Mr. Douglas Roche (Edmonton-Strathcona):
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege affecting all members of parliament.
Two days ago I asked the Minister of State for Urban Affairs if members of parliament could be accredited as observers at the national tri-level intergovernmental meeting to be held in Edmonton next week. This meeting is to be open to the press but closed to observers. The minister replied that observers could not attend because "there is just not sufficient room available."
Yesterday, I moved a motion that the government direct the planning secretariat to permit one member of each of the four parties in the House of Commons to be accredited as an official observer. This motion was blocked by the government supporters.
Following this action, I consulted with the management of the Macdonald Hotel in Edmonton, where the meeting is to be held, and I was informed that the extended Tonquin Room holds 1,100 people theatre-style or, for a dinner setting, 800 persons. The suggestion that four members of parliament could not be fitted into a room of such dimensions is ludicrous and underscores why I am raising this question of privilege.
The meeting next week will be the second national tri-level conference. It will deal with the super-problem of urbanization, considering such issues as management of growth, land use, housing, transportation and finance. These are problems that parliament as a whole has a responsibility to solve, not just the government. It is vital, and within our rights, for members of parliament to have first-hand information on the various points of view presented by all governments. If members of parliament are forced to rely on press reports we may get a picture that is incomplete, to say the least.
For example, the Western Economic Opportunities Conference in Calgary last July was open to observers. It is a good thing it was, for the day after the Calgary conference I was able to come back to the House and report to all members my impressions and evaluation of the conference which were quite at variance with the slick, co-operative image of the federal government conveyed by the communications media. That speech is reported on page 6054 of Hansard. If members of parliament had not had direct access to the western conference, we would not have known the full story.
Of course, the government does not want opposition members of parliament around when they are doing business. The record of this government has been one of continual downgrading and diminishment of the role of the member.
Some non. Members: Order!
Subtopic: MR, ROCHE-OPPORTUNITY FOR MEMBERS TO ATTEND TRI-LEVEL GOVERNMENT CONFERENCE-REQUEST FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION