House of Commons Hansard #238 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was gas.

Topics

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

Noon

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, responding to that point of national interest, the Reform Party in Ontario yesterday got 93 votes.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

Noon

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege of which I have given notice.

My question of privilege arises from a Canadian Press news story which appeared in today's Globe and Mail under the heading “Seal herds to be culled”. It gives its source as the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands deliberately divulged information from an in camera meeting of the Standing Committee of Fisheries and Oceans held yesterday morning, at which the committee was discussing the draft report as related to our study of the east coast seal issue.

The story carried in the Globe and Mail reads as follows:

The size of Atlantic Canada's seal herd must be reduced to save depleted cod stocks, the Commons fisheries committee decided at a closed meeting yesterday where it rewrote a report on the industry.

The story continued:

“The committee, acting on recommendations from the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, will urge the federal government to come up with a five year plan to reduce the size of the seal herd significantly”, said Reform fisheries critic Gary Lunn.

I draw the attention of the Speaker to citation 851 of Beauchesne's sixth edition which states:

When a committee chooses to meet in camera, all matters are confidential. Any departure from strict confidentiality should be by explicit committee decision which should deal with what matters should be published, in which form and by whom.

The statement attributed to the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands was not delivered in the heat of debate in the House. This was not a mistake in judgment or any kind of oversight. This was a deliberate act, and one which demonstrates a disrespect and contempt for the privileges not only of every member of the Standing Committee for Fisheries but of every member of the House.

As well, I was informed that there was a major interview on CBC in Newfoundland also divulging information that was talked about in that in camera meeting.

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

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

As all members know, the question of leaked committee reports in our parliament is one that has plagued virtually all committees and is of great concern to the Speaker.

I see the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands is in his place. In a moment I will ask him to put his comments on record and I invite anyone else who would like to put their comments on record to do so.

I will take the question of privilege under advisement and bring it to the attention of the Speaker who will in due course report back to the House.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Reform

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the fisheries committee with which I have been involved for the past year and a half has been plagued with this problem. In fact, some of the reports that we have done in the past have gone out of there by the truckload, by various people in various departments. We are never given a chance to respond and I agree it is a very serious problem.

In this specific case, the day before this report was in the public domain. It was in the media. It had been released.

Members never seem to get an opportunity to respond. In fairness, once this was in the public domain and I started to receive calls from reporters, I first of all notified the parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Malpeque. I also notified the member for Burin—St. George's in Newfoundland. I told them that my phone lines were burning up with media interviews and it was just to let them know that I was speaking to the media.

Out of courtesy I advised them that the report was out there. Of course we knew that. We talked about the committee. It was in the Globe and Mail . The report was already in the public domain.

When I did these interviews, what I talked to the media about was the comments that I had brought forward to the committee, not what other members of the committee had said. I talked about my comments, what I was pushing for in the committee. I made it very clear. I said “This report is not completed. We will be meeting next week. These are the areas that I will be pushing for and I hope to get a recommendation”.

I was speaking only on behalf of myself; but out of respect for the member, and he will verify it, I notified him prior to that, that I was making these comments.

With respect to the CBC interview, that person also informed me when she called that she had received calls from other members of the committee whom I will not name and said “This is what they are telling me. Would you like to comment?”

It was in the public domain the day before. As a courtesy I notified the members. I only did interviews with respect to my comments. I made it very clear that the report is still not final at this time, that it can still be changed.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Much of what has gone on right now is debate that could take place within committee. The problem that we have is the question of trust within parliament as a whole in terms of the leaking of committee reports.

Committee work needs to take place in committee and perhaps the committee can look at this matter, make a recommendation and come back to parliament.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, very briefly, there is the issue of committee leaks. I think the Chair is quite correct, but this is quite aside from that.

Three or four weeks ago the hon. member for Provencher, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, accidentally released information from a committee and was forced to apologize on the floor of the House for something accidental and did so. The exact same thing was done deliberately this time and deserves no less consideration. That is the point that is different from the initial leak.

If there was a leak made by whoever it is who leaked it, and that is totally unacceptable as well, that is one matter. However, the matter of someone else deliberately after that saying “given that someone already leaked it I am exonerated from my obligations”, is not correct. That is separate issue and I would ask the Chair, perhaps not now, but to review that matter as well.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Matthews Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans I want to make a brief comment on what I consider to be a very serious problem which has plagued the work of the fisheries and oceans committee since I came here two years ago.

Every report gets leaked to some extent, but I think what differentiates this circumstance is that before the committee did not know who was leaking the reports and everyone was guessing it was everyone else. In this case I think what makes it different is that this time we know who gave the information to the news media. I think that makes it quite different.

This kind of thing undermines the work of the committee. It weakens the committee and in my view breaches the privilege of members of parliament.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know you have not ruled on this matter and you may want to check into it in further depth before you do so. However, I agree with your preliminary comment, as Beauchesne's says, that reports from committees may be presented to the House. Beauchesne's says that the committee has the authority to report back to the House if it feels that its privileges have been compromised. By all means it is free to do so. I would encourage committee members to check into it if they want. I do believe that is the proper way to go about it.

It is true that the draft report of the committee was already in the public domain. Unfortunately, as has been mentioned before, I think every draft report of every committee in the House of Commons in a year has been released to the media.

We have a report from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs that dealt with leaked reports, and that report was leaked to the press by someone before it was released. In other words, even that report having come to the House has not even yet been concurred in. The suggestions in that report are put forward as a means to try to help solve this continuous problem.

I urge the government as it considers this matter to take that report, look at the recommendations that are contained therein, and implement them as a first step toward solving the problem with continuing leaked reports.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I know the Speaker takes this matter very seriously. Aside from the specifics of this instance, the questions of trust between us as members of parliament and our ability to do our work in an atmosphere of trust are seriously affected when people in trust are not able to make a comment or ask a question in camera.

I know the Speaker takes this matter very seriously. I will consult with the Speaker. The Speaker will read the transcript and will make a decision on where it will go. I will recognize the Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and that will be it.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I want to confirm what the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands said. He did send me a note yesterday saying that he would possibly be talking to the press based on the report. I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, what I sent back and I confirm it. I said “This report has not been tabled yet and I would advise you that if you talk on this report you are in breach of parliament, in my view”.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

That is it. It is over and I wish to thank everyone for their interventions. I understand that everyone takes this very seriously and I acknowledge the fact that we want to have an end to this.

Ways And Means
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I wish to table a notice of ways and means motion to amend the Excise Tax Act, a related act, the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, the Customs Act, the Income Tax Act and the Tax Court of Canada Act.

I am also tabling explanatory notes and a background document and I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to seven petitions.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

June 4th, 1999 / 12:15 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased today to present two petitions signed by people from in and around the city of Edmonton, Alberta. Both petitions call for the same thing.

The petitioners would like parliament to pass legislation incorporating the rights of children and principles of equality between parents for the benefit of our children. The petitioners and I think that this kind of legislation would be an excellent opportunity for the justice minister to finally accomplish something.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Reform

Allan Kerpan Blackstrap, SK

Madam Speaker, I have two petitions to present this morning from 54 people in my riding concerning the EI fund and its intended purposes.