April 7, 1954

PRIVILEGE

MR. DREW-USE OF RECORDING EQUIPMENT

PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. George A. Drew (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege. I was very interested to learn that at the meeting of the committee on external affairs held yesterday at 10.30 in the morning microphones were installed and it was explained that a tape recording machine was taking a record of the proceedings. I place this before you, Mr. Speaker, because there has been very strong objection to the introduction of the recording devices here in this house, except in those cases whereby, with consent, the speeches of persons such as President Eisenhower or Mr. Churchill or others who recently visited us were broadcast. But the procedure in this house has not been broadcast.

I would point out that the chairman of the committee explained that this was an experiment and I find these words in the record, and I quote:

This is in practice in some of the legislatures in the United States and it has been thought that it should be tried at one time or other and that we might try it at this committee.

There was an extended discussion afterwards in regard to this and the question was raised as to whether the tape recording would be used for the purpose of broadcasting, and the chairman explained that this would not be done without the consent of the committee.

It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that it is not within the authority of any committee to depart from the established practices in regard to methods of procedure, even though the committees have full right to decide their own procedure within well established rules. I think the very suggestion that something is being tried here that is being tried in the United States suggests to us that we should very carefully consider what the outcome of this could be. If the committee has the right to start taking tape recordings by microphones which could then in turn be broadcast, either in whole or in part, then the next step could easily be television. The

committee would have just as much right to introduce television as it has to introduce tape recordings.

I suggest, Mr. Speaker, there is another reason why this should be considered by Your Honour and the appropriate steps taken to decide whether any committee may do this at any time. I would point out that in the case of a tape recording there is quite a considerable difference between that and a fixed imprint. A tape recording may be erased in whole or in part and a sentence may even be broken. In fact, there was a well known case in another country where speeches were put out over the air and attributed to certain speakers although sentences were broken and parts then brought together. That could easily be done with tape recordings.

If it should be the decision of this house at any time that there is to be a recording, then it should be a fixed recording and under no circumstances whatever should hon. members of this house agree to accept the introduction of tape recordings. What strikes me as something that is of very definite concern to this house is the fact that this is still to be considered. There was an impression left by the remarks made at the committee meeting that this is an experiment which may be extended by this committee.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, that if it is right that we should not have records and broadcastings of the speeches in this house, it is right that a similar practice should be observed in committees. I think it is also certain that if there is to be any recording it should be a fixed recording on a disc and not a recording on a tape recorder which may at any time be subject to editing and subsequent change.

I believe hon. members of this house also have a right to know under whose authority this was installed and whether this equipment belongs to the C.B.C. or any other government agency.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DREW-USE OF RECORDING EQUIPMENT
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LIB

Louis-Philippe Picard

Liberal

Mr. L. Philippe Picard (Bellechasse):

Mr. Speaker, as chairman of that committee, perhaps I may be permitted to give a word of explanation. About a year or so ago this method of recording proceedings was suggested when I was chairman of the public accounts committee, and the other day we

Privilege-Mr. Drew

tried this as a sort of exploratory experiment in order to determine whether such a system would be of assistance to the reporters and to enable them, if possible, to have a more accurate record of what is being said. The recording made the other day is now being transcribed and will be compared with the transcript made by the reporters, and a report will be made to Mr. Speaker and to the committee on house procedure in due course. There is nothing definite about this and I secured the permission of the Speaker to instal the machine. According to what I see reported in the Journal, it is quite true that people looked askance at this machine and treated it as if it were a box of snakes rather than just a reporting machine. The present record will be destroyed once it has been transcribed and the transcript submitted to the committee on house procedure.

I would emphasize that this experiment was undertaken to see if it could be of assistance. Reporting committees is quite a difficult task for new reporters, and there are two or three new ones on the present staff, and we hoped it would be of assistance in making a more accurate verbatim report of what was being said.

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Subtopic:   MR. DREW-USE OF RECORDING EQUIPMENT
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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Perhaps, in order to complete the information pertaining to this particular matter, I might just add another word of explanation. It was on the initiative taken by the committee on external affairs, I understand, to try out this experiment.

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Subtopic:   MR. DREW-USE OF RECORDING EQUIPMENT
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?

An hon. Member:

Of the chairman?

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LIB
LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Perhaps by the chairman. At any rate, it was the chairman who contacted me. I consulted with the Clerk and he, in turn, informed the committee reporters' branch that no matter what was decided upon by the committee itself with regard to trying this experiment they would, as in any normal meeting of the committee, perform their duties. Even if any recording was taken, the reporters were there and took in shorthand, as usual, the minutes of the meeting; they reported the meeting in the usual fashion. In other words, the practice of the house was not departed from. The procedure was just as regular, as far as the rules of this house are concerned, as that at any meeting of any committee.

When the chairman of the committee suggested this experiment to me, I said that if it was the wish of the members of the committee to try out that machine on an experimental basis, in addition to the regular practice being followed with the minutes being taken by the reporters, I did not think I

[Mr Picard.]

should put any obstacles in their way. But the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Drew) is quite right that if, following this experiment, there were to be any change in or any departure from the regular procedure, no committee could make such change unless they had permission from the house to do so. But my understanding is that this was a subject that had been debated previously in that committee of which, of course, I am not a member.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DREW-USE OF RECORDING EQUIPMENT
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?

An hon. Member:

No.

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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Or perhaps it had been suggested by the chairman on a previous occasion. Let us put it that way, if the hon. member agrees with me on that point. I do not want to present the situation in a different way from that in which it was presented to me. But at the time, when the chairman asked me whether it would be possible to bring in equipment for the purpose of making this experiment, I left the matter entirely to him and the members of his committee to decide whether they should try it out or not. But as far as the reporters were concerned, I insisted that they should carry out their duties. It is their reports that we consider as being the reports of the committee and not whatever has been taken on the tape recorder which was tried out on that occasion.

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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

In view of the fact that this experiment took place, and that its purported purpose was to see whether it might offer any suggestions, I think the members of the house should know who handled the technical arrangements and whose machine was used on this occasion. Was it a C.B.C. machine or was it a machine belonging to the television branch of the services? I think we are entitled to know that.

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LIB

Louis-Philippe Picard

Liberal

Mr. Picard:

If I may be permitted to say so, Mr. Speaker, the machines come from the Ottawa Typewriter Company. They are called Tape-riters. A representative of the Ottawa Typewriter Company was there to operate them. It was entirely at my suggestion and it was made because oftentimes on previous committees we discovered afterwards that many members had to change or to add to the evidence they had given or felt that there were words that had been misunderstood. It was just with the idea of helping to get a better recording of what is going on in the committee that this suggestion was made. Before the committee sat, when questions were asked what it was, I suggested that if anybody objected to the machine it would be disconnected right away. Nobody suggested that. Once the records are transcribed, they will be destroyed.

Questions

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

Under the circumstances, Mr. Speaker, I think instructions should be given that the tape recording be delivered to the Clerk of the House.

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Subtopic:   MR. DREW-USE OF RECORDING EQUIPMENT
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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. Pouliot:

Inasmuch as it is not a political machine, I do not think the Leader of the Opposition should have any objection to it.

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Subtopic:   MR. DREW-USE OF RECORDING EQUIPMENT
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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

I do not suppose there would be any objection to that procedure. When permission was asked of me to bring in the machine, I thought I was quite safe in leaving it to the members of that committee to decide whether or not they would carry out the experiment. What I was interested in was that no departure would be made from our regular procedure. As I say, the reporters took the proceedings just as if no machine had been there at all. Usually incidents which occur before a committee are dealt with by that committee. I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition brought this matter before the house. I did not know exactly on what occasion the experiment had taken place. I do not suppose that the chairman of the committee or anyone who has the tape recording in his possession has any objection to having it delivered to the Clerk of the House so that we can see that it is properly destroyed.

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Subtopic:   MR. DREW-USE OF RECORDING EQUIPMENT
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LIB

Louis-Philippe Picard

Liberal

Mr. Picard:

May I be permitted to add, Mr. Speaker, that the recordings are now in the hands of the clerk of the committee and are being transcribed by government employees, namely stenographers from the committee branch. They are in the hands of government officials and not in my hands. They will be transferred to the Clerk of the House as soon as they have been transcribed.

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Subtopic:   MR. DREW-USE OF RECORDING EQUIPMENT
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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

In other words, they are now in the hands of officers of the house?

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LIB

RAILWAYS AND SHIPPING


Third report of sessional committee on railways and shipping owned, operated and controlled by the government.-Mr. Cavers.


April 7, 1954