May 1, 1964

PRIVILEGE

MR. NIELSEN STATEMENT BY TRANSPORT MINISTER ON TELEVISION RATHER THAN IN HOUSE

?

Mr, Nielsen:

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege-

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NIELSEN STATEMENT BY TRANSPORT MINISTER ON TELEVISION RATHER THAN IN HOUSE
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NDP

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

New Democratic Party

Mr. Douglas:

I rise on a question of privilege.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
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PC

Erik Nielsen

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

-affecting all hon. members of this house.

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?

Maurice Bourget (Speaker of the Senate)

Mr. Speaker:

I am faced with two questions of privilege. Is the hon. member for Burnaby-Coquitlam rising on a question of privilege?

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NDP

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

New Democratic Party

Mr. Douglas:

Yes, I am.

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PC

Erik Nielsen

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

I too am rising on a question of privilege affecting all hon. members of this house.

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NDP

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

New Democratic Party

Mr. Douglas:

My question of privilege has to do also with the rights of members of this house, and I would like to state it.

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?

Maurice Bourget (Speaker of the Senate)

Mr. Speaker:

In cases of doubt, I have to give it-

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
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An hon. Member:

To the official opposition.

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?

Maurice Bourget (Speaker of the Senate)

Mr. Speaker:

Thank you; the Chair is able to make up its own mind.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NIELSEN STATEMENT BY TRANSPORT MINISTER ON TELEVISION RATHER THAN IN HOUSE
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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

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?

Maurice Bourget (Speaker of the Senate)

Mr. Speaker:

I have to make the judgment of Solomon, and little factors have to be taken into consideration. I must say that the hon. member for Yukon did speak to me just before the opening of the sitting, and he did say he would raise this question.

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PC

Erik Nielsen

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Erik Nielsen (Yukon):

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question of privilege involves two matters the first being of serious concern to all hon. members of the house. It would appear that it arose for the first time last evening. It concerns the application of new provisional order No. 39 and the belief, mistaken in my view, that the strict application of the rule would mean that no questions of privilege or points of order can be

raised between 10 and 10.30 p.m. I suggest, sir, that the rule be again considered by yourself and clarification brought down to the members of the house in this regard, or referred back to the rules committee.

I will be very brief on this particular aspect of the question of privilege. If Your Honour will refer to Votes and Proceedings for April 20, Your Honour will notice that the last paragraph of provisional rule 39(5) stipulates as follows:

There shall be no appeal against any decision made by Mr. Speaker under the provisions of this subsection.

The provisions of this subsection refer to the rule that the discretion of Your Honour is to be accepted as to whether a particular question asked on orders of the day is urgent. I submit to Your Honour that the provision prohibiting an appeal relates strictly to a decision of Your Honour on a question of urgency. If Your Honour rules a question out of order on any other ground except that of urgency, I submit that the ordinary rules apply.

The second part of this matter relates to the absence of any reference in the new rule to points of order and questions of privilege being raised in the half hour between 10 and 10.30; the new rule is absolutely silent on this matter. If it was the intention of the rules committee that there should be no questions of privilege or points of order raised in this half hour, I submit it should have been so stated in the new rule. As it stands now, the new rule being silent on the subject, it will be my submission that questions of privilege and points of order can be raised, under the ordinary rules of the house. I submit that we need clarification on these points from Your Honour or by reference back to the rules committee.

The other portion of my question of privilege has to do with the circumstances as they did arise last night. On the orders of the day the hon. member for Broadview (Mr. Hahn) raised an absolutely planted and connived question with the Minister of Transport (Mr. Pickersgill)-

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?

Some hon. Members:

Order.

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PC

Erik Nielsen

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

-with respect to a national air policy. The Minister of Transport was obviously prepared to answer on orders of the day; he had a written statement in his hand.

Question of Privilege

He was prevented, however, by Your Honour from doing so; in other words Your Honour ruled the question out of order and it was transferred for debate on the adjournment at ten o'clock last night. The question was again raised last night and a question of privilege was attempted to be raised by the hon. member for Northwest Territories (Mr. Rheaume), when we got into this situation.

The situation would never have arisen if the minister had followed the usual custom and practice of making government policy announcements on motions, even if he had to resort to the practice followed by the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Martin) the other night when he asked at six o'clock to revert to motions in order to make an important announcement concerning government policy. We have had the occurrence time and again throughout this session of ministers leaking or releasing information on government policy to the press before the members of this house are informed.

The vehicles that are used, too, come in for some criticism. Here we have a publicly owned broadcasting system for which the minister is responsible, or which at least reports through the minister to parliament; and he uses his position of responsibility in order to make public announcements over the C.B.C. This practice of the minister is quite reprehensible to me, and I am quite sure to a good many other members in this house.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NIELSEN STATEMENT BY TRANSPORT MINISTER ON TELEVISION RATHER THAN IN HOUSE
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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

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Subtopic:   MR. NIELSEN STATEMENT BY TRANSPORT MINISTER ON TELEVISION RATHER THAN IN HOUSE
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PC

Erik Nielsen

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre just a day or two ago expressed his view to the minister that we should not submit to having to read announcements on government policy in the press. That is what happened. The Toronto Globe and Mail was on the streets this morning at 8.30. It contained the release about which the house has still not heard because of the minister's disregard of the rules in not making an announcement on motions yesterday. The Globe and Mail had the information by five o'clock yesterday, and I had that information from the Globe and Mail office by seven o'clock.

The house is entitled to an explanation of this conduct-this disgusting conduct, since | the minister himself used that phrase last night-in making this type of release outside the house. We have been waiting for weeks for an announcement on air policy. Hon. members have been asking questions since as far back as February 26. The minister,

IMr. Nielsen.]

in contempt of the rights of the members of this house, has chosen to release the information to the press, as he has on other occasions, before informing the members of this house. This is a practice which we think is in need of correction, and in order to bring it forcefully to the attention of the government benches it seems that a substantive motion is in order. Accordingly I move, seconded by the hon. member for Grey-Bruce (Mr. Winkler):

That this house condemns the action of ministers from time to time in announcing outside of the . house policy decisions which should be announced An the house, an example of which being the announcement yesterday outside the house by the Minister of Transport of air policy, such action being a flagrant disregard of the custom, practices and privileges of this house and its members.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Hon. J. W. Pickersgill (Minister of Transport):

Mr. Speaker, before Your Honour decides whether there is a question of privilege, and since the hon. member invited me to make an explanation, perhaps I might be permitted to explain the circumstances attending this whole matter.

I considered very carefully last Friday morning whether the very tentative decision which was taken by the government to carry on another stage in the formulation of air policy, which has not yet been formulated and which I am sure will not be formulated for at least another month, justified my coming to the house and taking up the time of the house in making what might be called a progress report of what the government is doing about this matter.

I came to the conclusion that I should abide by the rules of the house, which, as I have always understood them, provide that ministers should not use the period on motions-and there have been many complaints about this on the other side-for propaganda purposes to advance the position of the government by way of trial balloons. I understand the rules to provide that ministers should not make statements on motions unless they are factual and deal with some matter which has been definitely decided and is final, and which would then require action of some kind by parliament in due course.

In other words, if I had had anything to say which would have led immediately to legislation, I think it would have been a discourtesy to the house to make the statement elsewhere. If I had had anything to say which was definite and would involve a request for expenditures, then, since the government is responsible to the house and cannot spend public money without a vote of the house, it seems to me that one should not make these

statements outside the house, when the house is sitting, without first letting the house know that the government is going to ask for that expenditure to be made; in other words that is a matter which is going to become the business of the house. However, if it is an ordinary part of the administration entrusted to the government, about which hundreds of statements are made every day, we would have no time left for the carrying on of the legislative and other business of this house if the time of parliament was cluttered up with matters of that kind.

Having considered that very carefully, I came to the conclusion it would not be a proper thing to do on motions, then or later, nor was it a matter that necessarily needed to be announced to anyone at all. But after I had met the presidents of the two railways and the presidents of the two air lines on Monday morning, it was drawn to my attention that they had themselves been seen coming into my office and that there was some curiosity about this. I was approached by several people, and I indicated to them that there was nothing secret about this matter, and if anyone made any inquiry about it 1 would indicate to the public exactly what I had intended to indicate to the air lines as to the lines along which they were being asked to proceed.

This is not government policy. This is just a stage in the formulation of government policy; and when an hon. member asked a question about this matter, as was done in the house yesterday, I would have responded except that the Speaker decided the question was not of that degree of urgency. The hon. member then put it down for debate after ten o'clock. After that had been done I was, as is quite natural, approached by several members of the press to see if they could find out about this matter. I was told also that there was a speculative story in the Financial Post. I said "I am going to tell the House of Commons, after ten o'clock tonight, in a very general way what I told the air lines, and I would rather you listen then but there is nothing secret about it." It just so happened, because hon. members felt it more desirable to use the time in other ways, that I was precluded after ten o'clock last night from answering the hon. member's question, and to him I apologize for that although it was not really my fault.

But, sir, these principles which I communicated to the air lines are not a statement of government policy at all. They are a statement of certain principles on which the

Question of Privilege

government feels air policy should be based after there has been discussion, first with the main line carriers and then with the regional carriers and other interested bodies. I thought the house was entitled to have a legitimate curiosity satisfied about this matter, but since it was not a matter that the house was going to be called upon to deal with I did not feel I should have taken the initiative in inflicting it upon the house.

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Subtopic:   MR. NIELSEN STATEMENT BY TRANSPORT MINISTER ON TELEVISION RATHER THAN IN HOUSE
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May 1, 1964