February 15, 2000

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The Speaker

You all know our dress code in the House. At times we do permit voting by males who do not have shirts and ties on. Today I am giving special permission to one of our members to speak in the House. He will be wearing a turtleneck. I refer to the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest who has just had a medical procedure. We will therefore relax the rules today as he cannot wear a collar around his neck.


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BQ

Stéphane Bergeron

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères—Les-Patriotes, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I have in my hands a document offering a brief overview of monetary unions of independent states, entitled “Un court historique des unions monétaires d'États indépendents”. In light of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs' introduction of a bill denying the fundamental rights of Quebecers, I am requesting the unanimous consent of the House to table this document.


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The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?


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Some hon. members

Agreed.


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Some hon. members

No.


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LIB

Derek Lee

Liberal

Mr. Derek Lee

Mr. Speaker, I thought we had entered Routine Proceedings. We are most anxious to get on with our day.


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The Speaker

We have not entered Routine Proceedings. I recognized the hon. member on a point of order and he spoke.

Before continuing, I want to point out that yesterday I received a letter from another member concerning a point of privilege he wished to raise. I do not know exactly what the Bloc Quebecois whip wanted to do, but I am now going to listen to the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Calgary Centre.


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REF

Eric C. Lowther

Reform

Mr. Eric Lowther (Calgary Centre, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege with regard to Bill C-23, an act to modernize the statutes of Canada in relation to benefits and obligations.

The government let it be known that it would table Bill C-23 on Friday, February 11, 2000. The bill was tabled at noon on that day which is the prescribed time for tabling bills on a Friday pursuant to Standing Order 30.

In an e-mail that was sent from John Fisher, Egale@sympatico.ca, the author outlined in detail his analysis of Bill C-23. It was sent at 10.56 a.m. on Friday, one hour and four minutes before Bill C-23 was tabled in the House of Commons.

In order to do an analysis of a omnibus bill such as Bill C-23, the author would have had to be in possession of the bill many hours before his e-mail transmission.

With references from the authorities on parliamentary procedure and rulings from two distinguished Speakers, I will attempt to defend the integrity, the dignity and authority of the House. I will try to defend against what I view as a mockery of the parliamentary system.

My question of privilege holds the Minister of Justice responsible for leaking information and the author of the aforementioned e-mail for obtaining and using information contrary to parliamentary law and practices.

This problem is not new. On April 20, 1999 the matter of the government leaking a government response to a report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs was raised in the House. The next day the government House leader apologized for the leak and assured the House it would not happen again.

The very next day after the apology, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development stood up in the House and quoted from an in-camera meeting.

When the parliamentary process is circumvented in this manner, the role of the House is misrepresented.

On October 10, 1989 the integrity of the House was also under siege and ironically the member who came to the defence of parliament was the hon. member for Windsor West, the now Deputy Prime Minister. The Deputy Prime Minister was quoted in a Speaker's ruling as saying that it was clearly contempt of parliament to misrepresent the role of the House.

While the Speaker in 1989 did not rule a prima facie question of privilege, he did say:

I want the House to understand very clearly that if your Speaker ever has to consider a situation like this again, the Chair will not be as generous.

On November 6, 1997 the Speaker said of a similar matter:

—the chair acknowledges that it is a matter of potential importance since it touches the role of members has legislators, a role which should not be trivialized. The dismissive view of the legislative process, repeated often enough, makes a mockery of our parliamentary conventions and practices. 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 department and agencies will guided by it.

On page 95 of Marleau and Montpetit it states:

Much like a court of law, the House of Commons enjoys very wide latitude in maintaining its dignity and authority through the exercise of contempt power, which is inherent to any superior court. In other words, the House may, through its orders consider any misconduct to be contempt and may deal with it accordingly. This area of parliamentary law is therefore extremely fluid and most valuable for the Commons to be able to meet novel situations.

This House can no longer allow its dignity and authority to be mocked in this way. The consequence of inaction only encourages it to continue.

Very recently the Prime Minister announced the date of the budget outside the House. As far as I know, this has never been done before. Not only did it put egg on the face of the Minister of Finance, but the Prime Minister showed arrogance and disrespect for the House of Commons.

It was not that long ago when the Minister of International Trade who on March 30, 1998 sent out a press release entitled “Marchi Meets with Chinese Leaders in Beijing and Announces Canada-China Interparliamentary Group”. At that time there was no Canada-China interparliamentary group. The minister gave the impression to some one billion people in China that the association existed when parliament had not approved it.

We had the naming of the head of the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation by this government before there was legislation setting up the foundation.

We had the matter raised by the member for Prince George—Peace River regarding the Canadian Wheat Board on February 3, 1998.

Another case involving the Department of Finance was argued on October 28, 1997.

There is a litany of cases of leaked committee reports that go unchecked and unchallenged. It is time that we take this matter seriously.

Madam Speaker, if you rule this to be a prima facie question of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion today.


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REF

Chuck Strahl

Reform

Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, it is important to note that the Speaker ruled in previous cases that this problem, an ongoing problem, would not be dealt with so kindly in the future as it has been in the past. In other words, I believe the Speaker expressed a good deal of concern that information, which should be coming first to the House, is being given, for whatever reasons, to other groups and organizations and leaked to the media.

It is important to note that in his past ruling the Speaker said that enough is enough and that it is time for the government to treat this institution with the respect it deserves.

There is another thing which is important to note in this case as we enter into the debate on Bill C-23. The objection is not with the bill itself which we will oppose for other reasons that will be brought forward shortly in debate, but it is for the disrespect the government chooses to exhibit toward this place. It should be treating this place with the dignity it deserves and members of parliament with the dignity they deserve.

The member opposite seems to think it is just fine to take a bill that should be tabled in the House, give it to other people ahead of time and get them to issue press releases. They get advance copies even before members of the House.

Madam Speaker, that is the problem. That is why I ask that you rule that this is a prima facie question of privilege. The member could move the appropriate motion and we could discuss this further because again it shows disrespect for the House.


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LIB

Derek Lee

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, the member opposite raises a point which is raised in the House from time to time. Members are quite appropriately sensitive to the parliamentary traditions and the rules that we follow in particular with respect to impending legislation.

In this case there is an allegation that someone outside the House had knowledge of impending legislation. Of course that is not a surprise or a secret to anyone because this legislation had been speculated on frequently over the last few weeks. In fact, the government did quite a bit of consultation with citizens on the bill. Notice of the bill being introduced in parliament was tabled in the House.

It is worth noting that nowhere is there a suggestion here that the individual referred to had a copy of the bill. It is clear that the individual would have had some knowledge of some elements of the bill as did members of parliament around the House.

Quite frequently the press is able to put together enough information about impending legislation to write about it before the bill is actually introduced. That is one of the things that happened in this case.

I would just note that the government does consult with citizens and groups. Ministers do it, ministries do it and members of parliament do it. Consequently members of the public do have knowledge of elements of impending legislation. I suggest that is what has happened here.

I would also point out that it is not the government, the minister or the ministry which has prepared the briefing or publicly sent a letter attempting to analyse the bill. It was a citizen. I hope there is no fault alleged in relation to the minister here.

In any event I make those comments for the record and hope that they will assist the Chair.


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REF

Val Meredith

Reform

Ms. Val Meredith (South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, I have listened to the explanation of the deputy government House leader. I find it quite ironic that he can indicate that an individual would make an in-depth analysis of his feelings of the ideas behind a bill. When someone uses the term in-depth analysis, it implies that they have the document in front of them and have been able to analyse what it all means. I find it is very hard to believe the comments of the deputy government House leader.


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REF

Eric C. Lowther

Reform

Mr. Eric Lowther

Madam Speaker, I have heard the comments from the other side. I want to advise the House and yourself that I have in my possession an in-depth analysis that has been done on the bill by this particular group which we feel this bill was leaked to prior to its being delivered to the House.

The in-depth analysis comments on the terminology used in the bill. It comments on sections of the bill that were included and parts that were omitted. It talks about a detailed analysis of this bill. I would be quite prepared to table this document for your review, Madam Speaker, in consideration of this prima facie breach of the integrity of this House.


Subtopic:   Privilege
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is there unanimous consent of the House for the hon. member to table the document?


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Some hon. members

Agreed.


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Some hon. members

No.


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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

There is no consent. At this point the Chair will take the matter under consideration and will get back to the hon. member in the briefest possible time.


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BQ

Yvan Loubier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ)

Madam Speaker, following the introduction of a racist bill denying the fundamental rights of Quebecers, I wish to table in this House an article from last December 17th's Le Devoir, entitled “Jacques Parizeau to Le Devoir : Canada will have no choice but to negotiate”.

I would like to table this document in order to provide some enlightenment to those nonentities across the floor who are seeking to deny the fundamental rights of Quebecers, their freedom of choice in a democratic system.


Subtopic:   Points Of Order
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is there consent for the tabling of this document?


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Some hon. members

Agreed.


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Some hon. members

No.


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February 15, 2000