April 28, 1966

HOUSE OF COMMONS DEBATES

OFFICIAL REPORT


23033-280i


ROGER DUHAMEL, F.R.S.C. QUEEN'S PRINTER AND CONTROLLER OF STATIONERY OTTAWA, 1966 HOUSE OF COMMONS


Thursday, April 28, 1966


PRIVILEGE

MR. IRVINE-INABILITY TO OBTAIN ELECTORAL COMMISSION REPORTS

PC

John Alfred Irvine

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Jack A. Irvine (London):

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege arising out of proceedings in this house. Previous to the opening of parliament I sent in certain questions for the order paper, one of which became question No. 48. It was supposed to have been answered yesterday, but I suggest that what was given was hardly in the nature of a reply.

The question had to do with the cost of advertising in various daily newspapers throughout the country regarding the proposed federal electoral districts. The answer I received to my question is as follows:

As was stated in reply to question No. 148 on February 2. 1966, pages 585-6 ol Hansard, the commissions set up under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act do not report to the government so that the government does not have records giving the information sought in this question. Under section 10 of the act the commissions are not agencies of Her Majesty. Reports of the commissions are made directly to the House of Commons.

Mr. Speaker, are not the readjustment commissions directly or indirectly employed by this house? Are they not responsible to anyone, or do they just kind of sail off all by themselves and do whatever they wish? Can they squander perhaps millions of dollars of the taxpayers' money and not have to account for it? This seems to me to be very unreasonable.

[DOT] (2:40 p.m.)

I think there are many people throughout the country and in this house who want to know exactly how much this program did cost. I would not say it looks as though it was money thrown into an election campaign, because I do not think that would be fair, but some time I would like to move or cause to be moved if it is not my prerogative, that the redistribution commissions be not paid until such time as they have made a proper accounting to the members of this house of exactly how much money was spent and in what manner it was spent. The people of Canada want to know this, Mr. Speaker, and I should like to know it too.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. IRVINE-INABILITY TO OBTAIN ELECTORAL COMMISSION REPORTS
Permalink
PC

Richard Albert Bell

Progressive Conservative

Hon. R. A. Bell (Carleton):

Mr. Speaker, on the question of privilege raised by the hon. gentleman may I say that at least part No. 5 of question 48 is within the knowledge of the government. That part is, what was the total cost for this entire program? These cheques were issued by the comptroller of the treasury, who is in a position, then, to answer the question.

This same matter has been before the house on other occasions in respect of certain questions that I asked. Incorrect and improper answers were first given, and it was necessary for me to ask whether the comptroller of the treasury had issued the cheques. He admitted that he had, and the information was forthcoming. I venture to suggest to the Minister of Finance that the answer to question 48, certainly in so far as it applies to part No. 5, is totally erroneous.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. IRVINE-INABILITY TO OBTAIN ELECTORAL COMMISSION REPORTS
Permalink
LIB

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order, please. The question of privilege just raised by the hon. member for London is substantially the same as that which was raised yesterday in the house by the hon. member for Edmonton West. I have since then considered the matter, as I said yesterday I would.

If I may summarize the problem, the hon. member for Edmonton West and the hon. member for London had asked for certain information with respect to commissions set up under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act. The answer provided by the Secretary of State in the three cases was generally to the effect that the commissions set up under the act do not report to the government but rather to the House of Commons, and that the government does not have at its disposal the information sought.

The hon. member for Edmonton West took the position that the individual representation commissions are emanations of the house and responsible to the house, and that the only method of communication with the commissions is through the Secretary of State. The hon. member went on to say he realized that the commissions are not responsible to the government, and in the course of his remarks suggested that the Chair take under consideration the question of the possibility of compelling the commissions to answer. I indicated, as I said, that the matter would be

April 28, 1966

Question of Privilege

studied, and particularly the suggestion made by the hon. member for Edmonton West on this point.

In the first instance I should say that the responsibilities of the Speaker with respect to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act are limited. Under section 6 (2), two members of a provincial commission other than the chairman and the representation commissioner are appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons. As hon. members know, under the act the various commissions send copies of their reports to the representation commissioner, who in turn transmits a copy to the Speaker under section 19 (1) of the act. It is the Speaker's duty thereupon to lay the report before parliament.

The Speaker then has a further obligation under section 20 of the act to receive objections, and on the conclusion of consideration of those objections he must refer the reports, objections and relevant debates of the House of Commons back to the representation commissioner. These various obligations, it seems to me, constitute the responsibilities of the Speaker in these matters, and I am afraid I cannot accept the suggestion of the hon. member for Edmonton West that I can compel the commissions to answer questions raised in the house affecting the conduct of their responsibilities.

Hon. members will have noted that the Secretary of State, in dealing with question No. 48 in the name of the hon. member for London and questions 202 and 212 in the name of the hon. member for Edmonton West, in effect stated that she was not in a position to make replies. Therefore I think we have to assume that the questions have not in fact been answered by the Secretary of State, and she has given certain reasons for adopting this attitude.

That being the case, I do not see how the Chair can compel the minister to answer, and I need only refer the hon. member to citation 181 (3) of Beauchesne's fourth edition, which is of course well known to the hon. member for Edmonton West and to all hon. members of the house, where it is stated:

A minister may decline to answer a question without stating the reason for his refusal, and insistence on an answer is out of order, no debate being allowed. A refusal to answer cannot be raised as a question of privilege, nor is it regular to comment upon such refusal. A member can put a question, but has no right to insist upon an answer.

I quite appreciate that in the case of the three written questions the Secretary of State

did indeed make a statement, but I do not think in reading that statement it can be regarded as an answer to the questions. It seems to me it merely takes the position that the minister cannot make an answer and, that being so, under the citation I have just quoted I fear I cannot accept the view that the hon. member for Edmonton West has a question of privilege. This applies equally to the hon. member for London.

I must say I have some understanding of and sympathy for the hon. members' position. While I have found that there does not seem to be a question of privilege in the matter raised, it does seem to me that the hon. members may very well have a grievance which they could legitimately raise at the first opportunity, or should they care to do so they might consider the advisability of placing on the order paper a motion for the production of papers, in which case it may be that the Governor in Council would produce the information sought through the Secretary of State, who under the statute is the channel of communication between the representation commissioner and the Governor in Council.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. IRVINE-INABILITY TO OBTAIN ELECTORAL COMMISSION REPORTS
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REDISTRIBUTION

ORDER TO BE FOLLOWED IN DEBATE ON OBJECTIONS TO REPORTS

LIB

George James McIlraith (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Hon. G. J. Mcllrailh (Minister of Public Works):

On Monday last I proposed that the question of allocation of time for the consideration of objections under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act be referred to the business committee.

In accordance with subclause 3 of standing order 15A, the business committee is pleased to report that it is now unnecessary to make any recommendation for such allocation of time.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   ORDER TO BE FOLLOWED IN DEBATE ON OBJECTIONS TO REPORTS
Permalink
PC

Michael Starr (Official Opposition House Leader; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Michael Slarr (Oniario):

In view of what the government house leader has just said, Mr. Speaker, I wonder if he would advise the house as to the sequence that will be followed in considering the objections according to provinces in the next few days.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   ORDER TO BE FOLLOWED IN DEBATE ON OBJECTIONS TO REPORTS
Permalink
LIB

George James McIlraith (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Mcllrailh:

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I will be glad to do that. Today we will begin with consideration of the New Brunswick motion, then proceed to the objections concerning the Alberta redistribution and afterward those concerning British Columbia. Tomorrow, whether or not we have completed the British Columbia objections, we will take up the Ontario objections first. When the Ontario

April 28, 1966

objections have been completed we will go on to the objections, if there are any remaining, from British Columbia, followed by the objections relating to the province of Saskatchewan, then Manitoba and finally the remaining objections concerning the province of Quebec.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   ORDER TO BE FOLLOWED IN DEBATE ON OBJECTIONS TO REPORTS
Permalink

CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION

INQUIRY AS TO GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION IN CURRENT DISPUTE


On the orders of the day:


PC

John George Diefenbaker (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, would the Prime Minister tell the house what has been done in the tranquilization processes he has been called upon to utilize since he received the authority of the broadcasting committee in connection with the dispute between the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the producers of "This Hour Has Seven Days"?

Topic:   CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION
Subtopic:   INQUIRY AS TO GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION IN CURRENT DISPUTE
Permalink
LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Prime Minister)

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I have received a copy of the report of the committee of the house dealing with this matter, and have been giving consideration to the suggestion made in that report. I have also received a copy of a telegram sent this morning by the president of the Association of Television Producers and Directors. It is addressed to the Prime Minister, and it informs me that the producers will abide by the expressed will of the parliamentary committee on broadcasting and will suspend their decision-quoting from the telegram-

-to recommend a complete withdrawal of our members services not later than ten p.m. eastern daylight time Sunday, May 1, provided the officers of the corporation suspend their decision in the matter of "Seven Days" posts pending mediation.

I am awaiting, Mr. Speaker, the reaction of the management of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to this telegram before I make any decision as to whether the government should intervene and, if so, in what way.

Topic:   CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION
Subtopic:   INQUIRY AS TO GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION IN CURRENT DISPUTE
Permalink

April 28, 1966