October 30, 1969

PRIVILEGE

MR. MACQUARRIE-METHOD OF PUBLICIZING POLICY STATEMENTS BY MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS

PC

Heath Nelson Macquarrie

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Heath Macquarrie (Hillsborough):

Mr. Speaker, I rise on what for me is a rare exercise, namely a question of privilege involving a matter which impinges upon or could impinge upon the privileges and effectiveness of all hon. members of this House, and I intend to make a motion for referral of the subject matter to one of the standing committees of the House.

I have in my hand a document from the Department of Communications addressed to the news editors of the radio stations in Canada, which reads as follows:

Radio stations will soon be able to obtain, by simply dialing a telephone number, policy statements of national importance made in the House, at a press conference or in a speech, by the Minister of Communications, Eric Kierans.

The system will allow radio stations anywhere in Canada, where there is a telephone service, to get a recorded statement (60 to 90 seconds) preceded by a service message by dialing a government number in their area.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. MACQUARRIE-METHOD OF PUBLICIZING POLICY STATEMENTS BY MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS
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?

An hon. Member:

His master's voice.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. MACQUARRIE-METHOD OF PUBLICIZING POLICY STATEMENTS BY MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS
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PC

Heath Nelson Macquarrie

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macquarrie:

The document continues:

The statement can then be recorded by the stations for use in their news broadcasts or saved for public affairs programming.

We will let you know soon the number you must call.

This is over the name of Frank Howard, Director of Information Services, Communications Department.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. MACQUARRIE-METHOD OF PUBLICIZING POLICY STATEMENTS BY MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS
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?

An hon. Member:

1984.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. MACQUARRIE-METHOD OF PUBLICIZING POLICY STATEMENTS BY MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS
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PC

Heath Nelson Macquarrie

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macquarrie:

This, sir, is a serious matter. The relationship of Parliament to the media is one of great significance at the present time. There are queries whether or not television should be in the House, on the

doorstep of the House, or in neither place. This is a time when we see a great proliferation of information officers in the departments of the members of the executive.

This is a matter of especial importance in that it involves the particular minister who has a special role and powers in reference to broadcasting in this country because, by Order in Council P.C. 1968-1305, those powers regarding licensing which once were vested in the Minister of Transport have now been vested in the Minister of Communications. So it is not a far stretch of the imagination to envisage that the news editors of the radio stations across the country, having dialed the number, may in certain respects expect to hear "his master's voice", as the old expression has it.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. MACQUARRIE-METHOD OF PUBLICIZING POLICY STATEMENTS BY MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS
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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. MACQUARRIE-METHOD OF PUBLICIZING POLICY STATEMENTS BY MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS
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PC

Heath Nelson Macquarrie

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Macquarrie:

This matter, Mr. Speaker, should be investigated. If this is a proper relationship of a member of the House of Commons to the media, it should not be the exclusive property of the ministers or a particular minister. If it is an improper relationship with the media, if it embodies the concept, even remotely, of managed news, then it should be thoroughly investigated by the proper committee of this House and the practice curtailed forthwith. It may indeed be a proper performance or it may be a highly improper performance. But this relationship is of such significance in these days when we are told that the media is the message, that the situation could be very serious if the minister and the media are the same. I therefore propose to move the following motion:

[DOT] (11:10 a.m.)

That the conduct of the Postmaster General and Minister of Communications, as evidenced by a letter distributed from his office and relating to the availability of statements made by him or on his behalf to the radio stations of Canada be referred to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. MACQUARRIE-METHOD OF PUBLICIZING POLICY STATEMENTS BY MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS
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IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

I doubt very much whether it would be in the interest of the House to enlarge the debate on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Hillsborough. I have studied the notice which I received from the hon. member in accordance with the requirements of the rules. I have

October 30, 1969

Publicizing of Policy Statements looked into the precedents and I am now in a position to indicate to the House whether I consider that there is a prima facie case of privilege, since this has to be determined before the motion can be put in a formal way to the House.

It may be useful at the beginning of the session for me to stress once again, as I have tried to do in the past sessions, the very nature of parliamentary privilege. Privilege has been defined as the sum of the fundamental rights enjoyed by each House of Parliament collectively and by members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions, and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals. In the seventeenth edition of May's Parliamentary Practice at page 43 we find the following:

When any of these rights and immunities, both of the Members, individually, and of the assembly in its collective capacity, which are known by the general name of privileges, are disregarded or attacked by any individual or authority, the offence is called a breach of privilege, and is punishable under the law of Parliament.

Parliamentary privilege as a separate part of the common law includes the following special rights and immunities available to Members of Parliament:

-freedom of speech, in the sense of immunity against suits in defamation; freedom from arrest in certain very limited circumstances; exemption from court duty as a witness or as a juror; protection against undue influence, and reflection on Members.

There are also the collective privileges of the House dealing with the control of its proceedings and publications; the calling and protection of witnesses; reflections and indignities affecting the House as a body or as an institution; the right to set up its own rules, and the traditional privileges claimed by the Speaker on behalf of the House at the opening of Parliament.

I stress the essence of the definition of privilege itself so that hon. members will realize that it is only in very extreme circumstances that there can come to the House a legitimate case of privilege on the basis of the real and accepted and traditional definition of parliamentary privilege.

The question has often been raised whether parliamentary privilege imposes on ministers an obligation to deliver ministerial statements and to make announcements and communications to the public through the House of Commons or to make these announcements or statements in the House rather than outside the chamber. The question has been asked whether hon. members are entitled, as part of their parliamentary privilege, to receive such

information ahead of the general public. I can find no precedent to justify this suggestion. Hon. members will remember that there was an interesting and somewhat protracted debate on a question of privilege raised in the last session by the hon. member for Calgary North (Mr. Woolliams). The arguments which were advanced at the time were studied closely and the precedents were discussed in a ruling of the Chair reported at page 869 of Votes and Proceedings of March 31, 1969. The precedents which were quoted at that time are in my view applicable to the circumstances outlined by the hon. member for Hillsborough. There may be, in such circumstances, a question of propriety or a question of courtesy. There may be a grievance. But in my view there cannot be a question of privilege. In the circumstances I regret that I cannot put the hon. member's motion to the House.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. MACQUARRIE-METHOD OF PUBLICIZING POLICY STATEMENTS BY MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS
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ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

FINANCE, TRADE AND ECONOMIC AFFAIRS REFERENCE TO STANDING COMMITTEE OF SUBJECT OF INTEREST RATES

LIB

Allan Joseph MacEachen (Minister of Manpower and Immigration)

Liberal

Hon. Allan J. MacEachen (Minister of Manpower and Immigration):

Mr. Speaker, I understand there have been consultations with representatives of the other parties in order to move with unanimous consent a reference to the Standing Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Affairs. The purpose of the reference is to give the committee an opportunity to consider the present level of interest rates in Canada in relation to rates in other countries and to economic conditions in Canada and elsewhere.

With unanimous consent, Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce (Mr. Pepin):

That the Standing Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Affairs be empowered to consider the present level of interest rates in Canada and their relation both to rates in other countries and to economic conditions in Canada and elsewhere;

And that the evidence adduced by the committee in its study of the aforementioned matter during the first session of the twenty-eighth parliament be referred to the committee.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   FINANCE, TRADE AND ECONOMIC AFFAIRS REFERENCE TO STANDING COMMITTEE OF SUBJECT OF INTEREST RATES
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IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

Has the minister leave to present this motion?

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   FINANCE, TRADE AND ECONOMIC AFFAIRS REFERENCE TO STANDING COMMITTEE OF SUBJECT OF INTEREST RATES
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Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   FINANCE, TRADE AND ECONOMIC AFFAIRS REFERENCE TO STANDING COMMITTEE OF SUBJECT OF INTEREST RATES
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Motion agreed to. October 30, 1569



Public Bills PUBLIC BILLS


FIRST READINGS

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

The House will note that on today's order paper there are listed many public bills for introduction by private members. It would be difficult at this time for the Chair to review the provisions of each of those bills. May I therefore suggest to the House that we adopt the procedure which was agreed upon by the House in several recent sessions, namely, that we proceed to the introduction and first reading of these bills so that each may be scrutinized between now and the time appointed for their second reading in order to determine whether there be any defect therein with respect to the practices and usages of the House.

Therefore, in order to save the time of the House, taking into consideration that perhaps more than two hours would be required to introduce each of these measures separately, it is suggested that by unanimous consent all the bills listed for introduction on today's order paper be deemed to have been introduced, given first reading and ordered to be printed and allowed to stand for second reading at the next sitting of the House, subject, of course, to a subsequent examination as to the regularity of each bill.

To be more specific I should mention that some five bills appear at first blush to have the earmarks of money bills and therefore could be ruled out of order. Hon. members who are sponsoring these bills may want to give some thought to arguing the procedural point when they are brought before the House for second reading. These bills are:

An Act respecting the Canadian Heritage Foundation Act;

An Act relating to Indian Lands in the province of British Columbia;

An Act to amend the National Housing Act, 1954 (Municipal Water and Soil Pollution Projects);

An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan (Housewives' contributions and benefits):

An Act to amend the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

These bills will have to be studied carefully before a definite opinion is given. The Chair will take into account, of course, all the procedural arguments that may be submitted to the House.

It is agreed that we proceed as has been suggested?

Topic:   FIRST READINGS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Sub-subtopic:   PROCEDURE RESPECTING INTRODUCTION OF PUBLIC BILLS
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October 30, 1969