 20, 2013 -- Mr. Opitz (Etobicoke Centre) -- With respect to survivors of Members of the Canadian Forces, the public service, judges, RCMP or Members of Parliament, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to allow a survivor who married or began cohabitating in a conjugal relationship after the deceased beneficiary attained the age of sixty years or became entitled to an annuity or annual allowance, to receive an annual allowance or annuity after the death of a beneficiary?

Q-1231 -- March 20, 2013 -- Mr. Opitz (Etobicoke Centre) -- With regard to the development of affordable housing for Canadians, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to exempt affordable rental and non-profit housing from the Goods and Services Tax?

Q-1232 -- March 20, 2013 -- Mr. Opitz (Etobicoke Centre) -- With regard to the Income Tax Act, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to deem an amount paid on an account of an individual's tax payable equal to the amount that the individual paid during the year as membership dues to a branch of the Royal Canadian Legion or Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada Association or to a prescribed veterans' organization?

Q-1233 -- March 20, 2013 -- Mr. Hoback (Prince Albert) -- With regard to the passport services set out in the schedule of the Passport Services Fees Regulations, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to charge those 65 years of age or more, 50% of the fee set out in column 2 for the services set out in column 1?

Q-1234 -- March 20, 2013 -- Mr. Hoback (Prince Albert) -- With regard to services provided for new Canadians, what would it cost the government, on annual basis, to reopen 19 local Citizen and Immigration Offices throughout Canada and reverse any reduction in staff at the central call centre?

Q-1235 -- March 20, 2013 -- Mr. Hoback (Prince Albert) -- With regard to protected persons, refugee claimants and other individuals not eligible for provincial health insurance, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to reverse any changes to the Interim Federal Health Program that took effect on June 30, 2012?

Q-1236 -- March 20, 2013 -- Mr. Hoback (Prince Albert) -- With regard to the Goods and Services Tax, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to add to schedule VI of the Excise Tax Act, regarding zero-rated supplies, funeral services, including coffin, headstone, or any other property relating to the funeral, burial or cremation of an individual?

Q-1237 -- March 20, 2013 -- Mrs. Block (Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar) -- With regard to the Good and Services Tax, what would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to add to Part II of schedule VI of the Excise Tax Act, regarding zero-rated supplies, a supply of batteries purchased at a pharmacy or retail store that includes a pharmacy and is installed by a person employed by the pharmacy or is purchased from and installed by a medical practitioner, for a medical and assistive device described in Part II of schedule VI of the Excise Tax Act?

Q-1244 -- March 20, 2013 -- Mr. Lizon (Mississauga East--Cooksville) -- With regard to the protection of the environment and public health, what would it cost the government to upgrade the standards of septic systems of homes not currently connected to municipal sanitation systems to those which are currently connected?

Q-1245 -- March 20, 2013 -- Mr. Lizon (Mississauga East--Cooksville) -- What would it cost the government, on an annual basis, to re-establish a Federal Apiarist position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to coordinate research in bee-keeping?

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