House of Commons Hansard #177 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nafta.

Topics

Taxation
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

There are two questions of privilege and then I will go to a point of order.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Sydney—Victoria last week raised a question of privilege which involved the hon. Minister of Natural Resources.

I believe, if I can put it into context, that there was a meeting which took place either in or near the member's riding. He said, I believe, that he was unable to make it and a member of his staff was not allowed to enter the meeting. Is that correct?

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Peter Mancini Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, it was a lock-up in my riding having to do with the announcement regarding Cape Breton Development Corporation. I received notice of that meeting early in the morning. I made arrangements to be in my riding. During the lock-up, my understanding is that journalists were allowed in and my staff was not.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member. The hon. minister who was named is here. Perhaps he could respond.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I want to address the complaint that was raised by the member for Sydney—Victoria after question period on Monday last week. It had to do with two separate events associated with the announcement of the government's plans with respect to Cape Breton Development Corporation.

In commenting, I am at a bit of a disadvantage because I was not personally involved in either event. However, I have been assured by those with direct knowledge that the following is an accurate recounting.

The first issue raised by the member dealt with the scheduling of the announcement. On January 27 at about 9 o'clock in the morning the member for Sydney—Victoria and the member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton were in the waiting room of my office in the Confederation Building. At that time the member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton indicated that she had heard that an announcement with respect to Devco was coming in the next two or three weeks. The members were told by a member of my staff that an announcement was imminent and that it would take place sooner rather than later.

In fact later that day, January 27 at about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, we received confirmation from the Privy Council Office authorizing me to make an announcement on the future direction of Devco.

So there can be no confusion, allow me to once again emphasize the chronology of that day. On January 27 at about nine o'clock in the morning my staff informed the two MPs that an announcement was imminent and that it would take place sooner rather than later. At about five o'clock in the afternoon on that same day, that is about eight hours after the conversation between my staff and the two MPs, my office received a call from the PCO informing us that we were authorized to make an announcement. Given our desire to end the uncertainty faced by the people of Cape Breton, the decision was made to announce the next day.

The second issue pertains to a media briefing by officials which took place on the day of the announcement. My office advised a staff member in the office of the member for Sydney—Victoria that the media briefing was, as the words themselves imply, for the media. In addition his office was also told that it would be receiving a copy of the information package prior to a media conference at which the announcement would be made. Copies of that information package were hand delivered to both the Parliament Hill and riding offices of both the member for Sydney—Victoria and the member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton. As promised by my office, these packages did arrive prior to the beginning of that media conference.

However the key point is that the media and the members for Sydney—Victoria and Bras d'Or—Cape Breton were not the only people to receive the information prior to the media conference. While officials briefed the media, I met personally with union leaders and others and most important with miners and their families to describe the impending announcement and to answer their questions. I can confirm that the member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton was in the room for that discussion with the miners and others and the member for Sydney—Victoria and/or his staff could well have been there too. Both members of parliament were present at the subsequent media conference for the announcement itself.

It is clear that we tried very hard to treat everyone fairly and appropriately in what were very difficult and emotional circumstances. It was certainly no one's intention to cause any offence.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The matter has been raised by the member and he put his case before the House. It is always sad when all of the things we would like to mesh in our busy lives do not mesh. It seems that we have a grievance on the part of the member that neither he nor his staff were present at the meeting he mentioned. We now have an explanation from the minister. This is an interpretation of the facts.

I would rule this is not a question of privilege.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I want to address myself to the whip of the Reform Party who sent me a note during question period with regard to a question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Macleod. This question of privilege named specifically the Minister of Health who is here in the House.

This is my problem. Whereas I have ruled in the past that the two members who are involved should be in the House at the same time, for whatever reason, the member for Macleod is not here today. Although we have asked the hon. Minister of Health to be here, I believe that in keeping with our precedents of the past, we should hold until the Minister of Health can respond directly to the member for Macleod. Unless I get some direction otherwise, or there is full agreement, that is the way I would rule.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, with regard to your comments I would be most happy, with the unanimous consent of the House, to stand in for the member for Macleod and to listen to the conversation and deal with it.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

As all members know, by unanimous consent we can do whatever we want in this House. Do we give ourselves permission as a House to hear a response by the hon. Minister of Health on a question of privilege? Is there agreement?

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I will now give the floor to the hon. Minister of Health. Does he understand the point raised in the point of privilege?

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, you are very kind.

I thank my colleagues opposite for raising this point, having brought to my attention that some days ago a news release left my office in relation to the appointment of a Liberal Party caucus committee on an issue. The news release was inappropriately on the stationery of Health Canada. It ought to have been on the stationery of my riding office or my office as a member of parliament. I am grateful to the member for bringing it to my attention and to the House's attention. He is right. It ought to have gone on the other stationery and I regret that it did not.

I want the House to know that I asked the member for Waterloo—Wellington to look into this issue because we are very concerned about the issue of youth smoking. At the end of the day I hope that members will agree that that issue and how we do something about it is more important than the issue of stationery.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

As I recall the circumstance, the issue that I was looking at primarily was that this announcement went out on paper from the department and that was the point of privilege which was brought up.

Now we have the hon. Minister of Health, the member of parliament, rising to tell us that indeed it was an error. From my understanding he has said it was an error and he is correcting it as best as he can.

I do not want to put words in the minister's mouth but basically he apologized for what went on. Is that correct?

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Allan Rock Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is correct.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order.