House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rcmp.

Topics

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I understand the hon. member wants to rise on a question of privilege. If the hon. member wishes to do so today, I will listen to his question of privilege.

If he, however, would like to take some 24 hours and return to the House, I would be willing to hear him tomorrow.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Lethbridge
Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker Lethbridge

Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to proceed today with my question of privilege under the circumstances.

Motion No. 1 is still on the floor of the assembly. Because of that-

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member now has the floor on his question of privilege.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Lethbridge
Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker Lethbridge

Mr. Speaker, in light of your ruling and based on the fact that Motion No. 1 is still on the floor before us, I rise on a question of privilege with regard to that matter which is a personal charge against me as contained in the motion put forward by the member.

In a sense that charge is one that is criminal in nature and reflects upon my reputation. This has and will continue to affect my ability to function effectively as a member of Parliament while the matter remains unresolved.

On March 22, 1983 on page 24,027 of Hansard the Speaker ruled:

A reflection upon the reputation of an hon. member is a matter of great concern to all members of the House. It places the entire institution under a cloud, as it suggests that among the members of the House there are some who are unworthy to sit there. An allegation of criminal or other dishonourable conduct inevitably affects the member's ability to function effectively while the matter remains unresolved.

The Speaker was concerned with the matter remaining unresolved. I raised a point of order with regard to private member's Motion No. 1 in the name of the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.

I thank you today for considering that and I appreciate the ruling you have placed before this assembly. This type of motion and the affect of this motion is considered an anomaly of the rules. Although the motion is in order, I would like to demonstrate that its presence infringes upon my and other members' privileges in the Chamber.

The motion accuses me of intimidation and coercing others to intimidate. The member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell's charge against me is in the form of a motion and so he is allowed on a technicality to get away with what I believe is unparliamentary language.

For the purpose of my question of privilege, the fact that the charge against me is in the form of a motion is immaterial. What is important is that the motion is non-votable. It is non-votable by the virtue of our standing orders. It is unresolvable and therefore prima facie.

I would also like to address at this time the issue of raising this question of privilege at the earliest opportunity. Before raising my point of order regarding Motion No. 1, I felt it necessary that the motion be at least scheduled for debate, and I believe we are at that course of events here today.

The member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell agreed with me because despite the impression I was under at the time, the motion was not before the House that day and the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell argued that he ought not bring the matter up until it was before the House. For once I agreed with him. Fortunately I was allowed to present my argument on that day in May.

The fact that the motion of the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell is a product of our rules led me to originally pursue the matter as a point of order.

At this point my only hope for a remedy to resolve this charge against me a question of privilege because the matter remains unresolved, as you have said so eloquently, Mr. Speaker.

In the ruling I referred to earlier from 1983, the Speaker considered:

The question for the Chair to determine, therefore, is whether the hon. member for Lincoln should seek his remedy through the courts, or whether, in order to bring the matter to a swifter resolution, the Chair should accord this question of privilege precedence over other business.

As you are fully aware, Mr. Speaker, I do not have the luxury of bringing this matter before any court. The member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell is protected by parliamentary privilege.

The Speaker in 1983 had another concern:

Given the precedence I have studied, it is clear to me that while the hon. member could seek a remedy in the courts, he cannot function effectively as a member while this slur upon his reputation remains. The process of litigation would probably be very lengthy and there is no knowing how long it would take before the issue is finally resolved.

Once again there is the emphasis on resolving the matter.

The Speaker was also concerned here with the length of time the matter was to be unresolved. The member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell could, through a series of trades, avoid debating the motion. If we do finally get a debate on the motion it will disappear from the Order Paper after one hour of debate.

Regardless of those two scenarios, the matter will never be resolved by this motion. My reputation will be hanging out to dry forever. As Speaker Sauvé was concerned with, the entire institution of Parliament will be left under a cloud without ever being resolved.

Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada , page 210, states that the practice relating to taking up the conduct of members is a matter of privilege.

If the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell raised this as a question of privilege the matter would have been dealt with, but it was not.

To protect my reputation and the reputation of the House I must raise this matter as a question of privilege. Mr. Speaker, if you rule this to be a prima facie question of privilege I will be moving the following motion:

That the member for Lethbridge and the Reform Party of Canada be exonerated of the allegations levied by the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell of attempting to coerce, intimidate or incite others to coerce the hon. member for Welland-St. Catharines which are contained in his non-votable private member's Motion No. 1; and that the matter of the use of non-votable motions to charge members with contempt of Parliament be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Mr. Speaker, if you do not consider this a prima facie question of privilege I would appreciate your guidance and maybe that of the law clerk on how I can resolve this allegation against me of criminal intent. I cannot allow this motion to stay on the Order Paper all summer. This charge has been hanging over my head long enough. It must be resolved now.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to take but a moment to respond to what has been stated by the hon. member for Lethbridge.

The hon. member for Lethbridge essentially says today that his reputation is somehow tarnished by this motion's being on the Order Paper. He says it is further damaged because the issue is non-votable and therefore whenever the issue is dealt with in the House no conclusion will have been arrived at and therefore his name will not have been cleared, if I understand the allegation properly.

The member also says the accusation in question, which appears in my Motion No. 1, ballot item No. 3 on the Order Paper, is criminal in nature.

I will begin by dealing with the last issue. It has been suggested on at least two occasions in the remarks of the hon. member that the allegation listed in Motion No. 1 is criminal in nature.

Mr. Speaker, I remind you of a report tabled in the House earlier today which clearly indicates to the House that those things that are criminal in nature are not to be dealt with in the House on matters of privilege and that a motion should not contain that, and I believe it does not, and that those issues would be dealt with elsewhere even if they were in the motion.

To refresh the House's memory, the motion states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the attempt by the hon. member for Lethbridge and the Reform Party of Canada to coerce, intimidate or incite others to coerce the hon. member for Welland-St. Catharines-Thorold (the Hon. Gilbert Parent), in his capacity as Speaker, to make certain decisions in regards to the status of the Official Opposition in Parliament, constitute a contempt of this House and consequently that the hon. member for Lethbridge be ordered to the bar of the House to be admonished by the Chair.

I do not believe that someone's being admonished by the Chair in Parliament constitutes criminal behaviour. If criminal behaviour was there I suggest the punishment would be rendered by someone else and it would probably not be an admonishing by a Chair that would be the proper sentencing if that kind of criminal behaviour had been what was done. We are not talking about that at all.

The issue that was brought before the House had nothing to do with what the hon. member has just suggested. What was brought before the House is what was believed to have been and still believed to be a case of someone's doing things to the most senior officer of Parliament. That is what is contended as being the case of contempt listed in the motion.

I have in hand a memorandum dated January 11, 1996 entitled "To all Reform constituency presidents, regional organizers and executive councillors". This letter says in part: "What I am asking you to do is to help launch a high pressure phone, fax and letter writing campaign to", and it lists your name, Mr. Speaker. "The objective is simple: to make it clear to him that as he contemplates his decision", this is the decision to choose who the official opposition is in this House, "that Canadians will no longer tolerate a separatist official opposition".

It goes on to say that time is running short and that this high pressure campaign against the occupants of the Chair of this House should be commenced immediately by fax, letter writing, telephone calls, and so on so that Mr. Speaker, can and I conclude "do the right thing". Presumably Mr. Speaker would rule based on pressure put on to intimidate him to give a favourable ruling to those who had asked for the ruling.

That is what is in the motion that was brought by your humble servant. What was put in that motion is not an allegation of criminal behaviour. It is an allegation that something wrong was occurring against the occupant of the Chair of this House, this House being the institution that all of us cherish.

That is what occurred and nothing else. I am sure that deep down in his heart the hon. member knows this.

Mr. Speaker, there is even a draft letter to be sent to the occupant of the Chair with his fax number preprinted on the form. This draft letter, prepared by the Reform Party and attached and sent by the hon. member for Lethbridge, is an instruction to the occupant of the Chair of this House to rule not according to what is right, but to rule according to the pressure applied to him as organized by a member of this House.

Mr. Speaker, that is what was asked of you as the occupant of the Chair of this Chamber. You were asked to rule that way for the reasons I have enunciated.

I do not pretend that it is criminal and I never will. I never suggested so, either in my press releases or in the motion that is today before the House.

What I did say, however, is that this sort of behaviour should not be how we approach things in this House and should stop. The events occurring a few days after this motion dealt with matters, and we hear no more of the issue today. What I have heard in the House today explains why we have heard no further mention.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, we listened to the whip for the government side put forward his case. In fact he presented an entire debate on the subject.

The question of privilege that has been presented to you today by the member for Lethbridge is that some method be found to resolve this issue. The issue is not whether the government whip is allowed to bring this motion forward. The issue is the dilemma that my hon. colleague from Lethbridge finds himself in. It cannot be resolved. It cannot be voted on. It cannot be debated. It is just hanging over his head like a sword.

That is the issue of privilege, not the motion itself.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

With regard to this point of privilege I will take the information I have under advisement. If the House will permit me I will reflect on it and I will come back to the House, if it is necessary, to rule on the point of privilege that the member for Lethbridge has brought to the House.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, as a member of this House and a colleague of the member for Charlesbourg and further to the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I today demand a public apology in the name of all the members of this House.

I therefore demand a public apology from the member for Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt for having misled this House by making false accusations that called into question the honesty and integrity of the member for Charlesbourg. I demand an apology from the member, otherwise there is nothing to prevent gratuitous accusations of all sorts from being made against anybody at all.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

Your Speaker is fully aware of the importance of the statement that the hon. member for Charlesbourg began today.

It was explained before the hon. member began his statement it was a solemn declaration. It was not a declaration which would incite debate. I was dealing solely with the statement itself.

There is, of course, an avenue for the hon. member or for the Leader of the Opposition if they so wish to make a further statement, a broader statement. The particular avenue that was chosen today, in my respectful view, is evidently not the one that is going to fulfil what the hon. member wants to do.

If the hon. member for Charlesbourg wishes to pursue the matter, then either the hon. member or the Leader of the Opposition or any member of this House can file a notice of concurrence in the committee report. That can be done by giving a notice to the Clerk of the House. At that point there is an avenue for hon. members to express themselves.

But in the case of this particular statement, my decision is that this is not the vehicle to be used for making such a statement. That is why I have asked hon. members to respect the decision of the Chair, knowing full well that if members want to pursue it, it can be done by the method which I have suggested.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand your ruling on the solemn declaration. We may disagree on how we see things, but I accept your ruling.

However, I raised a point of order, and, unless I have misunderstood, I have had no response to my point of order. I did, however, very clearly insist on apologies from the member concerned for having misled the House by intentionally spreading falsehoods about the member for Charlesbourg. This is a point of order and not a solemn declaration. I therefore await your ruling on this.

Point Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member has asked me to rule on the point of order. I will take his request under advisement. I will think about it and if it is necessary I will come back to this House.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-30, an act to amend the Public Service Staff Relations Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of Motions Nos. 4 and 5.

Public Service Staff Relations Act
Government Orders

June 18th, 1996 / 3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

I believe the hon. member for Bourassa still has 7 minutes or so left. He has the floor.

Public Service Staff Relations Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to continue my presentation on Bill C-30 concerning members of the RCMP.

I would like to make two comments before resuming my speech. I was stunned by the unfounded accusations made by a Reform member against my colleague from Charlesbourg. I think that, with such accusations, the Reform Party will never have a single member elected in Quebec.

My second comment is this: I would like to draw members' attention to the presence in our gallery of a distinguished citizen from my riding of Bourassa, Victorin Bellemare, who is very involved in the social, community and political life of Montreal North. He is accompanied by his family.

As I said, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled in the Gingras case that RCMP members were also members of the Canadian public service and, as such, had rights like the right to organize, to form a union and to negotiate collective agreements.

They do not claim they have the right to strike, as these police officers provide essential services. If the employer and the employees' union cannot agree on working conditions, the police officers would rather resort to arbitration than go on strike.

But they still have legitimate rights. They have rights in terms of occupational health and safety and, like all other public service employees, they sometimes fall victim to work accidents or occupational diseases. Stress, for example, is a very prevalent problem among police officers, who must sometimes work in difficult and dangerous conditions. They should at least enjoy the full protection of all occupational health and safety laws.

I think that, instead of depriving employees like those of the RCMP of their vested rights, the government should set an example for the provinces in the area of labour relations.

It is a disgrace, for instance, that the federal minimum wage is lower that the provincial rates. It is unacceptable that the federal occupational safety and health legislation is not on a par with provincial legislation like Quebec's. Government should be an example to the private sector, and this is certainly not the case at present. Instead, the government is attacking vested rights of workers, in this particular case the rights of RCMP workers.

Take this other important right: the right to precautionary cessation of work for pregnant workers. This is not a right that federal public service employees enjoy, while it is already provided for in Quebec's legislation respecting occupational health and safety. A pregnant employee who works in conditions hazardous to herself or to her unborn child should be either reassigned or allowed to go on leave for the remainder of her pregnancy.

So far, the federal government has refused to bring down anti-strikebreaking legislation. Quebec and British Columbia both have such legislation. Ontario's legislation was just repealed, but the fact remains that this kind of legislation improves labour relations and helps create a social climate conducive to economic development.

I find that democracy has progressed in our society, but not in the workplace, in businesses and in corporations, where labour relations in certain areas are still dictated in an authoritarian way, as in the case of the RCMP. The commissioner of the RCMP has unlimited rights, while the members of this police force have very limited rights.

This government has not done very much to improve the working conditions and life of workers in Canada and in Quebec. On the contrary, when faced with a legitimate strike of rail workers, it thought it wise to bring in back-to-work legislation in this sector, instead of allowing collective bargaining to operate.

The Liberals' labour relations record is very poor. They have demonstrated a favourable bias for big business, but have not shown much concern for the average worker. Instead of helping workers, there are ministers, including the Minister of Human Resources Development, who attack the Canadian Labour Congress and who have made disparaging remarks about its president, Robert White, as well as myself, but for different reasons.

This government claims to occupy the centre, but we can see that it is moving with ever increasing speed to the right, the former Liberal or neo-Conservative right, and that it has done nothing for the working class as a whole, for the workers of Canada and of Quebec.

Last Saturday, a women's march ended its journey here in Ottawa. These women had very legitimate concerns. For example, they were calling for a job creation program designed specifically for women. They were also calling for increases in the minimum wage, day care funding, and grants for women's shelters. All the government comes up with is "niet", there is no money. That is

really a shame because I think the patience of Canadians and Quebecers is running out.

What will it take for the government to act? Does it want a revolt? Does it want people to come and demonstrate daily in order to be granted their legitimate rights, rights which are recognized in other democracies, particularly in Europe? Here, they are destroying the social safety net, eliminating social programs. Where is Canadian society headed with this Liberal government?

My time is nearly up and I will conclude by saying that I am very vigorously opposed to Bill C-30.

Colleagues, I am asking to resume debate. I just want to make sure we understand clearly that we are on report stage of Bill C-30.

Public Service Staff Relations Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Gordon Kirkby Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I have only a few quick words to say in relation to the second group of amendments that have been brought forward by members opposite. In order to bring forth amendments, a number of factors need to be considered.

First, the amendments must be consistent with other amendments that are brought forward and consistent with provisions already in the statute which is sought to be amended by the provisions that are brought forward. In this case the amendments certainly do not assist in that regard. Therefore they ought not to be brought forward because they do not assist with the internal consistency of the act.

Second, the changes that are brought forward need to be consistent with other statutes and laws. Again, this test is also not met. The amendments that are being brought forward conflict with other pieces of legislation. This is the case when amendments are brought forward in a willy-nilly fashion. They are not fully researched and the implications of each of the amendments are not thought out so that we get consistency with other pieces of legislation.

In addition, some of the amendments are also proposing some type of governance changes. They are being brought forward without any type of consultation that would need to be had to make these types of statements.

In any event, I will say that because of these factors, the government will not be supporting the amendments. With respect to the comments made in relation to this bill, these are merely technical amendments to ensure the maintenance of the status quo after court or tribunal decisions have maybe cast some doubt upon the governance. It is simply to maintain the status quo at this time. These things have been vastly overstated.

The government will not be supporting any of these motions.