May 1, 1964

PC

Erik Nielsen

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

Mr. Speaker-

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. NIELSEN STATEMENT BY TRANSPORT MINISTER ON TELEVISION RATHER THAN IN HOUSE
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Maurice Bourget (Speaker of the Senate)

Mr. Speaker:

Order. The hon. member has presented his motion, and I think we should hear from other hon. members.

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NDP

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

New Democratic Party

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

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport is arguing that the statement which he made last night is not a matter of government policy. After examining it carefully I would say that it has very serious implications with respect to government policy. I would go further and say that for me it is a cause of great concern, because I can already see the shadow of the axe falling on certain activities of Trans-Canada Air Lines.

If the minister did not think it was an important statement of policy, I want to know why he suborned the C.B.C. into allowing him to make a statement on national television last night, which he was prevented from making in this house because of his failure to comply with the rules of the house. I do not condone the actions which prevented the minister from making his statement last night on the adjournment procedure, but the fact is that the fault lies mainly with the minister himself. It was apparent that there was an important statement to be made. Whether it was on the formulation of policy or a final decision on the matter of policy, the minister was desirous of making a statement. Instead of making it on motions, which was the proper place so that a member from each party could have made some comment on it-and I personally certainly would have been extremely interested in making some comments on the statement the minister made last night-instead of following this proper course the minister very transparently had a question planted, which was asked by the hon. member for Broadview. Your Honour ruled that the question might more properly be placed on the order paper, whereupon the hon. member for Broadview had it transferred to the adjournment proceedings.

I make no excuse for those who prevented the minister making his statement on the adjournment proceedings, but having failed

Question of Privilege

to do that the minister could have made a statement on motions today. The house was entitled to have that statement made in the house where members could comment on it and ask questions about it. Instead, the minister virtually compelled the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to allow him to go on the air last night on television and on radio this morning to make a statement which the house had not yet heard.

I saw the television broadcast on the eleven o'clock news last night. There were two things that were quite apparent to anyone who viewed it objectively. The first was that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was embarrassed at having to put the minister on, and it was very apparent that they were doing so under pressure. The second thing that was quite apparent was that the minister was in a tantrum. If I had been picking a title for the production I would have called it "Pick in a Pique".

Mr. Speaker, I want to appeal to the Prime Minister. No other member of this house, having failed to get the floor to make a statement, is allowed to go to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and compel them to allow him to make a statement to the people of Canada which he has been unable, because of the rules of the house, to make in parliament. The minister said a while ago he did not want to be popping up giving what might appear to be government propaganda. What does he think talking to two million viewers last night was but government propaganda?

I would appeal to the Prime Minister to intervene in matters of this kind. If every time ministers find they are balked in some respect in the house, particularly a minister who until a few months ago was in charge of the C.B.C., they are to be permitted to go to the C.B.C. and order that body to put them on the air so they can go over the head of the House of Commons and appeal to the people of Canada; if that right is to be given to the Minister of Transport or any other minister, then it must be given to all members of the house.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
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PC

John George Diefenbaker (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Right Hon. J. G. Diefenbaker (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, the motion that has been made is one of the most serious that has come before the house.

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

Oh, oh.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

I realize that those on the other side ridicule the opposition, but the C.B.C. must be kept free from political influence-

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

Oh, oh.

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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PC

John George Diefenbaker (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

-from without and within. Let that be clear. Too often recently the C.B.C. has apparently been subjected to the kind of control that last night took the form of intimidation on the part of the minister. I should like to ask the Secretary of State this question. Who was the medium of communication between the Minister of Transport and the C.B.C.? It was very obvious last night from the words used by Mr. DePoe that he felt that what was being done was improper. He made it very clear and definite that what was taking place was improper, and it was.

Are we to find ourselves in parliament in this position; that a minister, because his dignity has been hurt and his susceptibilities have been exacerbated, can rush to the C.B.C. and make the kind of statement which was made last night, a statement which was the epitome of Liberal propaganda? Certainly the time has come when this house and the country should find out the degree to which there is interference on the part of this government with the C.B.C. That could not have happened unless there was intervention by someone with influence. As I listened to what Mr. DePoe had to say, it seemed clear to me he objected to the C.B.C. being used as a cat's paw by the minister, and we want to find out the full circumstances in this connection.

Now, the minister says this was not an announcement of policy; it was just a kind of declaration of potential consideration of the problem. Is it potential consideration for the minister to say to T.C.A. and Canadian Pacific Airlines "This is what we want to achieve"? Even a suggestion, coming from one of the august eminence of the Minister of Transport, would have a tremendous effect on those who are subject to him, and that is what it amounts to.

Apparently it was leaked out elsewhere. The hon. gentleman mentioned the Financial Post. He called it a speculative article. Well, more and more, since this government came to office, government policy has become the subject of announcements through speculative articles. Last night what was denied to parliament was made available elsewhere.

I was not here for what took place last night, but I can say this; that the minister, yesterday, was obviously disturbed all through the day, sputtering like a squib, obviously annoyed about something. I do not know what it was, but he showed it all day

yesterday, and his performance on the C.B.C. last night should earn for him one of the Oscars for nonsense.

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

Lester Bowles Pearson (Prime Minister)

Liberal

Right Hon. L. B. Pearson (Prime Minister):

Perhaps in view of the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition I might be permitted to say a word on this matter. The right hon. gentleman concluded his statement, after making some offensive personal remarks about the minister concerned, by saying that certain information was denied to parliament. Mr. Speaker, that information last night was denied by the opposition, so that parliament and the people could not hear it.

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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:

May I ask the Prime Minister a question? Was he in the house yesterday when the hon. member for Yukon- and we were all in agreement-offered unanimous consent to allow the minister to make his statement on the orders of the day?

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Prime Minister)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

I was not in the house, any more than certain other hon. gentlemen were in the house. But it was clear that the minister-

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

Lawrence Elliott Kindt

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Lawrence E. Kindi (Macleod):

On a

point of order. With regard to the statement which has just been made by the Prime Minister blaming the opposition for doing certain things and keeping this information away from the house and the public, I think in the light of the explanation which has been given by the leader of the New Democratic party the Prime Minister should withdraw his statement.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Prime Minister)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

I said that last night, after ten o'clock, this information was denied to parliament by the actions of the opposition, and that is strictly accurate.

However, this does bring up some important questions. It is perfectly obvious that under the change we have made in our rules on a trial basis, a minister who is replying to a question raised at ten o'clock has three minutes only in which to do so, and that if questions of privilege and points of order are brought up in that period it is perfectly easy to prevent him saying anything at all. I think that should be looked into.

Now the question has been raised-and it is an important one-about making statements on motions rather than making them in reply to questions; in short, how the procedure on motions should be used, and I would hope that the committee on procedure would deal with this matter in its next report so that we can clear up this difficulty-

Question of Privilege

because it is a real difficulty-of when to make statements on motions and when they are more suitably made in reply to a question, which can be followed immediately by supplementary questions. We have now a situation where if a statement is made on motions there can be four comments made, one after another. In any event, I think this is becoming an increasingly important matter in our procedure, and I hope the committee will be able to do something about it.

Perhaps I do not need to go into the charge which has been levelled at the minister and which is reflected in this particular motion, because the facts are clear; but in bringing this matter to the attention of the house this morning the Leader of the Opposition was careful to emphasize that no pressure should be brought to bear on the C.B.C. by any member of the government. I could not agree with him more. We should get away from this idea that a member of the government should try to persuade the C.B.C. to do anything, or that if they do not do something heads will roll. I am informed that no pressure whatever was brought to bear on the C.B.C. last night.

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

Oh, oh.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Prime Minister)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

It is all right for hon. gentlemen opposite to laugh. The right hon. gentleman opposite made his charge without any evidence at all except his own intuition.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

The facts speak for themselves.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Prime Minister)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

I think the C.B.C. will have to deal with this matter itself and issue a statement as to whether pressure of any kind was brought to bear. They are the people who know. I may add that we have to be awfully careful here. The C.B.C. puts on a program which has been free from political partisanship over the months and the years; and the other night, for the first time, a member of parliament from the Conservative party appeared on that program, to the surprise of a great many people. At that time we did not suggest that some pressure must have been brought to bear on the corporation to allow a Conservative member of parliament to make a partisan statement on a "Viewpoint" program. I did not get up in the house and complain, with contrived indignation, that this was the result of pressure brought to bear on the national broadcasting system.

It is clear that the hon. member who moved the motion and the hon. member for Burnaby-Coquitlam did not have any evidence to support their statements, and if they

Question of Privilege

are going to make a charge of this kind against the government they should be careful not to make it without any evidence to support their allegations. They said, without any evidence except their own intuitive reaction, that pressure was brought to bear on the C.B.C., and they said that the question which started all this was a contrived and planted question. They gave no evidence at all to support that statement, and when charges of this kind are made in parliament I think members on all sides should be careful to support those charges with evidence. That has not been the case with regard to these particular charges.

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SC

Bert Raymond Leboe

Social Credit

Mr. Bert Leboe (Cariboo):

I am sure no one in this house is very happy about what took place last night. There has been a reflection on the C.B.C. and, to a degree, on the committee which worked so hard to try to help out in the adjustment of the rules so that certain improvements could be made in the way we carry out our business. The rules committee which has been working toward the betterment of the situation in the house is to be commended for the work it has done. We do not expect that perfection will result from the first efforts, and this was acknowledged by the fact that the present arrangement is tentative.

There has also been a reflection on the C.B.C.

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Some hon. Members:

No.

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May 1, 1964