Mr. Erik Nielsen (Yukon):
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege affecting myself as an individual member of the House and all hon. members. My question of privilege refers to the right of a member to discharge his responsibilities here, freely and without fear of reprisals and vengeful acts of those in power. My question of privilege involves the action of persons responsible to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
I had the opportunity to discuss the matter very briefly with the minister last evening, at which time he assured me that he was personally unaware of the circumstances which I disclosed to him. I must, of course, and willingly do so, accept the word of the minister that he had no personal knowledge of the events I am about to record. The minister must, however, accept full responsibility for the conduct and the acts of the employees of his department. It seems to me that any minister of the Crown is under an obligation to ensure that members of this House are not harassed in the performance of their duties.
The grounds upon which the particular question of privilege is based are these: Last fall, I made an application to purchase certain lands over which the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has jurisdiction. In due course, after the application had been referred to the department here in Ottawa I was informed that my application to purchase these lands was being rejected because I was a member of the House of Commons. Specifically, the departmental ruling was that, since I was a member of the House of Commons, section 19, subsection 1, of the Senate and House of Commons Act was applicable and therefore I could not purchase the Crown lands in question. Subsection 1 of section 19 of the Senate and House of Commons Act reads as follows:
In every contract, agreement or commission to be made, entered into or accepted by any person with
the government of Canada, or any of the departments or officers of the government of Canada, there shall be inserted an express condition, that no member of the House of Commons shall be admitted to any share or part of such contract, agreement or commission, or to any benefit to arise therefrom.
I draw the attention of hon. members to the fact that no mention is made of any prohibition of a member of the House of Commons from giving the benefit to the Crown of the amount of the purchase price of lands sold to him. All the subsection does is to stipulate that a clause must be inserted in agreements by any person with the government, or departments or officers of the government, such clause stipulating that no member of the House of Commons is entitled to share in any part, commission or benefit to arise therefrom.
In my submission it is an excessive exercise of power and therefore an abuse of power for the minister or any of the employees of his department to purport to apply that subsection of the Senate and House of Commons Act so as to deny to a member of this House the right to purchase Crown lands in the same way as any other citizen of this country. Even if that submission is not accepted, surely it is wrong and an abuse of power for an employee of the department to act as prosecutor, judge and jury and executioner at one and the same time. Surely the forum to decide the matter of the interpretation of such provision of the Senate and House of Commons Act is this House itself, the other place or the courts, and not a civil servant purporting to act as a judge or even more.
How many members of this House, while they were members, have purchased Crown lands or have leased such lands? I daresay a good many. How many are purchasing homes which have been financed with moneys made available by this Parliament to Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation under the provisions of the National Housing Act? Does section 19(1) mean that we cannot, as members of the House of Commons, purchase Canada Savings Bonds under a contractual arrangement whereby payroll deductions are made? After all, the interest on such bonds is surely a benefit to the member. Does the section prohibit me from renting from the government a parking space at Department of
Subtopic: MR. NIELSEN-RIGHT OF MEMBERS TO LEASE OR BUY CROWN LANDS-REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE ON PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS