May 1, 1964

SC

Bert Raymond Leboe

Social Credit

Mr. Leboe:

In my opinion there has been a reflection on the C.B.C. It has been said it yielded to pressure. That is the claim, as far as I am concerned; and it constitutes in my view a serious reflection on the corporation. While I am speaking on this particular subject I would remind both the government and the opposition that with regard to time allotted for political purposes, a partisan view is very evident and we have objected to this state of affairs for a long time.

As to the matter of planted questions, this is a practice which has been going on for a long time, and both major parties of the house have been equally responsible during the periods when they have held office. It has been going on during all the eight years I have been here.

As far as I am concerned, this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black, and it depends, in my view, on whose ox is getting gored as to who does the squealing. We have also found here that if we are going to agree with the minister that this was not government policy, then we must also agree with the Leader of the Opposition, who says

it is propaganda. It cannot be both propaganda and policy. The Leader of the Opposition says it is propaganda; the minister says it was not government policy, so we have to take it from there.

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:

The hon. member for Cape Breton South.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
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Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

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Malcolm MacInnis

Mr. Donald Maclnnis (Cape Breton South):

Mr. Speaker, if you will keep the snakepit quiet, I will say a few words. The Minister of Transport, referring to the broadcast of last night, said it was not a policy statement but a progress report. It strikes me as rather odd that the minister found it necessary to rush to the C.B.C. studio last night to give the nation a progress report on a policy which he said will not be completely formulated for at least another month.

The Prime Minister, in reference to the statements made from this side of the house, said that charges were made without any evidence whatsoever. In the event that the Prime Minister failed to catch the broadcast last night, I would call his attention to the fact-and I am sure that many of his colleagues will inform him of this-that the evidence was very much to the forefront when the C.B.C. correspondent found it necessary to tell the minister, before the broadcast started, that it was not the intention of the C.B.C. to provide ministers of the crown with a platform for announcing government policy. "Policy" was referred to in that particular newscast last night on more than one occasion. The minister himself said he had a policy announcement to make but was prevented from doing so.

In this connection, Mr. Speaker, I draw your attention to the minister's use of the word "illegal". Is it illegal in this house for any member to rise on a question of privilege when he understands that the rules provide that he must rise when that question comes to his attention? This is what happened last night.

There was also a reference to the fact that the opposition had filibustered this question. I would draw your attention again, sir, to the fact that the minister's time was three minutes; and if a procedural argument takes three minutes is the minister imposing upon us in this house, as he imposed himself upon the C.B.C. last night, the thought that any procedural argument that takes three minutes is to be referred to in the future as a filibuster? The evidence was very much in effect, and I suggest that if the Prime Minister

reads the remarks of the Minister of Transport he will find that evidence there.

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RA

Gilles Grégoire

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Gilles Gregoire (Lapointe):

Obviously, Mr. Speaker, as regards to the statements made this morning, one might say that three different questions of privilege have been raised about a single question of privilege.

First of all, there is the question of privilege concerning parliamentary procedure as it was followed last night. There, I must admit that, despite the fact that I am a member of the committee on procedure, I was rather surprised myself at the way the new standing order was applied. In this case I would ask that the problem be referred once again to the committee so that the technical points respecting the adjournment motion period, which extends from 10 to 10.30 p.m., may be clarified in the interest of all members of this house.

As for the second point, Mr. Speaker, it is a statement made outside the house.

In our opinion it was certainly a statement of policy on the part of the government since the Minister of Transport (Mr. Pickers-gill) expressed an opinion or a new policy about the management of the two main Canadian air lines. It is a matter of policy and the statement was made outside the house.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Pearson) stated that the opposition had prevented the Minister of Transport from making his statement in the house. Now, Mr. Speaker, I must point out to the house that last evening as reported at the bottom of the right hand column of page 2802 of the English edition of Hansard, I said:

I agree, provided the Minister of Transport (Mr. Pickersgill) is allowed to make the statement he wished to make a moment ago when he was prevented from doing so by hon. members opposite.

As shown by the record, the Minister of Transport was given the opportunity by the opposition to make his statement. If he was unable to make it, it is because the Speaker put an end to the discussion and adjourned the debate. But the Minister of Transport was allowed to make his statement by the opposition.

Now, Mr. Speaker, on the third question of privilege, the whole matter arises again. First, reverting to the second question of privilege, I must say that such statements of policy should be made in the house, and that the C.B.C. should not be used as a political forum in an attempt to influence the Canadian people. Such a statement should first be made in the House of Commons.

Question of Privilege

Now, Mr. Speaker, with regard to the third question of privilege which was raised, namely that the C.B.C. had to submit to that propaganda, assertions have been made by some members of the opposition as well as denials by the Prime Minister and probably by the Minister of Transport.

On that subject, I think it would be of no avail for us to discuss this point as long as an investigation has not been made. I submit that an investigation should be set up and that the Prime Minister should request that such an investigation be made-a serious one-possibly by the committee on privileges and elections, so as to know whether members of the cabinet took it upon themselves, yesterday, to put undue pressure on the C.B.C. to get it to broadcast announcements or statements by certain members of the government.

For our part, we do not wish to make any charge. We have no proof. However, in view of the facts, I feel that an investigation should be held by the government or by the privileges and elections committee to determine whether members of the government have the right to convey messages, by means of force or pressure, through a crown corporation such as the C.B.C.

I know quite well that such a right would be denied us so I do not see why it should be given to other members.

In fairness to all hon. members and all parties in the house, that point should be cleared up.

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RA

David Réal Caouette

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Real Caoueite (Villeneuve):

Mr. Speaker, just a few words on that matter. A while ago we heard the Leader of the Opposition say that the rights of parliament had been violated; on the other hand we heard the Prime Minister say that the rights of the minister had been violated, that they had not been recognized, and that he had been prevented last night from making in the house the statement made over the C.B.C. However you look at it and under no circumstances has he the right to make a statement outside the house about a matter of policy, as he did yesterday, when we ourselves heard over the C.B.C. the announcement to the effect that a certain amount of competition between the two great Canadian air lines had to be eliminated. It is all very well to charge certain persons or ministers with making political capital through the C.B.C.; but as for us, we do not want the corporation to be used as a political springboard. However, there are high officials in the C.B.C. who mix politics with their duties. It is then up to parliament to rule whether such political interference should be allowed in the C.B.C.

Question of Privilege

We notice, for instance, that members of the Liberal and Conservative parties are invited by the C.B.C. more often than they deserve, while members of the third parties are completely ignored. Who is responsible? We do not know, but what we know is that it is done at the request of a high ranking person.

Consequently, ministers should make their statements of policy in the house instead of using the C.B.C. to announce new government policies. We will fight that as strongly as we can.

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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-

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Maurice Bourget (Speaker of the Senate)

Mr. Speaker:

If I may, it seems to me that the Speaker is entitled to make a few remarks-and I hope they will be useful and helpful; that is my purpose and object in intervening at this time-without deciding right now whether the motion is in order.

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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, am I to assume that your remarks will not prevent me from making a few remarks later?

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Maurice Bourget (Speaker of the Senate)

Mr. Speaker:

Yes. The hon. member will see very quickly why I am making these remarks. I think it might be useful at this time to recall to the attention of all hon. members that, contrary to the system followed in the United Kingdom, where notice is always given of oral questions and where the man occupying the chair has some opportunity to consider a question carefully in order to determine whether it is in order, we do not have that provision under our practice in Canada, and the Chair is obliged in a split second to render a decision which may or may not be good. Even in the courts of our land a judge at least has the right to take time to consider whether his judgment is properly drafted; and even then the court of appeal, in dealing with a matter of principle, has time to consider it. But under our system the Chair must decide on the spot whether a matter is right or wrong, and consequently the position is not as easy as it may appear. Thus when we come to borderline cases it is possible for the Chair to make mistakes.

With regard to the question of yesterday, it seemed to me-needless to say there was no communication with the Chair before the question was asked; there was no notice given, and the Chair had absolutely no advance information-as I suggested, that the question should be put on the order paper, under the instructions given to me by the house, which are that a question should not

be of a nature requiring a lengthy and detailed answer. It was obvious that if the minister was going to reply and outline a whole policy with regard to the aviation industry, it would require considerable time; and under the rules as given to me, questions should be asked as shortly as possible and the answers to questions, as it says here, should be as brief as possible, should deal with the matter raised and should not provoke debate.

Consequently it seemed to me that this question was one for the order paper, which of course would mean for discussion at ten o'clock. That is the basic reason, which I still consider sound, why action was taken in that respect. In view of the discussion last evening it seems to me that perhaps the matter could have been raised on motions, but that is a matter for the minister to decide, not the Chair. I must say that the Deputy Speaker in my opinion carried out in a proper manner the rules as given to him by the house.

May I at this time point out to the house that the view of the occupant of the chair at the present time is very simple, and I think is quite correct, namely that it is not up to the Chair to make rules; it is up to the Chair to do its best to interpret the rules as given to the Chair. Consequently, although I happened to be selected as chairman of this committee on procedure and organization, I took steps as soon as it was possible to set up three subcommittees, one of which is the subcommittee on procedure. The members of that subcommittee chose as its chairman the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles); and I think that is right in principle, because it means that the subcommittee will decide what rules the house should or should not adopt and that these suggestions, if accepted by the house, have been drafted by the members of the house and then handed to the Speaker for interpretation. I think it is a very important principle that the Speaker do not impose his ideas on the house. He must carry out the instructions of the house.

With respect to the interpretation of this new standing order 3 9A, I think it might be very useful at this time if the chairman of the subcommittee on procedure, the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, explained to the house once more the purpose of this rule. If, of course, the house is not satisfied with that particular section it can be changed, because this is only a trial period. But the importance of the provisional standing order and the reasons for bringing it in are fundamental, and how the standing order should

be applied depends to a great extent on the understanding of the purpose and the object of the standing order. I think that at this stage if the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre would give us briefly once more the purpose of this article it might help all hon. members at this time.

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Subtopic:   MR. NIELSEN STATEMENT BY TRANSPORT MINISTER ON TELEVISION RATHER THAN IN HOUSE
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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, even before the invitation you have just given me was made it was my intention to say a few words on the question of privilege that has been raised. I had intended to start by saying that though I have strong feelings about all the aspects of the point that has been raised this morning, it would be my purpose to confine myself to the question of the operation of provisional standing order 39A. It was also my intention previously, and it certainly is now after the invitation Your Honour has given me, to speak in a low key despite the feelings which have been ventilated this morning.

I should like to say right at the outset that it is my intention as chairman of the subcommittee on procedure to call a meeting of that subcommittee just as soon as all of its members are available so we can review what happened last night and consider whether any suggested changes should be made.

Perhaps hon. members will forgive me if I take a few seconds to indicate the personnel of the subcommittee. We are getting along very well and I hope we may be able to make further suggestions which will be helpful to the procedures of the house. I have with me on the subcommittee the hon. member for Inverness-Richmond, who is also the Minister of Labour (Mr. MacEachen); the hon. member for Stormont, who is also Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Lamoureux); the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Baldwin); the hon. member for Parry Sound-Muskoka (Mr. Aiken); and the hon. member for Lapointe (Mr. Gregoire). I give these members notice now that at the earliest possible moment we will be holding a meeting to consider what happened last night.

Having said that, may I give what I think was at least my understanding of provisional standing order 39A as we proposed it to the house on a trial basis. As hon. members are aware, one of the first in the house to suggest that we provide for debates at the adjournment time to make up for difficulties during the question period was the Leader of the Opposition. I happen to have had the honour of drafting this particular provisional standing order 39A, but it has been accepted

Question of Privilege

unanimously by the house. Our idea was that we should approach the problem created by the orders of the day question period in a two-fold way; that on the one hand we should try to cut down the time used on the orders of the day question period, but that we should provide for members an escape valve or some recourse so they would not feel that their rights were being curtailed. That was the reason this extra half hour was provided.

I would emphasize that the extra half hour which has been provided at night is, in a sense, a gift, something new for members, something we did not previously enjoy, and I think all hon. members have been accepting it in that way. Personally I have been pleased at the interest shown in it. I think if we can judge by the two week trial basis, even in spite of last night, its purpose is being achieved. We have been able to cut down time used on the orders of the day question period, yet we have this escape valve, and interest has been shown in the operation of the escape valve itself.

When we drew up the terms for this half hour debate at night we had to face a number of problems. One of the problems was this. Are we going to have a piece of machinery under which the adjourned sitting of the house might go on and on? Are we going to get back to the eleven o'clock adjournment which we had a few years ago and tried to get away from? We felt that in fairness to ourselves, in fairness to the staff and in fairness to everybody else we should not have an extended period at night, so we drew up the order with a view to it being confined to a half hour period. We provided seven minutes for a member and three minutes for a minister, three times a night, and we made the specific decision that if 30 minutes went by and the matters had not been concluded the house was to be adjourned at that point.

I think it is fair to say that we did have the feeling that the only way this could work would be if there were no interruptions. If people were interrupted, either in the seven minutes given the member or in the three minutes given the minister, by points or order, questions of privilege or what have you, it was our feeling that it would defeat the purpose of this new rule. It would mean that time given to an hon. member would be taken away from him, or that we would be running into an extension of the time and in that way create something which hon. members would not want.

We did not spell this out in detail. The members of the main committee which was

Question of Privilege

presided over by Your Honour, if you remember the discussion on this matter in room 16 on the day this order was passed, felt that the provision at the end of provisional standing order 39A-not the one at the end of provisional standing order 39(5) but the one at the end of 39A, which reads-

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

-implies that points of order and questions of privilege were not to be raised.

Not only was there the experience of last night. Since then I have had discussions with various hon. members-backbenchers, middle benchers and front benchers-and there is concern. Their feelings have been expressed to me in these terms: "Yes, you have to limit this to a half hour period or we will be in trouble. You have to try to avoid interruptions, otherwise you defeat the whole purpose. Yet on the other hand, can you close out completely the right of a genuine question of privilege? If in the course of a question or an answer one member says something about another member which is defamatory, libellous or offensive, can you close out completely a question of privilege?" That is a real question, and maybe provisional standing order 39A as we have drafted it does not take cognizance of that possibility.

I feel that if we are going to make some provision for a point of order or question of privilege to be raised we will have to make it very specific. We will have to make provision for this to be done in a period outside the seven minute and three minute periods. There is no point in providing seven minute question and three minute answer periods if they can be interrupted, as was the case last night, and their whole purpose defeated.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, I am trying to address myself to the house in a low key, but though my voice may be up I am trying not to assess any blame for what happened last night. Let us say that the provisional standing order is capable of some misunderstanding or misinterpretation. I think the Deputy Speaker did right in the light of what he had in front of him last night; but since there is a feeling on the part of hon. members that perhaps we should take another look at it, I undertake that an early meeting of the subcommittee on procedure will be called to do this.

In the meantime, if we do not get a report back to the house before Monday night, which is the next time the adjournment question and answer period will be in operation, I

hope hon. members will consider that the purpose of this half hour is to provide seven minute and three minute opportunities for members and ministers, and I ask hon. members to restrain themselves from indulging in the kind of behaviour which occurred last night until such time as we can bring in recommendations which can cure any defect that there may be.

I do want to say that I am grateful to the many members of the house as well as the members of the press who have spoken to me personally about this, particularly for the way in which they have expressed pleasure that we have produced something which does the two things we needed to do; that is to cut down the question period yet preserve for members the opportunity or recourse to deal with a matter if they feel they need to do so. I think we are making progress, and I may say to the Prime Minister that we have another report in the mill. One of the things that we will deal with in our next report is the question of statements on motions, and maybe we will have to take another look at that in the light of what happened yesterday.

We are working hard. We have a good committee. The house has shown confidence in us, and I am sure the house will appreciate what we in the committee and in the house are trying to do, to put our procedures on a proper basis. With that confidence and appreciation I think we can make real progress.

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PC

Gordon Harvey Aiken

Progressive Conservative

Mr. G. H. Aiken (Parry Sound-Muskoka):

Mr. Speaker, I just want to say briefly that we seem to be getting completely away from the general tenor of the motion which has been introduced and the complaint which has been made. The real question relates not to the procedure, which undoubtedly broke down last night, but to the fact that following such a breakdown in procedure the minister, not being able to make his statement in the house, went and made it elsewhere. This is the real question of privilege that is before the house, and that is the motion the hon. member has made.

I may say, on the question that has been raised, that I believe we found out last night there are shortcomings in this procedure, but I should also observe that I do not believe either the committee or the house anticipated that this period would be used for a planted question, in reply to which a minister could make a statement that should be made on motions. The danger is very obvious, that having made such a statement there was no opportunity for comment by any members of the opposition parties.

This is where the minister and his colleague fell into a trap of their own making. I agree with the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre that there was a breakdown. However, I do not think the breakdown was in the rule but in breach of the intent behind it.

We must now consider the real substance of this motion. There is a motion before the house and, in accordance with Beauchesne citation 105, it should be dealt with forthwith.

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PC

Erik Nielsen

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

Mr. Speaker, I may not have an opportunity of saying this later, so I think I should say now that in my remarks in raising the question of privilege and putting my motion, I may have said something which was inaccurate in relation to a member of the press gallery, with regard to the comment I made that I phoned the Globe and Mail office. What actually transpired was that I phoned the office and was informed that the story of the national air policy was on the Canadian Press wire at five o'clock, so that what I said bears no reflection on any particular member of the press gallery.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Perhaps I might be permitted to say a word on that. The story on the Canadian Press wire did not purport to come from me, and did not come from me.

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Maurice Bourget (Speaker of the Senate)

Mr. Speaker:

Order, please. I have to decide whether the motion as presented this morning is or is not in order. Right at the beginning I would like to refer hon. members to Beauchesne's fourth edition, citation 71 (6):

In all matters of doubt, the Speaker will consider attentively the opinions of members of experience, or sometimes, instead of expressing his opinion on either side, may ask instructions from the house or reserve his decision on the point in discussion, or suggest that the house may, if it think proper, dispense with the rule in a particular case.

This morning, if I am correct, we have had 60 minutes of discussion. We have in the time at our disposal, made careful research; and when I say that I do not know of any instances where statements outside the house have been declared by the Chair to constitute a prima facie breach of privilege, we have not, in the short time at our disposal, been able to find any case to the contrary.

In the past it has been considered as a grievance and, as I say, we have had very considerable discussion this morning. Therefore it seems to me that the motion presented by the hon. member for Yukon is, as stated, in the nature of a substantive motion which would require notice. However, in my opinion it is more of a grievance, and inasmuch as

Question of Privilege

I understand that on Monday and Tuesday there will be a supply motion, where this matter may be discussed thoroughly and at length, and in view of the discussion this morning and the explanations given, serious though the matter is and though it was quite properly raised, nevertheless in my opinion, I do not believe the motion should be accepted by the Speaker at this time.

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PC

Erik Nielsen

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

Mr. Speaker, I feel, with great deference to Your Honour's ruling, that the matter goes far beyond a simple grievance. We have had the action of government ministers, and of this minister in particular, which requires some redress. All hon. members of the house have been held in contempt by the minister's action. That is why I put the motion, and I respectfully ask Your Honour to put the motion to the house.

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Maurice Bourget (Speaker of the Senate)

Mr. Speaker:

I am sorry I did not hear the last sentence, as I was interrupted.

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PC

Erik Nielsen

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

My last sentence, to which I would respectfully request a reply from Your Honour, was that you put the motion to the house.

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Maurice Bourget (Speaker of the Senate)

Mr. Speaker:

Well, I appreciate the reasons which motivate the hon. member, but I do not think it is up to the Chair to appeal its own ruling.

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PC

Erik Nielsen

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

Then with the greatest respect, Your Honour, and because of my differing views with Your Honour, I would with regret appeal Your Honour's ruling.

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May 1, 1964