May 19, 1970

PRIVILEGE

MR. HOWARD (OKANAGAN BOUNDARY)-INTERPRETATION OF DEBATE BY THOMSON NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST

LIB

Bruce Andrew Thomas Howard

Liberal

Mr. Bruce Howard (Okanagan Boundary);

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege. On Monday, May 4, this House debated a motion by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles). In referring to events of that date, I wish to state that certain newspaper accounts of the debate have just been brought to my attention and for that reason I was not able to raise the question until today.

As Your Honour will recall, the debate on that day was on the subject of considering increased old age and veterans pensions. The motion called for "an immediate and substantial increase in the basic amount of old age security pensions and in veterans pensions." In preliminary discussion of the motion Your Honour ruled that the motion was a no-confidence motion in the government. In other words, the debate became a matter of procedure. If the motion had carried, Parliament would have been dissolved at once and the country would have had to spend millions of dollars on an election. More than that, there would not have been a government in office to bring in the pension increases proposed by the motion.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. HOWARD (OKANAGAN BOUNDARY)-INTERPRETATION OF DEBATE BY THOMSON NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST
Permalink
PC

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

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baldwin:

There is no government now.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. HOWARD (OKANAGAN BOUNDARY)-INTERPRETATION OF DEBATE BY THOMSON NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST
Permalink
LIB

Bruce Andrew Thomas Howard

Liberal

Mr. Howard (Okanagan Boundary):

Your Honour knew that under Standing Order 58(9) the motion was a no-confidence motion in the government. All members of this House and all members of the Press Gallery knew that, but the people back home did not know it.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. HOWARD (OKANAGAN BOUNDARY)-INTERPRETATION OF DEBATE BY THOMSON NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST
Permalink
PC

George Harris Hees

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hees:

They know you are against raising pensions.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. HOWARD (OKANAGAN BOUNDARY)-INTERPRETATION OF DEBATE BY THOMSON NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST
Permalink
LIB

Bruce Andrew Thomas Howard

Liberal

Mr. Howard (Okanagan Boundary):

One

member of the Press Gallery, whose words are carried in 42 newspapers across Canada, used that lack of public knowledge of the

rules of parliamentary debate as the basis for a monumental distortion of events as they occurred in the House. His words appeared in various newspapers between May 9 and May 12.

The newspaper article I cite was written by Patrick Nicholson of the Thomson newspaper chain. The distortions and inaccuracies of that column are typical of many of the columns that he writes in 42 Thomson newspapers across Canada. This is a situation that grows more alarming with every new purchase by the Thomson newspaper chain.

In all fairness I want to make it clear that I am not referring to the hard news that is carried in the Thomson newspapers. In my view hard news as reported by the Thomson staff is generally fair and accurate. What I am referring to is the daily ration of distorted and inaccurate interpretations of events in Ottawa carried in the column "Ottawa Report" by Patrick Nicholson.

The world today feeds on news. We depend on newsmen to tell us accurately and honestly about the events of the day. In a time when riot, war and demonstrations are the daily fare, we become doubly conscious of the power of the written word to calm or to incite, to build or destroy the nation. If we are to survive the difficult days ahead we need a strong and a free press. But we need journalists with higher standards of responsibility-

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. HOWARD (OKANAGAN BOUNDARY)-INTERPRETATION OF DEBATE BY THOMSON NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST
Permalink
IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

Order, please. I have to interrupt the hon. member to ask him to indicate in what way he thinks this is a question of privilege. If the hon. member has a motion, he should indicate what motion he has in mind. He has now had the floor for a few minutes. The hon. member owes it to the Chair and hon. members to indicate as quickly as possibly the question of privilege.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. HOWARD (OKANAGAN BOUNDARY)-INTERPRETATION OF DEBATE BY THOMSON NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST
Permalink
LIB

Bruce Andrew Thomas Howard

Liberal

Mr. Howard (Okanagan Boundary):

I intend to move a motion, Mr. Speaker. I can finish with just one more paragraph.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. HOWARD (OKANAGAN BOUNDARY)-INTERPRETATION OF DEBATE BY THOMSON NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST
Permalink
PC

George Harris Hees

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hees:

That is one too many. Let us have the motion now.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. HOWARD (OKANAGAN BOUNDARY)-INTERPRETATION OF DEBATE BY THOMSON NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST
Permalink
LIB

Bruce Andrew Thomas Howard

Liberal

Mr. Howard (Okanagan Boundary):

With

each new purchase of an independent newspaper in Canada by the Thomson chain, the

May 19, 1970

7059 COMMONS DEBATES

Interpretation of Debate by Newspaper

hoped-for day of accurate news reporting is farther away. That affects the political fabric of the nation and for that reason is of great concern to members of this House. If Your Honour rules that this is a proper question of privilege, I intend to move that, as the Press Gallery is an integral part of the operation of a democracy and of this House, the matter of the growing threat to freedom of the press as posed by the continued extension of the Thomson newspaper chain in Canada be referred to the Committee on Privileges and Elections.

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

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. HOWARD (OKANAGAN BOUNDARY)-INTERPRETATION OF DEBATE BY THOMSON NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST
Permalink
IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

The hon. member for Okanagan Boundary has given notice of his intention to raise the question of privilege he has just outlined. As hon. members well know, the responsibility of the Chair at this stage is to determine, as a procedural point, whether there is a prima facie case of privilege. Precedents also indicate that the Chair has to determine whether the matter has been raised at the first opportunity.

;The point made by the hon. member for Okanagan Boundary has reference to interpretative reporting of Parliament in the Thompson chain of newspapers. The hon. member proposes to move the following ihotion:

That the matter of the growing threat to freedom of the press as posed by the continued extension of the Thomson newspaper chain in Canada be referred to the Committee on Privileges and Elections.

The question to be resolved by the Chair at this stage is whether the situation complained of by the hon. member constitutes a prima facie case of privilege. Parliamentary privilege has been defined in many instances. I remind hon. members once again of Sir Erskine May's definition of parliamentary privilege as-

-the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively as a constituent part of the High Court of Parliament, 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. Thus privilege, though part of the law of the land, is to a certain extent an exemption from the ordinary law,' I

Does the situation complained of by the hon. member constitute an interference with members of the House, either collectively or individually, in the discharge of their functions as members of the House? The answer, in;my view, must be in the negative.

What the hon. member seeks is an inquiry by) the Standing Committee on Privileges and

Elections into an alleged threat to the freedom of the press. If such a far-reaching question were to be investigated by the House it seems to me that the proposal should come to hon. members by way of a substantive motion rather than by way of a question of privilege. May I refer hon. members to citation 113 of Beauchesne's fourth edition. As an example of a breach of parliamentary privilege the author states the following:

Libels upon members and aspersions upon them in relation to Parliament and interference of any kind with their official duties, are breaches of the privileges of the members.

Farther on, Beauchesne states that an attack in a newspaper article is not a breach of privilege unless it comes within the definition of privileges given above. The suggestion is that a newspaper article cannot be questioned by way of breach of privilege unless its contents are tantamount to libel and constitute an interference with their official duties. I repeat that I cannot find these essential elements of breach of parliamentary privilege in the circumstances alluded to by the hon. member for Okanagan Boundary and I must conclude that his motion cannot be put at this time.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. HOWARD (OKANAGAN BOUNDARY)-INTERPRETATION OF DEBATE BY THOMSON NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST
Permalink

MR. CAOUETTE-CORRECTION OF STATEMENT IN THE HOUSE

RA

David Réal Caouette

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Real Caouelle (Temiscamingue):

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege in order to set the record straight concerning a statement I made in the House last May 4. According to certain information I have received since then, I believe I may have misled the House as regards summer employment for students. Indeed, I made the following statement:

In my region, for example, the mining companies hire local students during the summer months. The Noranda mine, for one, had between 1,000 and 1,200 students on the payroll last year, but this year they have decided to hire only some 200.

Now, Mr. Speaker, my correction is as follows: Whereas the government's recommendation is that private industry hire students in a ratio of about 5 per cent of its current active manpower, I must admit that, according to the information provided by Mr. Berube, the manager of Noranda Mines, this particular company goes further than the government's suggestion since it hires a number of students which equals 17.6 per cent of its labour force, that is, three times as much, as the government standards.

May 19, 1970 COMMONS

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, the Noranda mine gave jobs to 195 students in 1960, 257 in 1965 and 287 in 1970 in my area only. On the other hand, this year, the Noranda company will hire 2,200 students in its various industries.

To do the company justice and not to mislead the House, I believed it was my duty to set the facts in their true light.

Topic:   MR. CAOUETTE-CORRECTION OF STATEMENT IN THE HOUSE
Permalink
IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

I doubt whether there is a question of privilege. In any event, the hon. member did not put any motion before the House. I rather believe it is a correction and I assume that the statement of the hon. member has been considered as such by his colleagues.

Topic:   MR. CAOUETTE-CORRECTION OF STATEMENT IN THE HOUSE
Permalink

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE


Fourth report of Standing Committee on Miscellaneous Estimates, in both official languages-Mr. Fernand-E. Leblanc (Laurier).


ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION


First report of Special Committee on Environmental Pollution-Mr. Anderson. [Editor's Note: For text of above reports, see today's Votes and Proceedings.]


May 19, 1970