House of Commons Hansard #5 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vice-chair.

Topics

Privilege

11 a.m.

The Speaker

Before we begin with orders of the day, I have a point of privilege from the member for Beaver River.

Privilege

11 a.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time.

I rise on a question of contempt of Parliament. The issue is one that I originally raised as a question of personal privilege on February 28 on the floor of the House. After further consideration of all the information, I now raise this matter as a concern to all members of Parliament in the context of a contempt of Parliament.

I cite Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada , page 192:

While privilege may be codified, contempt may not, because new forms of obstruction are constantly being devised and that Parliament must be able to invoke its penal jurisdiction to protect itself against these new forms; there is no closed list of classes of offences punishable as contempts of Parliament.

I intend to prove in my arguments that Mr. Simpson of the Prime Minister's office coerced, intimated and incited staff of the House of Commons into not fulfilling their mandate to answer to a request for printing made by me on February 28 and that this constitutes a contempt of the House. Consequently I will be asking, Mr. Speaker, that if you rule this a prima facie case of privilege, this matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for examination.

It is difficult to determine what any House of Parliament will consider as an offence and a contempt of Parliament. Erskine May describes contempt as:

Any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as contempt even though there is no precedent for the offence. It is therefore impossible to list every act which might be considered to amount to a contempt, the power to punish for such an offence being of its nature discretionary. Nevertheless, certain broad principles may be deduced from a review of the kinds of misconduct which in the past either House has punished as a contempt.

On October 29, 1980 a Speaker of this House had this to say:

The dimension of contempt of Parliament is such that the House will not be constrained in finding a breach of privileges of members, or of the House. This is precisely the reason that, while our privileges are defined, contempt of the House has no limits. When new ways are found to interfere with our proceedings, so too will the House, in appropriate cases, be able to find that a contempt of the House has occurred.

The House shall not be constrained in dealing with this matter. It is a very serious matter and should be taken up by the Standing Committee of Procedure and House Affairs for further study.

It is very important at this time to understand the sequence of the events in this matter. Since I went through those last week I do not know if we need all the gory details again. However, suffice it to say that when I requested a printing order from the printing people they were willing to fulfil my request and had already completed 48 out of the 60 copies I had requested when not only one but two phone calls were made from the department to the Prime Minister's office to talk about the number of copies that would be available. It then slipped out erroneously from the printing department that it had run off copies and that it was for an opposition member.

At that point,Mr. Simpson in the Prime Minister's office said: "No, do not fulfil her request". It certainly limits me or any other member of the House of Commons when somebody from the Prime Minister's office can know what is going on and what members are asking to be printed, and further that somebody there would have the gall to say do not print that.

I give notice and read the following motion which I am prepared to put forward. I move:

That Mr. Simpson of the Prime Minister's office coerced, intimated and incited staff of the House of Commons into not fulfilling their mandate to answer to a request for printing made on February 28, 1996 by the member for Beaver River, and that this constitutes a contempt of this House, and consequently that this matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for examination.

Privilege

11 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member will recall that I did rule on what I feel is the first part of the question which she put before the House in review. The second part constitutes something quite different from what we dealt in the first, which was an administrative matter.

Privilege

11:05 a.m.

Saint-Léonard
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano Minister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, you have already ruled on this issue. I do not think the hon. member has all the facts. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, before you proceed we should find out exactly to whom the document belongs.

In any caucus there are documents that belong to it. All caucuses have documents such as research papers which belong to the caucus and we ask the House printer to print them for caucus members, whether from the government, the official opposition or the Reform Party.

Mr. Speaker, before you proceed you should inquire as to the exact ownership of the document. I think the hon. member is coming back on a ruling you have already made. I do not see any new facts. They are the same facts, the same document, the same person she referred to last week. Before you proceed, you should inquire more about the facts.

Privilege

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I heard briefly some of the remarks from outside the Chamber, remarks with regard to the alleged question of privilege today.

As the deputy House leader has just indicated, the Chair has already ruled on the issue. To raise the issue again with a further belief that the same point is valid even though it has been rejected by the Chair is not usually recognized by the Chair as being valid in itself.

The Board of Internal Economy has its own entity of the board and a subcommittee on printing. If my agenda is correct, we have a meeting of the subcommittee on printing only a few days from now. There are representatives from each of the political parties on that subcommittee of the board on printing. I believe the whip of the Reform Party is a member of that subcommittee. That sounds like an appropriate vehicle through which to raise the issue even though it is not a question of privilege, as the Speaker has indicated to us.

There is probably a suitable forum to raise the issue there to see if anything that has occurred is inappropriate, notwithstanding that it is not a point of privilege, and to determine what correction or restitution is in order if an offence by someone has been committed at any time.

We do have that structure. It was created by the Board of Internal Economy, which was created by the House. The issue could be appropriately dealt with in that forum. I understand we are only a few days away from a meeting of that group.

Privilege

11:05 a.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, in reference to the chief government whip's statement I would have to disagree that it is appropriate for this matter to be dealt with in that subcommittee. The issue here is not printing. The issue here is interference, bold faced interference by the Prime Minister's office.

This is a serious enough matter that we as members of the House want to redress it in the most appropriate forum, which is certainly not that subcommittee.

Privilege

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was in the House when the issue was first raised by the hon. member, at which time the Speaker also ruled.

My understanding is that when a matter comes forward like this in the same form after the Speaker has ruled, it is effectively a challenge to the Chair.

I would like to have clarification of whether it is the intention of the member to challenge the Chair's ruling with regard to the matters that have been addressed in the House. That is an extremely important point for all members. The integrity of the Chair is very important to the House.

Privilege

11:10 a.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, it certainly is not my intention to challenge the Chair ever. You and I had a meeting along with the clerk of the House of Commons. New facts came out when you talked to me very specifically about the printing department and all those departments being under your supervision.

We are not talking about printing here. We are talking about interference by the Prime Minister's office which, Mr. Speaker told me clearly, was not under his jurisdiction. I am talking about a contempt of Parliament by the Prime Minister's office, not the printing department.

Privilege

11:10 a.m.

The Speaker

We understand that the point of privilege on which I ruled has now been set aside.

Regarding the second point, the point of contempt, I would like to inform myself, get more information, seeing as I have been asked by both the deputy House leader for the government and by the Reform Party to consider the information.

I ask that the hon. member for Beaver River table the document she referred to in her contempt of Parliament. If you will give me some time, I will come back to the House with a ruling which I hope will be clear to all members.

If that will be deposited with the clerk, it will form part of the other point that was brought up, which I will look at. I will come back to the House if necessary.

Government Business
Government Orders

March 4th, 1996 / 11:10 a.m.

Saint-Léonard
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano Minister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That, with regard to Government Orders, Government Business No. 1, debate be not further adjourned.

Government Business
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Government Business
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Government Business
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Government Business
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour will please say yea.

Government Business
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.