January 30, 1969

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

PRIVILEGE

PC

Gerald William Baldwin (Official Opposition House Leader; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. G. W. Baldwin (Peace River):

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege at this time which I think affects in a very substantial way the privileges, rights and prerogatives of all hon. members of this house. I have given notice, of course, in accordance with the appropriate standing order.

My question of privilege deals with a paper tabled yesterday by the Secretary of State (Mr. Pelletier) which purports to be presented and given on the records of this house under standing order 41(2), a new rule which has just come into effect this year. The document in question is simply headed "The Commissionaire Affair." It has no other heading and is not signed.

This document of course deals with a question which has been a very controversial one. I assure Your Honour it is not my intention to recapitulate the details of that, other than to say there is no question about the fact that the issue was the subject of very considerable questioning in this house and controversy in and out of the house. It touches not only the individuals concerned, but a very important issue which involves the people of this country. For this reason, it is no light matter which was discussed. The document in effect purports to be an explanation, I would assume by the Secretary of State, of his side of the argument on the controversy which took place.

[DOT] (2:10 p.m.)

It is my submission that the document should not have been tabled under the circumstances it was tabled yesterday. It might well be said that I should have dealt with this matter on a point of order yesterday but it was utterly impossible to do so because the document was tabled and no previous notice was given. It is only after documents have 29180-312

been tabled that hon. members are in a position to obtain copies and come to a conclusion as to whether the document in question is one which a minister or a parliamentary secretary is entitled to table under the terms of the pertinent standing order.

I have looked at this matter very carefully, sir, and it is a very important matter which involves a new rule. Your Honour will no doubt come to a decision in this regard, and probably lend your name to a leading case, as you will no doubt do during a number of situations as these new rules develop. For this reason I am going to take a little time to outline the matter in detail, and my reason for rising on this question of privilege.

Standing order 41(1) replaces standing order 40 and provides that a return, record or other paper required to be filed by statute or a regulation may in fact be filed by being tabled in this house. That is a prerogative right which is given to ministers of the Crown. The practice has also grown over the years whereby documents which do not fall within this description, but of an official nature, have been tabled by consent or leave of the house. There is a very sound reason for this.

On one or two occasions before the Christmas recess, and I am dealing with this chronologically, attempts were made by ministers of the Crown to obtain the leave of the house, under the guise of that particular practice to table what were in fact press releases. At that time I suggested it was an iniquitous practice and should not be allowed. Of course leave was not given.

This matter came up for discussion during the course of meetings of the procedure committee. A proposal was made, which was subsequently reduced to writing and became standing order 41(2), to the effect that with the leave of the house a minister or parliamentary secretary would be entitled to table the document or to use the exact wording, "any report or other paper". There was no condition precedent requiring the consent or leave of the house.

It is my submission there are very definite limitations to that right. Certainly when this matter was considered in the committee I made my opinions quite clear. I believe this

January 30, 1969

Tabling of Documents opinion is shared by others and is the general consensus of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. The idea that any minister should table press releases, or statements that are self-serving or exculpatory through the medium of this rule, should absolutely not be considered. If this were allowed our procedure would degenerate to the level of that followed in other countries, particularly that followed in the United States-and I will not deal with the situation there-where documentation may be placed on the record without being the subject of a speech. Certainly it was never the intention of this house or the procedure committee that this should be done.

The question for Your Honour to consider involves an interpretation of the rules. Under these conditions it is my submission that standing order 40 provides for the tabling of a document which is required by statute. When we come to the new standing order the words "return, report or other paper" must be considered in the same light; that is a document of an official character which, while not being required to be tabled by statute, is a subject for which a good case can be made for tabling in the house.

But if we let the rule go beyond this, where do we stop? Any document or any speech could be included: the Postmaster General could table in this house the speeches he has made.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. BALDWIN-ALLEGED IRREGULARITY IN TABLING OF DOCUMENT
Permalink
?

An hon. Member:

Oh, no!

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. BALDWIN-ALLEGED IRREGULARITY IN TABLING OF DOCUMENT
Permalink
PC

Gerald William Baldwin (Official Opposition House Leader; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baldwin:

Papers of any kind at all could be included within the provisions of this rule. If we adopted the interpretation which would be called for in order to uphold the legality of what was done yesterday, the words "other paper" could be given the widest possible meaning. I am sure this would not be a desirable practice in the house, and I therefore ask Your Honour to consider this question and come to some decision on it.

It may well be that, because the question has been raised for the first time, Your Honour might like to reserve your position on it. I say this because if Your Honour does come to a decision that the words "other paper" could include the right of a cabinet minister or parliamentary secretary to table any document, any paper at all, self-serving or argumentation, without in any sense its being an official document published under the authority of a government department, this house might well want to review the position it took on the rule and revise it.

If on the other hand Your Honour comes to the decision, as I hope you will and as the facts and precedents justify, that the words "other paper" must have a restrictive interpretation placed upon them, I think the government will have to review its position. I suggest it might well have to consider giving to hon. members of the opposition parties and Your Honour, well in advance of the time they intend to table the document, the document itself so that a decision may be arrived at as to whether it does or does not in fact conform to the rule.

I therefore ask Your Honour to give this matter most careful consideration, because I think what happened yesterday could degenerate into an iniquitous practice which would be most restrictive of the rights and privileges of members of this house.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. BALDWIN-ALLEGED IRREGULARITY IN TABLING OF DOCUMENT
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. BALDWIN-ALLEGED IRREGULARITY IN TABLING OF DOCUMENT
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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, I am sure we all agree that, for the most part, our new rules are working very well. I think we will grow in our appreciation of them as time goes on. Even so, if any apparent infraction has taken place in connection with one of the new rules, I agree with the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Baldwin) that it should be looked at by Your Honour without delay.

Like the hon. member for Peace River, I realize that this is a point you may want to look at and on which you may wish to reserve your judgment. But I would like to support the contention of my hon. friend that the change in the rules that we made did not contemplate the kind of document which the Secretary of State (Mr. Pelletier) asked permission to table yesterday. I accept the correction of the hon. member for Edmonton West (Mr. Lambert), who has just said that the Secretary of State did not seek permission, because under the new standing order, if the document fits the wording of the order he does not have to ask permission. That is the whole point.

As Your Honour must be aware, the new rules have put many more responsibilities on you than existed heretofore. We were quite deliberate in the recommendation that there be what is now known as standing order 41 (2), which reads as follows:

A minister of the Crown, or a parliamentary secretary acting on behalf of a minister, may, in his place in the house, state that he proposes to lay upon the table of the house, any report or other paper dealing with a matter coming within

January 30. 1969

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. BALDWIN-ALLEGED IRREGULARITY IN TABLING OF DOCUMENT
Permalink
IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

Order. I must Interrupt the hon. minister at this time to suggest that the statement he is delivering must normally be made on motions, unless all hon. members are willing to hear the hon. minister's statement as a reply to a question. I do not think the hon. minister is entitled to continue any further.

Then there was a supplementary question by my parliamentary leader, and the Secretary of State made a reply at the end of which he said:

So many questions have been asked on that subject that I will not, so to speak, make any statement but rather reply in turn to the several questions that have been put to me and that have piled up.

Surely that was a commitment on the part of the Secretary of State, who realized that the questions he had to answer in a normal way could not be answered by a speech but could be briefly answered one by one; and there was your instruction, Sir, that it would be better if it were done on motions.

The Secretary of State sought yesterday to do indirectly what he was not permitted to do directly. He sought to bring into the official records of the house, by having it tabled, a lengthy document which consisted of answers to questions which Your Honour would not let him make during the question period but which Your Honour said he should make on motions.

If I am speaking rather critically, I do not mean it in that vein, but I am concerned about this procedure, because I can see that if this is allowed, all kinds of things will be tabled, not only the speeches that the Postmaster General (Mr. Kierans) is making around the country, but any kind of document; and what could be a real abuse of this rule would be for ministers to file statements that are argumentative on behalf of a certain piece of legislation before it is debated, or at a stage when it cannot be debated. So the rules of the house could be circumvented in this way.

I therefore feel very strongly that this is something that Your Honour will have to study. I say again that I do not want us to go back to the old practice of requiring unanimous consent for the tabling of any document, but precisely because we have done away with that requirement, the responsibility rests upon a minister to make sure that it is a proper paper that he is tabling. If there is any doubt about it, it is up to Your Honour to decide, and of course it is still

January 30, 1969

Tabling of Documents a matter for a point of order. Therefore, as I say, I welcome the improvements we have made in the rules and I think this was a good one, but I plead that it be not abused.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. BALDWIN-ALLEGED IRREGULARITY IN TABLING OF DOCUMENT
Permalink
PC

Marcel Joseph Aimé Lambert

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Marcel Lambert (Edmonton West):

do not want to take the time of the house at any great length to belabour the point. I think everyone here will recognize that the rules were drawn up with the idea, in principle, of fairness to both sides of the house and to all hon. members. It is axiomatic that they should be used fairly. I need not go on to say that they should be interpreted fairly, because that is a matter of course. What I wish to emphasize is that they should be used fairly. I would point out that if this practice were to grow it would become commonplace for a minister merely to rise and table a document which touches upon the administrative responsibility of his department, and it would be admitted. It could be a contentious document. It could be a mendacious document. It could be any kind of document. No member of this house would be able to comment upon it. Yet it would be a matter of record. I would point out also that the document is not tabled at that very moment; the minister merely states he will be tabling it at some time. Then hon. members have to go and get a copy.

I would suggest to Your Honour that procedures are about to be initiated under which debate will not take place on certain stages of legislation. The practice to which I have referred would give an opportunity to a minister or his parliamentary secretary to put in a full statement or a full argument, which in effect would be his statement at that stage of debate, thereby gaining an unfair advantage over those in the house who cannot reply.

This is the only point I wish to make. Certainly, I agree with my hon. friend from Peace River and the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, that the spirit of the amendment was to eliminate unnecessary requests for leave to table a document, and that it should not be used as a general door for the funnelling on to the record of parliament by the ministry of any and all papers, at the discretion of ministers. I submit, therefore, that this rule must be interpreted narrowly, to the extent which has been indicated this afternoon.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. BALDWIN-ALLEGED IRREGULARITY IN TABLING OF DOCUMENT
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LIB

Donald Stovel Macdonald (President of the Privy Council; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Hon. Donald S. Macdonald (President of the Privy Council):

I should like to deal with this point, since this is the first occasion the amendment to standing order 41(2) has come

before parliament. I might say it would have been useful-and perhaps the hon. member for Peace River might bear this in mind in future-if, when questions of privilege of this kind are raised for the first time, notice could be given, so that I might have an opportunity to look at the authorities-particularly, in this case, at the minutes of the Special Committee on Procedure.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. BALDWIN-ALLEGED IRREGULARITY IN TABLING OF DOCUMENT
Permalink
PC

Gerald William Baldwin (Official Opposition House Leader; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baldwin:

I will table the next one.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. BALDWIN-ALLEGED IRREGULARITY IN TABLING OF DOCUMENT
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LIB

Donald Stovel Macdonald (President of the Privy Council; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Macdonald (Rosedale):

Since the hon. member has not given me notice I shall have to proceed on the basis of my recollection, subject to confirmation after examining the minutes of the Special Committee on Procedure. I do recall quite definitely the question put to me by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre as to whether or not this encompassed press releases, and I indicated that in my opinion it did. I will do the hon. member the justice of saying that I do not recall what his response was, but I think he will agree he knew precisely the position we took. Perhaps other members of the committee can confirm this, but I cannot recall that the hon. member for Peace River said anything about it at that time.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. BALDWIN-ALLEGED IRREGULARITY IN TABLING OF DOCUMENT
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PC

Gerald William Baldwin (Official Opposition House Leader; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baldwin:

Nonsense. On a question of privilege, Mr. Speaker, I deny categorically-

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. BALDWIN-ALLEGED IRREGULARITY IN TABLING OF DOCUMENT
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IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

Order, please. There is

already one question of privilege before the house.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. BALDWIN-ALLEGED IRREGULARITY IN TABLING OF DOCUMENT
Permalink
LIB

Donald Stovel Macdonald (President of the Privy Council; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Macdonald (Rosedale):

Rather than

burden Your Honour with this we shall leave it to the record of the committee as to whether the hon. member did or did not; but I think you might dispel from your mind any suggestion that there has been some kind of trickery involved here. This is exactly the type of thing we had in contemplation when we brought about the change in the rule.

[DOT] (2:30 p.m.)

While standing order 41(1) is really quite precise as to the documents referred to, standing order 41(2) is in the broadest possible terms. It permits a minister or a parliamentary secretary to lay on the table of the house any report or other paper dealing with a matter coming within the administrative responsibilities of the government. I believe that the Chair should give the widest interpretation to those words. I also believe that it is in the interests of the house generally to have these documents, which deal with the

January 30, 1969

administrative responsibilities of the government, laid on the table and made available to members.

The hon. member for Edmonton West suggested that the answers could be contentious or that they might be mendacious, and that hon. members would not have an opportunity to respond. If that were the case, then they could respond by way of a question of privilege. I should like to point out that the answers here would be in no different category from a return that is made in response to an order of the house which had resulted from a question. Certainly there would be no immediate opportunity to reply in that case. In addition, I think that the Chair would acknowledge the fact that it would not be desirable to have a lot of mini-debates on all these questions.

The final observation that I would make is that if this new restrictive interpretation is to be given to the word "papers", as is suggested by the hon. member for Peace River, then I think Your Honour would also have to consider whether, in the same way, papers that are subject to tabling under a notice of motion for production of papers brought by hon. members opposite should not equally be given a restrictive interpretation. Therefore, if the word "papers" as it appears in the Standing Orders is to be severely cut down in its meaning, then it would similarly be restrictive of members on the other side of the house.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. BALDWIN-ALLEGED IRREGULARITY IN TABLING OF DOCUMENT
Permalink
IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

The hon. member for Ottawa West.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. BALDWIN-ALLEGED IRREGULARITY IN TABLING OF DOCUMENT
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LIB

Cyril Lloyd Francis (Chief Government Whip's assistant; Deputy Whip of the Liberal Party)

Liberal

Mr. Francis:

Mr. Speaker, I have the

honour to present the second report of the-

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. BALDWIN-ALLEGED IRREGULARITY IN TABLING OF DOCUMENT
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IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

Order, please. I have the honour to present to the house my comments on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Peace River.

May I thank hon. members for their advice as to the interpretation that ought to be placed by the Chair on standing order 41(1) and standing order 41(2). I will study the matter as closely as I can and take into account the views that have been expressed by hon. members who have taken part in the discussion. In view of the fact that there may be occasions, either today or later on, when ministers will seek the right to table similar documents, I will try to bring this decision down as quickly as possible.

Ways and Means COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE

Second report of standing committee on

veterans affairs-Mr. Francis.

Sixth report of standing committee on finance, trade and economic affairs, in French and English-Mr. Clermont.

Second report of standing committee on justice and legal affairs-Mr. Tolmie.

Fourth report of standing committee on fisheries and forestry-Mr. Crossman.

[Editor's note: For reports above referred to, see Votes and Proceedings.]

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. BALDWIN-ALLEGED IRREGULARITY IN TABLING OF DOCUMENT
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WAYS AND MEANS

TABLING OF NOTICE OF MOTION TO AMEND

January 30, 1969