Mr. John Burton (Regina East):
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege concerning answers to questions placed on the Order Paper. On October 23 I placed on the Order Paper a series of questions, Nos. 256 and 259 to 264 inclusive, asking for information about the designation of areas under the Regional Development Incentives Act. My questions concerned all provinces except the three maritime provinces which were completely included in designated areas. My first question with respect to each province was: "What criteria were used by the Department of Regional Economic Expansion in the selection of designated areas for the province... ". The answer provided to each question was: "Weighted measures of rates of economic growth (employment, income and population) and of potential for secondary industry"-a clear case of bureaucratic gobbledegook.
I then placed a motion for papers on the Order Paper asking for a copy of all correspondence between the government of Canada and each of the provinces regarding the selection of designated regions under the new Regional Development Incentives Act. The answer I received was that correspondence was exchanged only with the province of Alberta. This correspondence was subsequently tabled in the House of Commons and provided information on the views of both the government of Canada and the government of Alberta with respect to the designation of areas in that province. This was then followed by a series of questions in which I asked for information about the specific proposals placed before the government of each province by the government of Canada and the views of the provinces concerning these proposals. The standard answer submitted to each of these questions was that "the details of such consultations are confidential matters."
My question of privilege is that there has been a systematic attempt to evade the provision of information to which this House is entitled. Legislation passed by this House provided for consultations to take place with the provinces and now members are denied access to information on these consultations. We are told we have no right to know.
Furthermore, I submit that there is a conflict between the answer provided to questions 577 to 583 inclusive, and 596 to 598 inclusive, which indicated that the details of such consultations are confidential matters while the government had already provided full information on consultations with one province in response to motion for papers No. 140 concerning correspondence exchanged between the government of Canada and the government of Alberta. If it is possible to provide information on one province, how can the government hide behind confidentiality with respect to other provinces?
If Your Honour thinks there is a question of privilege I am prepared to move a motion to refer this matter to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections for further consideration.
Subtopic: MR. BURTON-ADEQUACY OF ANSWERS TO ORDER PAPER QUESTIONS