April 13, 1970

PRIVILEGE

MR. DOUGLAS (NANAIMO-COWICHAN-THE ISLANDS)-STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS RESPECTING AUDITOR GENERAL

NDP

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

New Democratic Party

Mr. T. C. Douglas (Nanaimo-Cowichan-The Islands):

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege affecting the rights and prerogatives of Parliament. My question of privilege has to do with the statements which have recently been made by ministers of the Crown respecting the Auditor General of Canada.

On March 25, on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation national news, the President of the Privy Council (Mr. Macdonald) said: -we don't regard it as being his responsibility to criticize the underlying policy involved in certain decisions. It is Parliament's responsibility and the government as approved by Parliament for deciding on the policy. We don't think it is the Auditor General's prerogative to comment on that.

More recently, on the CBC program "Encounter" on April 11, 1970, the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Drury), referring to the Auditor General, said:

He has expressed his view as to the appropriateness of some government policies. Now, in this sense he is pitting his judgment as to sound business practice, sound governmental policy, against the government, and not unnaturally you would not expect a government in every instance to agree with his judgment. I wonder myself whether the Auditor General should cast himself in this role or whether we should look for really another kind of person to be Auditor General-

No one needs to remind the House that the Auditor General is an officer of Parliament, that it is his duty to report to Parliament any improprieties or wasteful expenditures which he encounters in the pursuance of his duties. Naturally there will be times when the members of the government will disagree with the opinions expressed by the Auditor General in his report. If they disagree they have two courses of action open to them. First, if the government finds that the criticisms of the Auditor General are uncalled for and unjustified, it can place its case before the Public Accounts Committee. That is the place for the

government to argue that the Auditor General has exceeded his responsibilities and has dealt with policy matters rather than expenditures. The government at that time is in a position to explain any extenuating circumstances as to why the government made expenditures which were not authorized by Parliament and not made on the basis of statutes.

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

The government has a second remedy open to it. If it believes that the Auditor General is incompetent and that he is incapable of interpreting his responsibilities accurately, the government can introduce a motion into both Houses of Parliament calling for his dismissal. The House at that time would have an opportunity to hear the government state its case and to make a decision on the basis of all the facts presented. These are two things the government can do.

I submit to you, Sir, that what it cannot do is harass and intimidate the Auditor General, nor bludgeon him into silence.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DOUGLAS (NANAIMO-COWICHAN-THE ISLANDS)-STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS RESPECTING AUDITOR GENERAL
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DOUGLAS (NANAIMO-COWICHAN-THE ISLANDS)-STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS RESPECTING AUDITOR GENERAL
Permalink
NDP

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

New Democratic Party

Mr. Douglas (Nanaimo-Cowichan-The Islands):

It seems to me very clear that the government has two choices. If it is dissatisfied with the services of the Auditor General it should introduce a motion into this House to fire him. If it does not care to do that it should contain itself, let us argue the question out before the Public Accounts Committee, and allow the Auditor General to continue his work of being the watchdog of Parliament and the protector of the public purse.

My question of privilege is that an officer of Parliament in the pursuance of his duty is being intimidated and harassed in such a manner as to interfere with the proper pursuance of his responsibilities as the Auditor General. If Your Honour finds that there is a prima facie case of privilege, I am prepared to move a motion to that effect.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DOUGLAS (NANAIMO-COWICHAN-THE ISLANDS)-STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS RESPECTING AUDITOR GENERAL
Permalink
IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

The hon. member for Nanai-mo-Cowichan-The Islands has given the required notice to the Chair of his intention to raise this very important matter by way of a question of privilege. During the last few hours I have had occasion to reflect very seri-

April 13, 1970

Auditor General

ously on the point raised by the hon. member, to study precedents and look at the authors of the original decisions, and to prepare for a decision in light not only of the notice but of the arguments now presented to this House by the hon. member for Nanaimo-Cowichan-The Islands.

The hon. member knows that the ruling which the Chair' has to make at this time is a procedural one, that is, to determine whether, according to our rules of practice and precedents, in these circumstances alluded to by the hon. member there is a prima facie case of privilege. Hon. members are aware, of course, of the traditional definition of parliamentary privilege. It has been my privilege from time to time to give what I thought was the proper definition of this very important aspect of the rights, duties and responsibilities of members in both houses, and my definition has always been based on the one reported in May's Parliamentary Practice.

According to May, Parliamentary privilege is the sum of peculiar rights enjoyed by each House 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. Perhaps I should stress here that the reference by May is to the discharge of their functions by Members of Parliament themselves, not by an officer of Parliament or an official of the House of Commons. Thus, privilege, although part of the law of the land, is to a certain extent an extension to the ordinary law and an exemption in a way from the ordinary law of the land. In the words of the learned author, it is when these special and exclusive rights of members appear to have been impeded that a prima facie case of privilege, and a motion founded thereon, can be considered either by the House or by a committee.

Is criticism of an official responsible to Parliament, such as the Auditor General, in the terms allegedly used by the President of the Treasury Board or earlier by the President of the Privy Council, tantamount to a breach of parliamentary privilege?

In attempting to answer this question one must remind hon. members that if it is the conduct of a minister or ministers of the Crown that is under question, then the matter can be considered by this House only by way of a substantive motion. I do not believe this is what the hon. member for Nanaimo-Cowi-chan-The Islands had in mind. But if this were the approach he presented to the House and

if he wanted to bring before the committee on Privileges and Elections the conduct of members of the government or individual members of this House in respect of the Auditor General's discharge of his responsibilities, then this could be done only by way of a substantive motion.

Hon. members are aware of the well-known decision of Mr. Speaker Michener reported in the Journals of the House of Commons for June 19, 1959 at pages 581 and following, which I think is relevant and has been quoted by subsequent Speakers on numerous occasions. If it is a grievance which the hon. member has against the administration, then the matter might be raised more properly by way of a censure motion against the government.

The third point I should like to propose for the consideration of hon. members has been made in a sense by the hon. member himself in his presentation of a moment ago. It relates to the fact that the Auditor General's report is now before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. It may well be that the Committee on Public Accounts rather than the Committee on Privileges and Elections is the proper forum for the consideration of the matter raised by the hon. member for Nanai-mo-Cowichan-The Islands. This, I would think, is a conclusion to which I would like to come. All things considered, and without in any way minimizing the importance of the matter raised by the hon. member, I do not think it should be considered by the House in the form of a question of privilege.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DOUGLAS (NANAIMO-COWICHAN-THE ISLANDS)-STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS RESPECTING AUDITOR GENERAL
Permalink

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

AUDITOR GENERAL

PC

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

Progressive Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I intend to ask unanimous consent under Standing Order 43 for the purpose of putting a motion to the House. In doing so I am fortified by the excellent presentation by the hon. member for Nanaimo-Cowichan-The Islands (Mr. Douglas) who has laid the first foundation for my motion.

The continued attacks on the Auditor General in the exercise of his duty by members of the government, including the statements made by the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Drury) in a television interview on April

April 13. 1970

11, constitute an unprecedented and arrogant threat to the Auditor .General which would result in limiting supervision of the spending of the taxpayers' money. Without the means and opportunity to defend himself, the government should not stoop to attacks of this kind which weaken the position of the Auditor General and his effectiveness in dealing with the public accounts of Canada. If they are satisfied that he is in breach of his duty they have a remedy under the Financial Administration Act.

I therefore ask leave to put the following motion:

That this House regrets the continued attacks by members of the government on the Auditor General of Canada who, in the exercise of his duty, has justified the confidence of the House by making annual reports to Parliament without fear or favour.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   AUDITOR GENERAL
Sub-subtopic:   CRITICISMS BY MINISTERS-REQUEST (MR. BALDWIN) FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink
IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

Hon. members have heard the motion proposed by the hon. member for Peace River. The motion can be put at this time for consideration by the House if there is unanimous agreement. I must ask whether there is unanimity.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   AUDITOR GENERAL
Sub-subtopic:   CRITICISMS BY MINISTERS-REQUEST (MR. BALDWIN) FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Yes.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   AUDITOR GENERAL
Sub-subtopic:   CRITICISMS BY MINISTERS-REQUEST (MR. BALDWIN) FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

No.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   AUDITOR GENERAL
Sub-subtopic:   CRITICISMS BY MINISTERS-REQUEST (MR. BALDWIN) FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink
IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

Since there is not agreement the motion cannot be put.

[DOT] (2:20 p.m.)

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   AUDITOR GENERAL
Sub-subtopic:   CRITICISMS BY MINISTERS-REQUEST (MR. BALDWIN) FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink
PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

Trampling on the rights of Parliament!

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   AUDITOR GENERAL
Sub-subtopic:   CRITICISMS BY MINISTERS-REQUEST (MR. BALDWIN) FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink
?

An hon. Member:

The just society!

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   AUDITOR GENERAL
Sub-subtopic:   CRITICISMS BY MINISTERS-REQUEST (MR. BALDWIN) FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink

CRITICISMS BY MINISTERS-REQUEST (MR. KNOWLES, WINNIPEG NORTH CENTRE) FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43

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 too rise to ask for the consent of the House to make a motion under Standing Order 43. The Standing Order reads as follows:

A motion may, in case of urgent and pressing necessity previously explained by the mover, be made by unanimous consent of the House without notice having been given under Standing Order 42.

The explanation I wish to give is very brief. The situation which has been the subject matter of the last two interventions is a very serious one, but there is something we can do in a moment to resolve it. I ask that when the Prime Minister hears my motion he request those on his side of the House not to object to its being put.

Auditor General

Topic:   CRITICISMS BY MINISTERS-REQUEST (MR. KNOWLES, WINNIPEG NORTH CENTRE) FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh!

Topic:   CRITICISMS BY MINISTERS-REQUEST (MR. KNOWLES, WINNIPEG NORTH CENTRE) FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink
PC

Gordon Harvey Aiken

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Aiken:

What about the Prime Minister?

Topic:   CRITICISMS BY MINISTERS-REQUEST (MR. KNOWLES, WINNIPEG NORTH CENTRE) FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink
PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

What a hope!

Topic:   CRITICISMS BY MINISTERS-REQUEST (MR. KNOWLES, WINNIPEG NORTH CENTRE) FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink

April 13, 1970