November 29, 1963

HOUSE OF COMMONS DEBATES

OFFICIAL REPORT


queen's printer and controller of stationery


OTTAWA, 1963 HOUSE OF COMMONS


Friday, November 29, 1963


PRIVILEGE

MR. KNOWLES AVAILABILITY OF REPORT RESPECTING T.C.A. WINNIPEG MAINTENANCE BASE

NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege, and when I have stated my question of privilege I shall move an appropriate motion based thereon.

As all hon. members are aware, the government has steadfastly refused to make public the report of R. Dixon-Speas and Associates on the operations of Trans-Canada Air Lines. The government has refused to let parliament see that report. It has refused to let the government of Manitoba see it, and of course we recall the incident in connection with which the hon. member for Winnipeg South (Mrs. Konantz) saw it in the distance but did not see the report itself. In other words, it is quite clear in the minds of hon. members that this is a document which the government feels is privileged and must not be seen by us, and I would take it, therefore, must not be used in public.

I hold in my hand a copy of the Winnipeg Free Press of Wednesday, November 27, 1963, on page 1 of which I find a story entitled "T.C.A. won't boost fares, house told", a story based on questions and answers in the house on Tuesday. The fourth paragraph in this story, which is written by the Winnipeg Free Press staff person here in Ottawa, reads as follows:

Gordon McGregor, president of T.C.A., was quoted in the Winnipeg Free Press yesterday as having announced that continuing the maintenance base in operation at Winnipeg until 1973 will cost T.C.A. an additional $19,800,000. This figure was contained in the Dixon-Speas report on the economic operations of T.C.A.

When I first saw that story I wondered how the staff person-and I won't be coy about it, the staff person here in Ottawa for the Winnipeg Free Press is my good friend Mr. Victor Mackie-had seen the report and knew that figure was in it. Then I find another story, also in the same issue of the Free Press on page 27, entitled "Anxious T.C.A. chief hits base decision". This is under the by-line of Victor Mackie and the first part of it reads:

Continuing the overhaul and maintenance base in operation at Winnipeg until 1973 will cost T.C.A.

an additional $19,800,000, according to the president of the air line, Gordon R. McGregor.

That figure was set out in the Dixon-Speas report, a spokesman for the air line said. He said that was what Mr. McGregor based his estimate on, the findings in the report.

The economic study had found that if T.C.A. did not phase out of its operation of the overhaul and maintenance base at Winnipeg by 1966, as was originally planned, and kept the base operating for another eight years, it would cost the air line $19,800,000.

It is a much longer story. There is a good deal in it that is interesting with respect to the conflict between Mr. McGregor's opinion and the opinion of the Prime Minister, but I do not wish to import into this question any extraneous material. My question of privilege as a member of parliament is that a document which we have been denied, a document- access to which has been denied the government of Manitoba-is being seen by other people, and some of its contents are being used by other people for arguments in connection with this issue that confronts the country and us in Manitoba in particular.

My view is that if we are to be denied the opportunity of seeing this report, no one should be able to make any public use of it. If Mr. Mackie is seeing this report-I do not think he is; I think he has just learned that somebody else has seen it-and if the president or spokesmen of the air lines are permitted to learn what is in it, I think the government of Manitoba, which is very much concerned with this matter, should see it and we in this house should have the right to see it. As I see it, the privileges of parliament are being violated by this incident as reported by the Winnipeg Free Press in the article I have just quoted. Therefore, on the basis of the question of privilege which I have raised, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Howard):

That in the opinion of this house the government should give immediate consideration to the question of making public the contents of the report of R. Dixon-Speas and Associates on the economic operations of Trans-Canada Air Lines.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. KNOWLES AVAILABILITY OF REPORT RESPECTING T.C.A. WINNIPEG MAINTENANCE BASE
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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. KNOWLES AVAILABILITY OF REPORT RESPECTING T.C.A. WINNIPEG MAINTENANCE BASE
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NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles:

You will note, Mr. Speaker, that I have limited my remarks and my motion to the one issue. I have not imported other things that could be said so far as this question is concerned; I have limited it to the one question of making the report public. I have even exercised restraint in the sense that my motion does not demand that the report be published, but simply says that the house

Question of Privilege

has the right to express to the government its view on this matter, in the light of what has happened, and asks the government to give consideration to the question of making public the contents of this report. I therefore move, seconded by my deskmate from Skeena, this motion based on my question of privilege.

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Subtopic:   MR. KNOWLES AVAILABILITY OF REPORT RESPECTING T.C.A. WINNIPEG MAINTENANCE BASE
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LIB

George James McIlraith (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Hon. G. J. Mcllraiih (Minister of Transport):

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a moment to say something on the question of privilege that has been raised. I think I should first point out that what we are dealing with here is a report procured by Trans-Canada Air Lines from a firm of consultants. The former government, for some reason of its own but I presume a perfectly proper and correct reason, did not obtain this report, order its preparation or retain the firm of R. Dixon-Speas; rather, they requested Trans-Canada Air Lines to retain a firm of consultants, and Trans-Canada Air Lines did this.

The point was raised at the time, and the decision taken by the previous government was that it would not itself have this study undertaken but that the air lines would retain the firm. The air lines did that. The report was finally prepared some time, I think, in August-I am subject to correction on the date-and it does contain information of a nature that must remain confidential because it would be wholly destructive of the-

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Subtopic:   MR. KNOWLES AVAILABILITY OF REPORT RESPECTING T.C.A. WINNIPEG MAINTENANCE BASE
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?

An hon. Member:

Liberal party.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
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LIB

George James McIlraith (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Mcllraiih:

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member shows his complete lack of appreciation of the subject matter with which we are dealing. The report does contain material that cannot be made public because it would materially damage the competitive position of T.C.A. vis-a-vis other air lines, because the information would be of a nature not normally given by operating companies to their competitors. There is great difficulty on that score.

I had hoped that when the report came it would be of such a nature that it could be readily tabled and made public. I well understand the position of the Manitoba government, who are interested in this subject, and of other persons who have a natural curiosity to see the report, but there are two points I wish to make. The first is that the report is not a government document. It is a report having to do with the internal management of a company obtained by the company itself; therefore there is that reason for not tabling it. But quite apart from that reason, which was never the main reason relied on for not tabling it, the report does contain material that cannot be made public.

I have spent a great deal of time on this subject since last August, I regret to have to

say, in an effort to meet the problem, and I finally came to the conclusion that the problem could be met by taking out of the report those parts of it which cannot be made public for obvious reasons. To that end I had the government retain R. Dixon-Speas and Associates to delete from the report those parts that are of a purely confidential nature to Trans-Canada Air Lines, and gather the rest together so that it could be presented to the house, to the government of Manitoba and to the public.

I gave a lot of thought to this matter. At one time I contemplated having the Department of Transport do the deleting and at another time having Trans-Canada Air Lines do it, but I came to the conclusion that no matter how carefully they did it they would be subject to the charge of being an interested party. So I then decided that the correct way of doing it was to retain the firm which had prepared the report, and this is in the course of being done now. I do not know when it will be available. I hope it will be very soon, but I cannot say precisely.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. KNOWLES AVAILABILITY OF REPORT RESPECTING T.C.A. WINNIPEG MAINTENANCE BASE
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NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles:

Mr. Speaker, may I ask the minister a question? Do I gather from what he is saying that in effect he is prepared to accept my motion, which simply asks that the government give consideration to the question of making the contents of the report public? I gather he is prepared to make portions of the report public, and in that sense he could meet the terms of the motion.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. KNOWLES AVAILABILITY OF REPORT RESPECTING T.C.A. WINNIPEG MAINTENANCE BASE
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LIB

George James McIlraith (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Mcllraiih:

No, Mr. Speaker, I am sorry if I conveyed that impression. The motion is quite objectionable on grounds I thought I covered. It cannot be accepted in its present form because the report very clearly contains material that no responsible government could consider publishing. But I have taken steps, I believe, that will meet the difficulty the hon. member seeks to raise now, and those steps were taken some time ago. In that context I would think the hon. member's motion should be one of commendation of the government for already having taken those steps some weeks ago, but the motion itself is quite out of order.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. KNOWLES AVAILABILITY OF REPORT RESPECTING T.C.A. WINNIPEG MAINTENANCE BASE
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NDP

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

New Democratic Party

Mr. T. C. Douglas (Burnaby-Coquillam):

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport is quite correct when he says it was perfectly proper for Trans-Canada Air Lines to hire a consultant to look into the economic feasibility of moving the maintenance depot from Winnipeg. He is also quite right when he says that reports of this nature are usually confidential and privileged because they may contain information which, if made public, could do harm to Trans-Canada Air Lines or

any other crown corporation in its competitive capacity.

However, I think the minister has missed the vital point, that if the document is to be confidential and privileged to the government, then certainly neither the president of Trans-Canada Air Lines nor anyone else has any right to quote extracts from that report in substantiation of a particular line of argument. If they are permitted to do that they are advancing the conclusions of that report without the rest of us having any opportunity to study the bases upon which those conclusions were reached. We should have the right to see the computations and arithmetical foundation upon which this alleged loss of $19,800,000 is based. It is most improper, it seems to me, for use to be made of this report, isolated statements being taken from it and quoted in argument, and at the same time deny hon. members of this house access to the report. As a matter of fact the minister should be concerned about this statement.

It goes much further. My colleague from Winnipeg North Centre was being kind in not reading the rest of this comment. It quotes the president of Trans-Canada Air Lines as saying:

If the Winnipeg base is worth that ($19,800,000) then Mr. Pearson is the man to decide.

This is a clear allegation that a decision has been made which is uneconomic, unwise; that it will cost the country $19,800,000; and we have no way of knowing whether or not that is a conclusion which is warranted. The minister said that he could see no objection to releasing parts of the report provided the confidential parts of it were not disclosed. I submit to him that there is no reason why he should not accept this motion. The motion does not demand that the government table the report, but that it should take into consideration the tabling of it. The minister could accept that motion subject to the reservation he has just made, that there are parts of the report which he would consider it advisable to withhold. It seems to me that he should accept the motion now subject to the reservation he has made regarding the confidential sections of the report.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. KNOWLES AVAILABILITY OF REPORT RESPECTING T.C.A. WINNIPEG MAINTENANCE BASE
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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Hon. Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Justice):

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I think the point which is of most importance and which should not be lost sight of by the house is that the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre raised this matter as a question of privilege. As the house knows, matters of privilege should be raised immediately, and this matter has been under discussion on a previous occasion.

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Subtopic:   MR. KNOWLES AVAILABILITY OF REPORT RESPECTING T.C.A. WINNIPEG MAINTENANCE BASE
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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

Question of Privilege

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. KNOWLES AVAILABILITY OF REPORT RESPECTING T.C.A. WINNIPEG MAINTENANCE BASE
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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

I do not use that last argument to suggest that this is not a matter which should be raised as a question of privilege. The point I am raising, however, is this: that this document is not a document of the government; this document is a document of a crown corporation. If there is a question of privilege here the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre must tie in that privilege with the responsibility either of a member of parliament, or of a minister of the crown, or of the government itself. That is the link which is lacking at the moment in order to abide by the rules of the house.

That is why I agree with the hon. member for Burnaby-Coquitlam that what the Minister of Transport has said concerning his desire to give to the house a summary of matters which are not confidential and not of a technical nature indicates the desire of the government to assist hon. members to the extent that it can. But the point, and the only point at issue here in my opinion, is that this is not a document of the government but a document of a crown corporation; and under all the circumstances it seems to me that the house has already accepted the proposition that communications of this nature are privileged.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. KNOWLES AVAILABILITY OF REPORT RESPECTING T.C.A. WINNIPEG MAINTENANCE BASE
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NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles:

Mr. Speaker, on the point of order raised by the Minister of Justice, particularly the point about immediacy, may I point out that my question of privilege is based on two reports in the Winnipeg Free Press of Wednesday, November 27. Today is Friday, November 29. Even that is fast service. I saw these stories at nine or ten minutes to eleven this morning. I could not have raised a question of privilege much more immediately than I did.

As to the minister's suggestion that this is a report which belongs to a crown corporation, may I point out that it has been admitted several times by the Minister of Transport that he is in possession of a copy. He has made reference to it. He has cited it. He has told us why it cannot be produced. He has told us why he did not wish to disclose it to the hon. member for Winnipeg South. He told us this morning that he is studying whether or not to have extracts made, and who is to make the extracts. So, while the report may have been paid for by Trans-Canada Air Lines, a copy is in the minister's possession, and surely the air line is a responsibility of the government. If the government says this information must be kept confidential, and an emanation of the crown is making parts of it public, I suggest we have a question of privilege and the government itself should redress the wrong that has been done to us by making public at least sections of the report.

Question of Privilege

I want to emphasize what was said by my leader, the hon. member for Burnaby-Coquit-lam. It seems to me the course which the Minister of Transport should follow is clear. I would be happy to accept his reservation that the government should make public only those sections of the report which he feels would help clear up the situation. If he wishes to make the kind of reservation he has indicated I would be happy to accept it.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. KNOWLES AVAILABILITY OF REPORT RESPECTING T.C.A. WINNIPEG MAINTENANCE BASE
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November 29, 1963