Hon. Eleni Bakopanos (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Social Development (Social Economy), Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on a question of privilege raised by the member for Bourassa.
As the Acting Speaker in the House, I had the honour and the privilege of sitting in the chair for two and a half years. I have the greatest respect for this institution and for my colleagues on both sides of the House.
I want the public to understand the exact nature of the matter before this House and the reason why the member for Bourassa was forced to raise this question here. I will read an excerpt from Marleau and Montpetit, because I know that everyone has not read it. There is a passage on page 121 that perfectly describes the situation before us today:
The House of Commons is certainly the most important secular body in Canada. It is said that each House of Parliament is a "court" with respect to its own privileges and dignity and the privileges of its Members. The purpose of raising matters of "privilege" in either House of Parliament is to maintain the respect and credibility due to and required of each House in respect of these privileges, to uphold its powers, and to enforce the enjoyment of the privileges of its Members. A genuine question of privilege is therefore a serious matter not to be reckoned with lightly and accordingly ought to be rare, and thus rarely raised in the House of Commons.
Any claim that privilege has been infringed or a contempt committed is raised in the House by means of a "question of privilege".
I wanted to quote this passage before commenting.
Once elected to the House of Commons, members have certain rights. One of them is the right to send householders—or ten percenters—to our constituents. We have the right to send these householders. However, rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. It is the responsibility of members on both sides of the House not to send things that besmirch the reputation of other colleagues.
The members on both sides of the House are entitled to mail out householders and 10 percenters. In their mailings, the Liberals try not to sully anyone's reputation but rather to inform our fellow citizens. That is what I have done in the 12 years that I have been an MP.
For 12 years I have respected this institution and the right of each and every member not to have their reputations ruined. That is not the purpose of a householder nor a 10 percenter, and that certainly is not the purpose of anything else we have the right to send to our constituents.
In fact, with that right comes a responsibility. Because there have been abuses of that privilege in the past, I have raised the matter on numerous occasions with the two institutions which I believe should have taken care of that matter and are aligned with the House of Commons, the Board of Internal Economy and the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. In fact, I wrote to the chair of the standing committee, to the Speaker of the House and to the members of the Board of Internal Economy on two other matters.
In the riding I have the honour of representing in this House, there have been two mailings from the whip of the Bloc Québécois. Indirectly, this was also an attempt to tarnish my reputation as an MP.
As to the two points of privilege raised, I have had only an acknowledgement of receipt—if one could call it that—concerning two letters dated June 20 and 27 sent to the Board of Internal Economy of this House. I expected a bit more than just an acknowledgement of receipt. It appears that the board has not yet addressed the matter.
I can tell you, however, that even in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs our whip attempted to introduce a motion precisely to discuss the 10 percenter issue. I will read that motion:
That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs call upon the House of Commons to instruct its Board of Internal Economy to limit the use of 10 percenters as follows:
a) The 10 percenters be restricted to the member's own riding;
b) Collective 10 percenters be abolished;
c) No partisan logo to be allowed on a 10 percenter or householder.
This motion was brought before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which is responsible for decisions on householders and 10 percenters. That is precisely why we are here today. We respect that institution. We cannot tarnish the reputation of members with impunity.
We expect the members of other parties who sit on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the Board of Internal Economy to consider this issue. I can tell you that we, the Liberals, are prepared to comply with the rules and with the decisions of that committee.
It is no small thing to sully a person's reputation. The Bloc finds it to be justified. I really have the impression that it has no respect whatsoever for this House. That is exactly why the member for Bourassa was obliged to take the route of a point of privilege. As I said, this is not the first time. That is clear.
Other 10 percenters and other publications were sent to different ridings, including my own where I am a resident and have the honour to represent in the House.
However, as I said earlier, with that privilege comes responsibility and respect for this institution, to which we all have the privilege and honour of being elected, and an institution that deserves our respect.
As the hon. member for Bourassa and the member from Westmount said, “Our integrity and our name is the one thing that is sacred in this place”. We cannot allow falsehoods to circulate outside of the House and not use the privileges that we have in the House, the rights that we enjoy, that other Canadians outside of the House--