November 6, 1997

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The Speaker

I am now ready to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Fraser Valley on October 29, 1997 concerning a government news release announcing the membership of the nominating committee for the proposed Canada pension plan investment board.

I thank the hon. member for Fraser Valley for raising the matter and for providing the Chair with a copy of the document in question, and I thank the Leader of the Government in the House for his comments on the matter.

The hon. member for Fraser Valley referred to a news release dated October 23 in which the Department of Finance announced the membership of a committee that will nominate candidates for the proposed Canada pension plan investment board. He pointed out that clause 10(2) of Bill C-2, the Canada pension plan investment board act specifically provides for this nominating committee and he reminded the House that this bill had only been taken up by the Standing Committee on Finance on October 28. Thus, the hon. member argued, the Minister of Finance had established this nominating committee under the provisions of a bill not yet adopted by the House and not yet even considered by the standing committee.

The hon. member drew a parallel between this and two other cases raised in the House concerning government advertising on the GST. In the cases cited, Speaker Fraser had not found a breach of privilege because the departmental information alluded to “proposals”, thus it recognized that the legislation had not yet been adopted.

According to the hon. member, the case he put before the House is much more serious. He argued that, in designating a committee defined in clause 10 of Bill C-2, the Minister of Finance had acted as if the bill is sure to be passed in its present form. In the opinion of the hon. member, to allow the government to proceed to act as if a bill has been approved by the House would set a dangerous precedent. He stated this “undercuts the authority of Parliament and derogates from the rights and privileges of every member to have input into legislation prior to its enactment”.

In response to the arguments raised, the Leader of the Government in the House made the claim that the press release did not in any way seek to influence the House in its decision to adopt or reject the bill. He added that the government's action was merely a prudent step so as to have sufficient lead time to prepare definitive appointments to the investment board if the bill were adopted.

I have carefully examined the submissions from the hon. member for Fraser Valley and from the government House leader. I think it may be useful to review the sequence of events on this matter.

As I understand it, on October 8, 1997, the House adopted Bill C-2 at second reading and referred it to the Standing Committee on Finance. On October 23, the Department of Finance issued its press release and the next day, on October 24 during question period the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill asked a question on the establishment of this nominating committee and its effect on legislation before the House. The hon. government House leader replied that the government was simply acting responsibly in putting in place the arrangements necessary to proceed if the bill were adopted.

One of the first tasks of the Speaker, when dealing with a question of privilege, is to determine whether the matter has been raised at the earliest possible opportunity. As I have just indicated, the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill brought this matter to the attention of the House during question period on the day following the issue of the news release. Clearly there was ample opportunity to raise the matter as a question of privilege at that time, yet three sitting days elapsed before the hon. member for Fraser Valley raised this question in the House.

Now, if I may, I shall move on to the question of privilege per se, in order to determine whether any parliamentary privilege has been breached.

In the present case, the Chair cannot conclude that freedom of speech has been adversely affected since members will have the opportunity to debate Bill C-2 and propose amendments to it, either in the finance committee or in the House during report stage.

One might further ask whether this action has unduly prejudiced debate in committee or in the House. Like Speaker Fraser in his October 10, 1989 ruling on GST advertising, I would say that this House has never had any difficulty in expressing its opinions when dealing with controversial situations. The House is a forum for debate and the consideration of different points of view. Members do not work in a vacuum. They are constantly aware of pressures and factors outside the House itself. While an action like this one may offend some hon. members, it would be hard to make a case that it prejudiced debate.

Similarly, in examining the privilege of immunity from obstruction and intimidation, I cannot conclude that any hon. member has been obstructed in the performance of his or her parliamentary duties by the minister's action.

In deciding a question of privilege, the Speaker must find whether, prima facie, there is sufficient cause to set aside the business of the House so that the House can consider a breach of one of its privileges or, more generally, a contempt of its authority. In this case, I find that no specific privilege has been breached. The authority given to this House to debate freely has not been compromised, nor has there been any obstruction or intimidation of members.

Nonetheless, the Chair acknowledges that this is a matter of potential importance since it touches the role of members as legislators, a role which should not be trivialized. It is from this perspective that the actions of the Department of Finance are of some concern. The vocabulary of the news release is subject to varying interpretations. But even if one argues that the subject of the news release is properly the creation of the nominating committee and not the progress of Bill C-2, the fact remains that the reference to the legislative process is cursory at best.

This dismissive view of the legislative process, repeated often enough, makes a mockery of our parliamentary conventions and practices. That it is the Department of Finance that is complained of once again has not gone unnoticed.

I trust that today's decision at this early stage of the 36th Parliament will not be forgotten by the minister and his officials and that the departments and agencies will be guided by it.

After very carefully reflecting on this matter, and for the specific reasons explained, I have concluded that the matter submitted by the hon. member for Fraser Valley does not constitute, prima facie, a breach of privilege.

I thank hon. members for their contributions to this discussion.


Subtopic:   Privilege
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LIB

Marcel Massé

Liberal

Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, as part of the most complete effort ever undertaken to inform parliamentarians and Canadians on the government's performance, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a report entitled “Accounting for Results: Annual Report to Parliament of the President of the Treasury Board”.

I also have the honour of tabling at the same time 78 pilot reports on performance.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Annual Report To Parliament
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LIB

Ted McWhinney

Liberal

Mr. Ted McWhinney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have the great pleasure of tabling in the House today the report by the National Forum on Canada's International Relations, 1997 edition.

The National Forum is one of the Government's initiatives in response to the 1994 report by the Special Joint Committee on Canada's Foreign Policy. The Forum is part of an exercise to democratize foreign policy, both here in policy development and abroad through efforts like the campaign to eliminate antipersonnel mines.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   National Forum On Canada's International Relations
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LIB

Bob Speller

Liberal

Mr. Bob Speller (Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34 I have the pleasure to present to this House the report of the Canadian branch Commonwealth Parliamentary Association concerning the 43rd Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference which took place September 14 to 24 in Mauritius.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Interparliamentary Delegations
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LIB

Peter Adams

Liberal

Mr. Peter Adams (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the associate membership of some committees.

If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the ninth report later this day.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
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LIB

Shaughnessy Cohen

Liberal

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor—St. Clair, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present in both official languages the first report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Pursuant to the order of reference of Friday, October 31, 1997, your committee has considered Bill C-16, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Interpretation Act (powers to arrest and enter dwellings). Your committee has agreed to report it with one amendment.

I would like to add that this bill came to us only last Friday and we were able to complete all of the work in two days. I would like to thank committee members from all parties for their co-operation in doing that.

This was a special situation arising out of an order of the Supreme Court in Regina v Feeney. Our committee would hope that we would not be placed in such a difficult position again in terms of passing this type of legislation so quickly.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
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LIB

Lawrence MacAulay

Liberal

Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (Minister of Labour, Lib.)

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-19, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (Part I) and the Corporations and Labour Unions Returns Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Canada Labour Code
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LIB

Peter Adams

Liberal

Mr. Peter Adams (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House earlier this day be concurred in.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
Permalink
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
Permalink
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
Permalink
LIB

Peter Adams

Liberal

Mr. Peter Adams (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the following member be added to the list of associate members of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs: André Harvey.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
Permalink
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
Permalink
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
Permalink
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
Permalink
LIB

Ted McWhinney

Liberal

Mr. Ted McWhinney (Vancouver Quadra, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition signed by well over 100 Canadian citizens of Vietnamese origin. They ask the Government of Canada to use its good offices to secure the release of certain persons arrested as political prisoners, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, Professor Doan Viet Hoat, Venerable Thich Quang Do, Rev. Pham Minh Tri, and Professor Nguyen Dinh Huy, and also to use its good offices to see that full political, religious and economic freedoms can be ensured for the people of Vietnam.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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REF

Cliff Breitkreuz

Reform

Mr. Cliff Breitkreuz (Yellowhead, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to present a petition on behalf of residents of Jasper and other Canadian residents. These people pray and request that whitewater rafting continue in Jasper National Park. I am pleased to acknowledge that Pat Crowley of Jasper was instrumental in securing the signatures of 3,574 people. 061196

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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LIB

Peter Adams

Liberal

Mr. Peter Adams (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I suggest that all the questions be allowed to stand.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions On The Order Paper
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November 6, 1997